Near or far, infrared can bring wonderful benefits to your horse!

We hear a lot about infrared treatments, but keeping the options straight can be confusing. Is it heat or is it light? Infrared is both heat and light and it is delivered in very different forms across diverse technologies. Understanding the different treatment choices isn’t complicated with a basic understanding of the science behind them.

Wavelength makes the difference

Light and heat are all around us every day, but what we see as light or feel as heat depends on the wavelength. Both energy types have wave properties and the measurement between the peaks of those waves determines the wavelength, which is measured in nanometers (nm). Different wavelengths produce very different effects on the tissues of the body.

Therapeutic heat: far infrared radiation

Far infrared radiation can be used as a powerful therapeutic heating source. Studies have shown that these longer wavelengths of over 1000 nm are more readily absorbed by the water in the tissue.¹ When far infrared radiation is absorbed by water in tissue, the molecules in the water become more excited and begin to vibrate, this creates a thermal or heating effect.

Studies have shown that deep heating of the tissue can bring a temporary increase in circulation, which in turn brings more oxygenated blood to the area. It can also be very soothing to sore muscles and joints. Delivery can be achieved by using a bio-ceramic impregnated fabric which absorbs and stores infrared thermal energy and delivers it back into the tissues or by an electrical device that contains infrared heating elements. Its thermal waves exhibit analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic capabilities.²

Healing light: near infrared treatments

What we recognize as light is actually energy that behaves like a wave, made up of a stream of particles called photons.  Near infrared wavelengths in the 600 nm to 1000 nm range react with tissues differently than far infrared.³ This technology is referred to by many scientists as photobiomodulation, but is more commonly known as light therapy or photon therapy.

Infrared lgepad_horse_shoulder*FINAL-4

When applied to damaged cells using low energy lasers or light-emitting diode (LED) arrays, these specific wavelengths have been shown to promote tissue repair and modulate pain. Studies show that a photoacceptor molecule within the cell called cytochrome c oxidase actually absorbs the photons and accelerates the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the form of energy the cells use.⁴ Damaged cells have a hard time making the energy they need to repair themselves, and light therapy gives them the fuel they need to repair and regenerate cell components, foster mitosis, restore homeostasis and reduce inflammation.

Light therapy provides not only a temporary increase in circulation but also increases new capillary formation. These treatments help tissue and nerves heal up to 50% faster with less scar tissue, while reducing pain caused by injury, arthritis or other inflammatory conditions⁵.

The beauty of infrared treatment technologies is that they are non-invasive, have no negative side effects and are affordable. Whether your equine partner is a competitor, companion, or both, science is paving the way to greater healing and improved performance!


1.  Byrnes, James (2009). Unexploded Ordnance Detection and Mitigation. Springer.

  1. Dr. Sasaki Kyno, MD, The Scientific Basis and Therapeutic Benefits for Far Infrared Ray Therapy
  2. Mitochondrial signal transduction in accelerated wound and retinal healing by near-infrared light therapy.

Eells JT, Wong-Riley MT, VerHoeve J, Henry M, Buchman EV, Kane MP, Gould LJ, Das R, Jett M, Hodgson BD, Margolis D, Whelan HT.


Department of Health Sciences, College of Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA.


4.  Rehab Management, The Interdisciplinary Journal: Therapeutic Light

by Chukuka S. Enwemeka, PT, PhD, FACSM

5.  Phototherapy and the Peripheral Nervous System

Roberta Chow, M.B., B.S.(Hons.), F.R.A.C.G.P., F.A.M.A.C., Ph.D.

Additional resources 

Natural Pain Relief Guide; Chronic Pain Management Dr. Ronald J. Riegel

Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology

Light-induced vasodilation of coronary arteries and its possible clinical implication.

Plass CA, Loew HG, Podesser BK, Prusa AM.

Department of Internal Medicine II, Division of Cardiology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.