Regeneration of the Tibialis Anterior Muscle Using Infrared Mats
Infrared therapy is something that is becoming increasingly popular as a way of treating injuries. The idea of using heat to treat wounds is something that is not new.
Even in ancient times, it was known that low body temperature could cause people problems. Today, we know that increasing the temperature of the body as little as 1.8 degrees can boost the immune system, and can support the production of hormones.
We use hot springs, saunas and steam rooms to soothe and heal. These treatments are useful, but they’re not something that the average person can enjoy at home.
Infrared mats are smaller, more portable, and more convenient, and they offer a non-invasive way of enjoying heat therapy. Many athletes are using infrared mats to heal sports injuries.
How Infrared Mats Boost Muscle Repair
Infrared mats can be useful for athletes with sports injuries, or manual laborers who have occupational injuries because they promote healing.
The anterior tibialis muscle is located in the lower leg, and as such it has poorer blood flow than muscles in the core. This means that injuries can take longer to heal.
Infrared mats provide head to the muscle, which helps to reduce inflammation and promotes the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the damaged area. In the short term, the infrared mats can help to reduce pain, which may allow a person to perform their rehab exercises, increasing their range of motion and keeping the injured leg mobile. In the longer term, increased blood flow may support muscle regeneration.
Novel Techniques for Muscle Regeneration
Treating muscular injuries is challenging, and finding safe and effective ways to do so is something that researchers are still working on.
Researchers at the School of Health Sciences at the Methodist University of Piracicaba in Brazil investigated techniques for regenerating the tibialis muscle after injury and found that the use of neuromuscular electrical stimulation was effective for promoting muscle regeneration.
However, the methods that they used, causing eccentric contraction, can be harmful to the muscle, so while they promote regrowth, there is the risk of additional injury as an external force elongates the muscle.
Another study which was published in PLoS One investigated red and infrared therapies and their effect on oxidative stress during the muscle repair process. The study focused on low-level red and infrared laser therapy rather than infrared mats; however, the results were promising, with a decrease in lipid peroxidation over the duration of the treatment. This suggests that infrared can help to modulate the activity of important antioxidant enzymes, reducing the stress on the body during the muscle repair process.
The Application of Infrared in Medicine
Infrared mats are a simpler and more cost-effective way of delivering infrared radiation, and their potential uses are promising. One study published in Photonics Lasers Medicine in 2013 shoed that far infrared radiation, delivered through mats or lamps, can have a therapeutic effect, reducing fatigue and also reducing the symptoms of muscle damage in athletes. There are many potential medical applications for infrared radiation, and the tibialis anterior is just one example of a soft-tissue that could benefit from it.
One particularly exciting benefit of infrared therapy and how it pertains to the tibialis anterior is the relationship between that muscle and the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a major nerve which divides into two branches – the tibial and the peroneal nerve. Sciatic nerve damage is a common complaint in athletes and is also a common occupational health hazard. Damage to the sciatic nerve can result in mobility issues, pain, and even reduced motor function and later atrophy. Treating sciatic nerve injuries can help to regenerate and reinnervate the tibialis anterior, and far infrared therapies are the subject of study as a method of promoting nerve repair.
Home Use of Infrared Mats
Infrared mats are affordable and are generally considered to be safe. Many people are already using them at home as a way of managing common health complaints, ranging from fatigue and tightness to bloating and even sinus issues.
There are some occasions when infrared mats would be contraindicated, however. Those who have suffered from a recent traumatic injury should have the extent of their injury diagnosed and seek advice before trying infrared treatment. Heat in the immediate time after an injury could cause inflammation which may be counterproductive. The jury is still out on whether the PRICE protocol for injuries is the best choice, and it is best to seek advice from an expert about heat/ice or contrast therapy for your given circumstances. The use of infrared mats in conjunction with a good physiotherapy program could be the solution to muscle or even tendon or ligament injuries. However, the treatment should be applied at the right time, and with other precautions also in place.
Those who have hemophilia should be careful when using heat protocols because of the risk of internal bleeding. It is also unwise for those who are pregnant or who think they may be pregnant to use infrared treatments.
Surgical implants and silicone implants may be weakened by exposure to far infrared heat, so it is best to seek advice from a specialist before using such treatments.
Finally, there are some preexisting medical conditions such as MS which could be aggravated by increases in core temperature. Anyone with a preexisting medical condition should discuss their plans to use heat therapy with their own primary care physician or specialist.
Infrared mats are available to purchase from many medical device stores, and they are quite easy to use and generally safe as long as they are used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Many people use them on their chairs as a modern version of an ‘electric blanket’ to keep themselves warm and to promote blood flow while they work or relax. Note that using infrared treatments in this way is no substitute for getting up and moving to promote healthy blood flow.