The far infrared sauna is the most recent advancement in a technology that has existed for thousands of years. At its heart, the far infrared sauna is a simple improvement founded on a proven therapeutic and holistic medical treatment. Whether you have tight, sore muscles from strenuous workouts, achy joints from various inflammation-related arthritis, or are experiencing a nasty head cold, the benefits of using a sauna are numerous.

When coupling the traditional benefits of using a sauna with advanced infrared heating technology, the result is a more effective, efficient way of healing your body. We will get into the science later on, but far infrared light has proven therapeutic effects on the human because it transfers energy purely in the form of heat.

If you are ready to experience cutting-edge technology with immense health benefits, step into a state-of-the-art far infrared sauna at Springs Integrated Health in Colorado Springs. As the region’s choice for natural, holistic healthcare, Springs Integrated Health is here to help you live a better life through natural, physical medicine treatments. Call us today at 719-301-6649 for more information.

History of the First Saunas

The sauna has roots in the Scandinavian country of Finland, a land where the winters are long and the days are short due to its northern geographical location. Some of the first written records of sauna usage came from the saint and historian Nestor the Chronicler (ca. 1056-1113). While compiling his history of the proto-Russian people, “Russian Primary Chronicle,” he noted that the sauna was an important part of life for the Fins and other peoples of Scandinavia.

Early saunas consisted of a chamber that was dug into the ground, preferably against an embankment. There would be a pile of rocks heated in a fire, which would fill the room with smoke. Once the rocks were hot enough, the fire would be extinguished and the room would be ventilated. Because the rocks retain and radiate heat, the room would remain hot for many hours after the fire was extinguished.

The Fins used the sauna to treat achy muscles and joints. Due to the short growing season in Finland, farmers had to toil in the fields for a three to four-month stint. They would work tirelessly during the day, and recuperate at night, hoping that their labors would yield enough food to last through the harsh Nordic winter. In order to aid their rest and recovery, they used saunas to relax the muscles. The sustained heat loosens the fibers of the muscles, allowing them to loosen up and regain their elasticity. Saunas are also known to help remove lactic acid build up — the main reason behind why your muscles “feel” sore — and increase blood flow in your muscles.

Eventually, saunas moved from below ground to above. Thanks to the bountiful forests of Scandinavia, saunas were constructed of different woods in cabin structures made from spruce, aspen, oak, and hemlock. Because of the wooden structures, saunas are called sauna because it translates to “house of wood.” The wooden construction allowed for permanent saunas in Finland. Wood was favored over other materials because of its heat-conducting qualities and the inability for mold to form — if properly maintained.

While the Finnish sauna is a name applied to most hot rooms, there are similar concepts found all over the world. From the Russian banya to the Korean jimjilbang, cultures have been using the therapeutic qualities of saunas and hot rooms for thousands of years.

Today, there are around two million saunas in Finland. That’s about one sauna for every two or three people in Finland.

American Saunas

It is difficult to pinpoint when saunas became popular among Americans, but some report that saunas gained widespread popularity and acknowledgment when the 1952 Olympics were held in Helsinki. Because the Finnish team used saunas as a training tool, many American athletes came back to the United States with a newfound curiosity in the therapeutic benefits of saunas.

By the 1960s, there were several sauna manufacturers in the United States, and even some Finnish manufacturers came to the US to produce saunas by the ’90s. Today, there are well over one million Finnish saunas in the US, and the annual sales of saunas are steadily increasing.

Perhaps one of the biggest advances in sauna technology came about in the 1980s when Infrared Heat Therapy Rooms, or infrared saunas, gained traction with holistic health professionals.

Even though the North American Sauna Society is hesitant to categorize far infrared saunas as saunas, they do acknowledge that there many benefits to using an infrared sauna to treat muscle-related injury or strain.

What Exactly is a Far Infrared Sauna?

In order to understand how a far infrared sauna is unique, a rudimentary knowledge of the electromagnetic spectrum is required. Don’t worry, the electromagnetic spectrum is just a way to compare the frequencies and wavelengths of different energies. In the middle of the spectrum, there is visible light, which is a benign form of light energy.

As you move left, the frequency of the energy waves becomes faster and typically more harmful to the human body. For example, UV waves emitted from the Sun cannot be seen — because they are outside the visible light spectrum — but they cause sunburns. Going to the extreme left, gamma rays have the most energy of any wave in the electromagnetic spectrum, and, if exposed to them, can cause cellular and genetic damage.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are lower-energy waves. Just to the right of visible light, is infrared light. Infrared light is further broken up into near, mid, and far. Far infrared is the least energetic of the infrared waves and poses little health risks to the human body. The far infrared energy wavelengths simply carry heat and move through the body, only penetrating your skin by about one or two inches. The penetrating heat is able to reach your muscles effectively without harming or burning your skin as UV light would.

Infrared and Traditional Saunas: The Differences

While both infrared saunas and traditional saunas are used to treat muscle, joint injury, and stress, the two therapeutic treatments differ in how they deliver a natural approach to sports and fatigue-related injuries. The traditional sauna powers itself by using wood or electricity. For wood burning saunas, perhaps the most traditional, wood heats a pile of rocks in the room, which in turn are used to radiate heat over an extended period of time. Electric saunas simply use radiant heat coils in a confined space to simulate the sauna experience. Electric saunas are fast and efficient in their ability to heat a room.

Infrared Saunas maintain the basic concept of a traditional sauna, but they utilize a different type of electromagnetic wave to heat the room. As we stated earlier, infrared light is lower in energy. It provides all the same benefits of sunlight, but without the damaging effects of solar radiation and UV light.

Where traditional saunas rely on indirect means of heating like convection heating and conduction heating in order to heat your body, infrared saunas are able to heat your body and muscles simply by emitting energy that your body absorbs.

Is Infrared Heat Safe?

While we mentioned that infrared heat is safer than sunlight, we forgot to mention how ubiquitous it is in our daily lives. Many law enforcement agencies use infrared or thermal imaging to track heat sources. In fact, the human body emits and intakes far infrared heat on a regular basis. The warmth you feel when hovering over your skin is actually infrared heat!

So, you might ask yourself why would someone need to use an infrared sauna if we are constantly exposed to it? Far infrared saunas allow your body to absorb concentrated amounts of infrared heat for specific amounts of time. Infrared energy, although close to microwaves on the electromagnetic spectrum, does not heat your body like a microwave would. Infrared waves are effective for warming and healing your body, and there are very few treatments like an infrared sauna that can impart many benefits in just a short, thirty-minute session.

How is a Far Infrared Sauna Better than a Traditional Sauna?

Traditional Saunas rely on heating the air in a room. You then absorb that hot air through contact. This process is called convection and conduction. It is an inefficient way to absorb energy and heat. As a result, it takes longer for a traditional sauna to heat up a room, typically thirty-minutes for an electric sauna and a few hours for a wood-burning sauna. This can wreak havoc on your energy bill if you want to utilize the sauna on a regimented basis.

Traditional saunas also have to be heated at a much higher temperature so that the therapeutic properties can impact your body and muscles. Typical saunas need to operate at 150 degrees Fahrenheit. For some users, a temperature this high can cause even more fatigue, dehydration, and breathing complications.

Infrared Saunas, on the whole, are more energy efficient than traditional saunas, regardless of whether they are wood or electric powered. Infrared saunas don’t rely on convection or conduction, and they use the infrared waves to directly heat your body. As a result, infrared Saunas need less time than traditional saunas to heat up. Infrared saunas only need about 10 or 15 minutes before you are able to use them. Infrared Saunas also operate at a lower temperature than traditional saunas, typically around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is much more comfortable than most people, and few people have difficulty breathing at this temperature compared to a traditional sauna.

Is Far Infrared Sauna Therapy Right for you?

If you have an exercise-related muscle injury, then a far infrared sauna is an excellent way to relieve tension and pain in the muscles. Because far infrared waves penetrate your skin, they warm your muscles directly and can reduce lactic acid build up.

Some infrared sauna manufacturers also report that the far infrared waves can gently vibrate water molecules in your body, which in turn release encapsulated gasses and other toxic materials. The detoxification property of far infrared waves is still being researched, but many users report elevated energy levels after using a far infrared sauna. Far infrared saunas also cause vasodilation in users, which simply means that the capillaries and blood vessels dilate, decreasing blood pressure. While this is common in any environment where you are exposed to heat, far infrared waves are more effective at doing it, and can induce vasodilation at a lower level of heat.

There are also reports that infrared saunas can aid in weight loss and remedy metabolic diseases. While there is limited research into the field, one thing is for sure: infrared waves do not directly burn fat cells. There is some research that has been done that suggests infrared saunas help improve insulin sensitivity and hormonal environments, but there are no authoritative studies that suggest it is a proven method for preventing obesity, diabetes, or cardiovascular diseases.

It is important to always check with a medical professional before you decide to use any kind of sauna. Some people have preexisting genetic conditions that make them susceptible to overheating or regulating their body temperature in hot environments. It is also important not to operate a sauna if you have been drinking alcohol or are already fatigued from working out immediately prior to entering the sauna. If you are a new user to the sauna, make sure you start off with a lower temperature. Don’t be afraid to leave the sauna if you are feeling too hot. Lower temperature and shorter periods of time are much more beneficial than passing out due to heat exhaustion in the sauna chamber. After you finish a sauna session, be sure to drink plenty of water and replace your electrolytes with a healthy, balanced meal.

If you are ready to give a far infrared sauna a try, be sure to visit Springs Integrated Health for a free consultation. We are happy to work with you to find an affordable treatment plan that includes far infrared sauna therapy. Give us a call today at 719-301-6649 to schedule your free consultation, or visit our website for more information.

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