PEMF vs. Far Infrared: What’s the Difference?
PEMF, or Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy, has been widely used in both animals and humans to aid in bone-healing, fighting inflammation, and more. PEMF devices use low-level electromagnetic fields to help remove free radicals; aiding in cellular repair. PEMF also improves cellular metabolism, as well as blood and lymphatic circulation, resulting in numerous healing benefits.
Far infrared radiation (or FIR) therapy uses light waves on the electromagnetic spectrum just on the other side of the color red, that are not visible to the human eye. These waves can, however, be perceived as heat. PEMF, on the other hand, is a non-ionizing energy at the shortwave radio-frequency band of the electromagnetic spectrum, and does not generate heat.
FIR wavelengths are shorter, higher frequency and higher energy in comparison to PEMF wavelengths. While PEMF works within the body to energize cells and produce healing, antioxidant effects; FIR heals by gently warming the body from within—relaxing muscles, increasing vasodilation, and improving circulation.
PEMF Therapy for Dogs
In humans, PEMF therapy has been FDA approved to treat non-union fractures, and cleared to treat osteoarthritis, edema (swelling), plantar-fasciitis, and post- operative pain. In veterinary medicine, the use of PEMF devices is increasing, often to treat pathologies like edema, bone fractures, arthritis, pain, and chronic wounds.
In 2019, scientists from New York’s Animal Medical Center conducted a clinical trial using treatment with PEMF therapy following canine spinal surgery. The results showed that PEMF therapy led to improved wound healing and a reduced need for pain medication in the dogs.
PEMF therapy may help your dog with:
How to use a PEMF mat with your dog:
Many veterinary clinics offer PEMF treatments for pets in sessions ranging from 20 to 60 minutes. If you prefer the convenience of treating your pet at home, you do not need to have a special mat—sharing the PEMF mat that you use is perfectly fine.
Many users recommend using a mat with a durable, easy-to-clean surface to protect the mat from any pet stains. Alternately, you might choose to cover your mat with a blanket that your pet enjoys to sit on to protect the mat from fur and scratches, and also to make the experience more comfortable for them. Just as radio waves can travel through the walls in your home, PEMF waves are still effective when placed under your pet’s blanket or bedding.
To make sure the experience is enjoyable and soothing for your pet, place the mat in an area they are familiar with and give them time to get comfortable. You may even choose to sit and relax with them for their first session or two. Many people have found after just a few uses their pets will seek out and settle onto the PEMF mat on their own!
Is PEMF safe for your dog?
In research on PEMF use in humans and animals, there have been no negative risks or side effects reported, as PEMF devices naturally stimulate healthy cell function. In a study on the veterinary applications of PEMF, it was noted that the PEMF waveforms approved for human use by the FDA are beneficial because they can deliver therapy in a non-invasive way by deeply penetrating through the body’s tissues.
Treating your pet by non-invasive procedures whenever possible can mean less pain, faster recovery, and a lower risk of infection. PEMF devices have delivered over 3,000,000 treatments since the 1990’s, without any reports of negative side effects. Additionally, two literature studies of the clinical use of PEMF devices also found no evidence of side-effects.
Far Infrared Therapy for Dogs
Far infrared (FIR) light falls just outside of the visible light spectrum; close to the microwave spectrum. While you can’t see it, FIR is experienced as heat that penetrates up to 1.5 inches (4 cm) deep into the body. The healing effects of FIR work by increasing vasodilation and blood flow.
Studies examining FIR use in animals have demonstrated an improvement in immune activity in as little as 4 weeks of use. FIR mats have a wide range of uses in dogs, from simply helping them to keep warm, to recovering from chronic pain, injuries, and surgeries more efficiently.
What’s the difference between far infrared, near infrared, and red light therapies?
All infrared wavelengths can be found grouped together on the electromagnetic spectrum, with the visible light spectrum on one side, and microwaves on the other. Near infrared waves are closest to visible light waves, whereas far infrared waves are closer to microwaves. Mid infrared waves, as you might guess, lie in the middle.
Near infrared light waves are still invisible to the eye, while red light appears—as you’d expect—red.
There are different wellness devices available for each of these therapies (far infrared, near infrared, and red light), and many which even combine them. Red light therapy is used for skin issues and to promote wound healing, while near infrared light (NIR) activates anti-inflammatory responses. NIR is also used in veterinary medicine to promote wound healing, and is often used in the treatment of sprains and bone fractures. Far infrared light is the deepest penetrating of the three therapies and—being closest to the microwave spectrum—is able to deliver therapeutic benefits through skin, muscle and joints; while safely generating warmth within the body.
FIR therapy may help your dog with:
Alleviating sore muscles
Easing joint pain and stiffness
Lowering blood pressure
How to use a FIR mat with your dog
Just as animals love curling up in a sunny spot of the house, it doesn’t take much convincing to get your dog to rest and enjoy the warmth of a FIR mat. Animals may get a therapeutic dose of FIR light in as little as 3 to 5 minutes, though longer sessions can be very beneficial. The safest bet is to let your dog decide how long they need! Your pet will generally move off of the mat once it has had enough. Over time, you may find that they are even drawn toward the mat on their own.
For dogs, especially smaller ones, a lower heat setting is recommended; around 45-50 °C (113-122 °F). Because the warmth from FIR penetrates deeply, remember that your pet may experience the heating benefits even if their skin does not feel warm to the touch.
There are 3 ways your FIR mat may be used to treat your pet:
1) Have your pet lay on top of the mat.
2) Wrap the mat around an affected part of their body (such as a leg with joint issues).
3) Lay the mat on their body or body part.
As with the PEMF mat, if you are sharing a FIR mat with your dog you may want to cover the mat with a blanket to make it more comfortable for them and to protect it from wear and tear. For best results, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on how to use your mat safely.
Is FIR safe for your dog?
Far infrared heat has been used for years in clinical settings by doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists and acupuncturists. In fact, it’s the same heat used in hospitals for babies’ incubators.
Most FIR mats are thermostatically controlled, so that you can set a max temperature and leave it without any worries about overheating. When compared to the use of a heating lamp, mats can be a safer option as your dog can easily get up and move away if the temperature becomes uncomfortable. A mat also reduces their risk of dehydration compared to a heat lamp, as the mat’s radiant heat doesn’t dry out the air in the surrounding environment.
A study on FIR use in guinea pigs showed that FIR warming devices helped the animals to safely and accurately control their body temperature. In small dogs or dogs lacking in fur, FIR mats may be a great way of combating the negative effects of heat loss.
The advantages of using FIR for your pet are numerous, and FIR therapies have been used safely and effectively across many modalities for healing both humans and animals. As long as the FIR mats are used appropriately and according to the manufacturer’s instructions, FIR therapy is safe (and incredibly beneficial!) for your dog.
Which therapy is right for my dog?
There are many things that both PEMF and FIR therapies can help your dog with. Both therapies are helpful for dogs who need:
Improved immune function
Relief from pain
Decreased joint stiffness
Wound or post-operative healing
The unique antioxidant and neurological effects of PEMF make it the recommended treatment for dogs who are suffering from dementia (canine cognitive disfunction) or other neurological ailments. The expansive research backing PEMF for bone-regeneration also makes PEMF therapy the top pick for dogs recovering from broken bones, or degenerative bone diseases.
For tight muscles, circulatory issues, or high blood pressure, your dog might benefit most from the deep, warming effects of a FIR mat. Any dogs prone to heat loss would definitely benefit from far infrared therapy.
Fortunately, you don’t always have to choose between the two therapies. There are many mats on the market that combine PEMF and FIR technology in one mat. If you are still unsure of which mat would be best for your pet, you can support their needs with a mat that has both therapies in one. Getting a combination mat may also be a smart choice if you want to be prepared for any new health conditions your pup could develop as they age.
You can’t turn back the clock, but you can help your dog to feel healthier, happier, and more like an energetic puppy again. If you’re lucky, your dog will be SO grateful that they might even share the mat (and its benefits) with you sometime! Or—even better— you can snuggle up and relax on it together.
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