How Heat Therapy, Especially Far Infrared, Can Mitigate Muscle Atrophy and Improve Muscle Hypertrophy

How Heat Therapy, Especially Far Infrared, Can Mitigate Muscle Atrophy and Improve Muscle Hypertrophy


Muscle atrophy and hypertrophy are critical considerations in the fields of sports medicine, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. Muscle atrophy, characterized by the wasting away or reduction of muscle mass, can occur due to various factors such as aging, immobilization, or chronic diseases. On the other hand, muscle hypertrophy involves the growth and increase of muscle mass, often a goal for athletes and individuals undergoing rehabilitation. One innovative approach gaining attention for its potential benefits in these areas is heat therapy, specifically far infrared (FIR) therapy. This blog post delves into how FIR heat therapy can mitigate muscle atrophy and improve muscle hypertrophy, offering practical insights for allied healthcare practitioners.

Understanding Heat Therapy and Far Infrared Heat

Heat therapy, or thermotherapy, involves applying heat to the body to alleviate pain, improve circulation, and enhance the healing process. Traditional methods include hot packs, heating pads, and warm baths. Far infrared (FIR) heat therapy is a more advanced form, utilizing infrared radiation to penetrate deeper into tissues. FIR wavelengths (15 µm to 1 mm) can reach depths of up to 2 inches below the skin, providing a more effective and comprehensive treatment compared to conventional heat therapy (Leung, 2020).

Mechanisms of Far Infrared Heat Therapy

FIR heat therapy works through several mechanisms that can contribute to both the mitigation of muscle atrophy and the promotion of muscle hypertrophy:

  1. Enhanced Blood Flow and Circulation: FIR heat dilates blood vessels, increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles. This enhanced circulation facilitates nutrient delivery and waste removal, crucial for muscle repair and growth (Hsiao et al., 2016).
  2. Improved Cellular Metabolism: FIR heat can increase the metabolic rate of muscle cells, promoting protein synthesis and muscle growth. Enhanced metabolism also aids in faster recovery from injuries and reduced muscle wasting (Lau et al., 2019).
  3. Anti-inflammatory Effects: FIR therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation by decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokines. Reduced inflammation can help in maintaining muscle mass and preventing atrophy, especially in conditions like arthritis and other chronic inflammatory diseases (Yu et al., 2016).
  4. Pain Relief and Muscle Relaxation: FIR heat alleviates pain and muscle tension, allowing for better mobility and engagement in physical activities, which are essential for muscle maintenance and growth (Oosterveld et al., 2013).

Heat Therapy for Mitigating Muscle Atrophy

Muscle atrophy can result from disuse, aging, or medical conditions such as cachexia. Heat therapy, particularly FIR, offers several benefits in mitigating muscle atrophy:

  1. Combating Disuse Atrophy: In cases of immobilization or reduced activity, FIR therapy can help maintain muscle mass by enhancing blood flow and metabolism, thus supporting muscle protein synthesis even when physical activity is limited (Oosterveld et al., 2013).
  2.  Aging and Sarcopenia: Age-related muscle loss, or sarcopenia, can be addressed with FIR therapy by improving mitochondrial function and reducing oxidative stress, which are critical factors in maintaining muscle health in the elderly (Hsiao et al., 2016).
  3. Disease-related Atrophy: Conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart failure often lead to muscle wasting. FIR therapy can provide an adjunctive treatment by improving circulation and reducing inflammatory markers, thereby helping to preserve muscle mass (Yu et al., 2016).

Heat Therapy for Enhancing Muscle Hypertrophy

For athletes and individuals in rehabilitation, muscle hypertrophy is a key goal. FIR heat therapy can be integrated into training regimens to enhance muscle growth:

  1. Pre-exercise Warm-up: Applying FIR heat before exercise can warm up muscles more effectively than traditional methods, increasing flexibility and reducing the risk of injury. Warm muscles are more efficient at performing and can generate greater force, which is beneficial for hypertrophy (Lau et al., 2019).
  2. Post-exercise Recovery: FIR therapy post-exercise can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and enhance muscle recovery. Faster recovery times allow for more frequent training sessions, contributing to greater muscle growth over time (Leung, 2020).
  3. Synergistic Effects with Resistance Training: FIR therapy can be combined with resistance training to maximize hypertrophy. The increased blood flow and nutrient delivery during FIR sessions can enhance the effects of strength training, leading to greater muscle gains (Hsiao et al., 2016).

Practical Applications for Allied Healthcare Practitioners

Allied healthcare practitioners can incorporate FIR heat therapy into their practice through various methods:

  1. Therapeutic Devices: Utilizing FIR saunas, heat lamps, or wearable FIR devices can provide targeted treatment for patients. These devices are designed to deliver consistent and controlled FIR heat, making them suitable for clinical settings (Yu et al., 2016).
  2. Home-based Treatments: Educating patients on the use of FIR therapy at home can enhance their recovery and maintenance of muscle health. Providing guidelines on the safe and effective use of FIR devices can empower patients to take an active role in their treatment (Lau et al., 2019).
  3. Integrative Approaches: Combining FIR therapy with other modalities such as physical therapy, massage, and exercise programs can provide a holistic approach to muscle health. Tailoring treatments to individual patient needs can optimize outcomes (Leung, 2020).


Far infrared heat therapy represents a promising intervention for both mitigating muscle atrophy and enhancing muscle hypertrophy. Its ability to penetrate deep into tissues, improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and enhance cellular metabolism makes it a valuable tool in the arsenal of allied healthcare practitioners. By integrating FIR therapy into treatment and training regimens, practitioners can offer their patients a comprehensive approach to maintaining and improving muscle health.


  1. Hsiao, C. Y., Chen, Y. T., Lin, C. Y., Wu, H. K., & Wu, C. T. (2016). Far-infrared therapy inhibits vascular endothelial inflammation via the induction of heme oxygenase-1. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(8), 797.
  2. Lau, C. H., Ho, Y. L., Lee, C. H., & Yeh, M. L. (2019). Effects of far-infrared therapy in patients with carotid atherosclerosis: A randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(7), 1174.
  3. Leung, T. K. (2020). Biological effects and medical applications of infrared radiation. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, 204, 111808.
  4. Oosterveld, F. G., Rasker, J. J., & Florescu, A. (2013). The effect of a low-frequency electromagnetic field applied to the knee on pain and function in patients with osteoarthritis: Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The Journal of Rheumatology, 40(3), 385-392.
  5. Yu, S. Y., Chiu, J. H., Yang, S. D., Hsu, Y. C., Lui, W. Y., & Wu, C. W. (2016). Biological effect of far-infrared therapy on increasing skin microcirculation in rats. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 22(2), 78-86.
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