Cupping Therapy vs Acupuncture – Which Modality Should You Choose

In recent times, interest in alternative and complementary forms of healing and therapies are gaining much tempo. As the Mayo Clinic reports, around 40% of Americans have opted for such techniques at some time in their lives. If you’ve also been considering getting cupping therapy or acupuncture, you probably have a lot of questions about them. You’ll want to know which of the modalities is more effective to give you the results you’re looking for. Let’s begin by understanding the principle on which the therapies are based and how they work on your body.

The Philosophy Behind Cupping Therapy and Acupuncture

Cupping Therapy vs Acupuncture

BMRB

Both cupping therapy and acupuncture have their origins in ancient China. Surprisingly, acupuncture was developed around 8,000 years ago and has its foundations in Dadaist theisms. Cupping therapy, on the other hand, came to be used around 3,000 years ago. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the philosophy that the body has natural energy flowing through it. The meridians that run through the body are the channels that direct the free flow of the energy. As long as this energy, also called, “qi” or “chi” keeps moving, you feel healthy. But, illnesses and injuries can create obstructions in the flow. As a result, you feel ill, mentally and physically.

How Acupuncture and Cupping Therapy Work

Acupuncture and cupping therapy work to remove the obstructions so that so that the energy continues to flow. In this way, these therapies heal you. By inserting needles into the specific points of obstruction during acupuncture, the therapist seeks to attract the flow of blood. This blood flow brings with it fresh nutrients and oxygen that repair the illness and damage in the tissues. A boost in the flow of lymph works to carry away the toxins, cell debris, and other waste. And, effectively cleanses the area.

On the other hand, cupping creates suction on the skin above the damaged tissues. The suction also draws blood to the area so that it heals and the waste is removed. Essentially the principle behind both therapies is very similar, namely, inducing inflammation to promote healing. And, both, cupping therapy and acupuncture sessions typically last for around 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Before suggesting the optimum modality that can help you with your medical issues, the therapist will assess your symptoms carefully. If needed, she might also recommend that you opt for a combination of both treatments.

How Cupping Therapy is Performed

cupping therapy with acupuncture

Parachute by MapQuest

To perform cupping therapy, the healer uses small cups that may be made of traditional materials like bamboo, wood, animal horns, or glass. Modern day cupping therapists may use medical grade silicone or glass so they can monitor the appearance of the skin during the therapy. Sterilizing these materials is also a lot more easier. Your healer may choose to heat the cups before placing them on the specific trigger points so that suction is created in the cups. Or, he may opt to use contemporary cupping kits that include a suction device attached to the bottom of the cup. The pumps can be used to remove the air and create suction in the inverted cup.

Types of Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy can be of different forms. Dry cupping only involves the creation of vacuum while massage cupping includes the application of essential oils on the skin prior to placing the cups. Once suction is created, the cups are moved over the skin by way of reverse massage therapy. Wet cupping is another method. After maintaining suction for a few minutes, the therapist may make tiny cuts on the skin with a sterile scalpel. Next, she places the cup back on the affected area. The vacuum causes a small amount of blood to be pulled from the skin into the cup. After removing the cup, she dresses the area with antiseptic ointment and sterile bandages so that it heals within a few days.

How Acupuncture is Performed

cupping therapy vs acupuncture

Silver Spring Acupuncture

To perform acupuncture, the therapist makes use of sterile needles that are extremely fine. Guided by his training and expert knowledge of the anatomy and meridians of your body, he places the needles in your skin at the precise points where the natural energy has stagnated. As blood rushes to the area, you feel a relaxation and release of stress. Typically, patients do not experience any pain since the needles are very thin and small. In rare cases, the patient may feel a dull ache that is not altogether unpleasant. If needed, the therapist may also deliver heat or light electrical impulses through the needles.

How Cupping Therapy and Acupuncture are Combined

Depending on your particular medical issues, your therapist could recommend that you opt for a combination of both modalities. To begin with, she places needles on the affected area. Next, she places inverted cups on the area and creates a vacuum. In this way, she can provide you with the dual benefits of both forms of healing. The strategically placed needle and the vacuum of the cups can work to promote blood flow and healing.

Medical Issues that Respond Well to the Treatment

Both cupping therapy and acupuncture can help you with many medical issues such as:

  • Respiratory issues like colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and the flu
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Reducing pain arising from musculoskeletal issues and injuries
  • Improving digestion
  • Promoting skin health
  • Helps in the removal of toxins by boosting the functioning of the lymphatic system

Cupping therapy and acupuncture can work to complement each other and help you with the medical issues you have. You can also opt to take them individually for the benefits they can provide you. Of course, it is best to rely on the judgment of your expert therapist who can guide you best on the ideal mode of treatment.

References:
“Cupping Therapy and Acupuncture Treatment: How do they differ?” Aligned Modern Health. 19 Oct. 2015. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.
Axe. Josh. Dr. “Cupping Therapy vs. Acupuncture: How Are They Similar and Different?” The Complete Herbal Guide. 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.
Suvow, Scott. L.Ac. “The History of Acupuncture.” ACOS. n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.

Top 7 Benefits of Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy is a 3,000-year old healing modality that was developed by different cultures across the world. The earliest accounts of the practice of cupping therapy and its many benefits emerged from China though researchers are still unsure if travelers carried it to other countries from the point of origin. Called by different names, healers have used cupping to treat various ailments ranging from musculoskeletal, dermal, and digestive to psychological conditions like stress, depression, and anxiety. The therapy can also be used to treat physical illnesses that result from mental stress and anxiety.

Consider getting these Cupping Therapy sets to help you avail of the many benefits.

The most interesting feature of cupping is that you can use it in conjunction with other forms of healing to enhance their results. Though, science is not quite sure how the modality works, millions of people across the world have shown marked improvements after using the therapy. It is safe, non-invasive, and rarely has any side effects if taken from a well-trained, certified therapist. Here are the main categories of ailments that cupping therapy can help you with:

  1. Cupping for Relief From Pain

Relief from pain and discomfort is one of the main objectives why people opt for cupping therapy. The therapy can provide relief from pain resulting from various conditions like neck pain, back pain, rheumatism, migraines, and cancer. By getting cupping therapy, you might find that the pain is easing more effectively as compared to using analgesics and other medications.

Cupping targets deep tissues by creating suction and lifting the skin over the muscles because of which the blood vessels and capillaries expand. As the area receives a fresh infusion of blood, it is flooded with nutrients and oxygen that work to heal the damage and injuries. In addition, the blood carries away the accumulation of toxins, dead cells, and other debris that may be hampering healing and causing pain. As a result of better blood circulation, the tensed muscles and stiff tissues relax. Not only is the discomfort alleviated but the patients also sense relaxation that helps lower stress levels.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and other ancient healing modalities also believe in the flow of energy in the body. When this energy flow is obstructed by illnesses and injuries, the body responds with pain and stiffness. Cupping on the fleshy sections of the body such as the shoulder blades, lower back, neck, and groin can open the obstructions so that the energy flow is activated and healing stimulated. Modern day practitioners may choose to use cupping therapy along with acupressure, massage therapy, and heat therapy.

2. Cupping to Promote Relaxation

Cupping therapy gives you the same effects of a deep tissue massage but by way of reverse pressure. As your tensed muscles relax because of the improved blood flow, you’ll sense relief from the stress and anxiety. When the blocked energy in your body starts to flow more freely, you feel a deep sense of relaxation and well-being as the nervous system is sedated and calmed. Since each session of cupping therapy can take around 30 minutes, therapists also believe that the simple act of lying very still has a therapeutic effect.

3. Cupping to Promote Healing from Injuries

benefits of cupping therapy

Pinterest

Whenever your body suffers an injury, it reacts by flooding the body with blood that brings healing elements and components to the damaged tissues. As a result, you see inflammation and sense pain. Modern healing recommends medication and treatments that reduce the swelling and end up stopping the healing process before it is complete. Cupping works to cause inflammation in the tissues by drawing blood to the tissues and restarting the healing.

For this reason, athletes opt for the modality. It works to bring nutrients to their muscles and heals the micro tears that occur because of the rigorous training they undertake. Most important, it helps carry away the toxins released by the repairing of tissues. In this way, cupping heals the knots and adhesions in the tissues. Any kind of injuries including plantar fasciitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other musculoskeletal issues respond very well to cupping therapy.

4. Cupping for Clear, Flawless Skin

By improving blood circulation, cupping therapy can improve the appearance of the skin. That’s because the suction has the effect of promoting the rejuvenation of the layer of collagen and elastin under the skin. When this layer produces more cells and plumps up, the skin also looks and feels better. Any kind of skin conditions including diseases like herpes, eczema, the orange-peel effect caused by cellulite, and acne scars can all be healed with cupping therapy.

You can also use the modality to erase signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, creases, and folds of skin. Dermatologists may use the suction after applying soothing salves, essential oils, and lotions. That’s because cupping can help in the better absorption of the salves into the skin so that it is nourished and all dryness is repaired. It can also assist in the reduction of fluid build up in the skin so the puffiness is removed.

5. Cupping for Better Digestion

benefits of cupping therapy

Al Hijama / The Cupping Therapy

When cupping therapy is performed on the abdomen, it works to release the stress and stiffness in the muscles. As the tissues relax, better movement is induced in the working of the digestive system. Any issues you had such as chronic stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, fluid retention, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), loss of appetite, flatulence, and other gastrointestinal diseases can all be cured with the help of cupping therapy. Given that gastric disease is often linked to stress and anxiety, cupping therapy may be the perfect answer to the issues.

6. Cupping for Relief from Respiratory Issues

Cupping therapy is highly effective in helping you with respiratory issues such as colds, the flu, congestion, cough, buildup of phlegm, and pulmonary tuberculosis. When suction is performed on the chest, it has the effect of promoting blood flow and the draining of lymph fluid. For this reason, cupping can help you with asthma, seasonal allergies, and chest infections.

7. Cupping for Detoxification

As all medical practitioners will tell you, an accumulation of toxins in the body can cause many different ailments and illnesses. You can also become more susceptible to infections. Cupping therapy can help you by helping the toxins, dead cells, and other metabolic waste move to the lymphatic system so the body eliminates them naturally. To help the movement of waste out of your body, your therapist will likely recommend that you drink lots of water after a cupping session.

Cupping therapy can help you will many medical and cosmetic issues. And, the best positive is that even if you feel it is not effective, it is not likely to cause any adverse effects either. With millions of people swearing by the amazing benefits of the healing modality, you can try it and see for yourself. For a more in depth look at cupping therapy, check out our Cupping Benefits page.

References:
Richard, Brandon. “5 Benefits Of Cupping Therapy Everyone Should Know!” David Wolfe. n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.
Kiefer, David. MD. “Cupping Therapy” WebMD. 10 Aug. 2016. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.
Axe, Josh. Dr. “Cupping Therapy: Alternative Medicine for Pain, Immunity & Digestion.” Dr Axe Food is Medicine. n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.
Bright, Sierra. “9 Reasons Everyone Should Try Cupping Therapy.” Natural Living Ideas. 8 Aug. 2016. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.

Best Tools for Myofascial Release Therapy

Myofascial release therapy can prove to be highly advantageous for athletes that undertake intensive training and play high-action games that stress their myofascial structure. This treatment helps to keep their muscles healthy so that they have no pain or discomfort. Regular sessions can also help maintain free movement, feeling of lightness, and flexibility. Therapists perform myofascial release therapy by using gentle, sustained pressure and slow stretching. However, depending on the requirements of their patients, they may also recommend the use of certain tools to helps with the release in stress in the myofascial structure.

Cylindrical Foam Rollers

Cylindrical foam rollers can help you perform myofascial release therapy on yourself. It is very simple to do and even senior citizens and young adults that are dealing with age-related or injury-related myofascial stress can easily use it. You only have to lie on the rollers with the trigger point facing the roller and move gently. Rely on the instructions of your therapist to understand exactly how it is done.

 

 

 

Curved Canes, also called Theracanes

Curved canes also called Theracanes can help you access those hard-to-reach trigger points so you can perform therapy on yourself in the comfort of your home.

 

 

 

 

Roller Sticks

Roller sticks come with spikes, spines, or bumps. You can move them over the affected areas to help soften the muscles and relieve the tightness in them. Yet another method for using them is to place them on the floor and roll the affected muscles over them.

 

 

 

Acupressure Balls

Acupressure Balls can be used for manual trigger point releases in small sections. Like for example, you could move them on the biceps or on the underside of your thighs to help relax the stress points.

 

 

 

Floss Bands

Floss Bands work to compress the injured muscles. As your therapist will direct you, wrap the bands around the injured areas and perform the full range of motions. Take care to leave the floss bands on for a maximum of 2 minutes. When you remove them, the muscles will receive a boost of oxygen and nutrient rich blood. The lymph movement in the area will help to carry away the buildup of toxins.

 

 

Vacuum Cups

Vacuum cups used in myofascial release therapy are very similar to the cups used in cupping therapy. The cups are made of soft, flexible silicone. After placing the cup on the trigger point, your therapist will squeeze it to void the air inside it. The vacuum created in the cup lifts the skin off the myofascial structure so that a gap is created. As blood rushes the fill the area, it brings with it fresh oxygen and nutrients that help heal the stressed muscles and fascia. After a few minutes, the cup is removed.

 

Myofascial Release Therapy for Athletes

When you stress your muscles and myofascial structure during athletic activities, you may have symptoms of myofascial pain. These signs can include long-term discomfort and sensations of excessive pressure on any particular section of the body. You might also start to feel a stiffness and may start to favor a shoulder or leg without noticing. Various forms of non-invasive therapy can help your muscles heal and alleviate the stiffness so you can continue to perform as before. One of such treatments is myofascial release therapy.

Consider getting these tools for Myofascial Release Therapy self-care.

Who Can Provide Myofascial Release Therapy?

If you’re looking for myofascial release therapy, you might want to look for a therapist who has the necessary training and certification to perform therapy on you. Some such professionals include:

  • Specialists that have a detailed knowledge of sports medicine or sports injury
  • Massage therapists
  • Chiropractors
  • Physical or occupational therapists
  • Osteopathic physicians

How a Myofascial Release Therapy Session Progresses

Injuries and stress in one section of the myofascial structure of the body often communicate to other sections through the network of collagen and elastin. For this reason, when you sign up for myofascial release therapy, your healer will likely conduct a detailed examination of your muscles. He may also ask you a series of questions that are intended to identify the trigger points or the special areas that are injured. Here’s everything you need to know about subsequent sessions:

  • Myofascial release sessions are conducted in an outpatient center or healthcare facility.
  • Each session may last for 30 to 50 minutes at a time.
  • Your therapist may use gentle sustained pressure for a few minutes at a time. Or, he may use low load stretches to release the pressure on specific muscles.
  • If you feel a slight burning sensation, that could indicate the stimulation of a healing chemical reaction.
  • In case of swelling and inflammation, cold compresses are used. And, constricted muscles are treated with heat packs.
  • You may be asked to come in daily or at intervals of a few days for a few initial sessions.
  • Depending on the severity of the symptoms, therapy might continue for a few weeks or months.
  • Your therapist will show you how you can perform slow, stretching exercises to regain your range of motion and keep your muscles flexible. Careful aerobic exercises also help boost blood circulation to the injured areas.
  • If needed, your therapist may combine treatment with other therapies to help you better. These therapies can include acupressure, acupuncture, infrared light treatments, and pain injections. He might also recommend oral medication like analgesics, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen.

Indications that the Myofascial Release Session is Successful

In case you’re wondering if the therapy is working on you and healing your muscles, look for these signs:

  • Better range of motion
  • Easing of the pain and swelling
  • Movement is freer and lighter

Tools for Myofascial Release Self-care

While it is always preferable to work with an expert professional to get myofascial release therapy, you can also use certain tools that can help you exert pressure on the trigger points for relief. Check with your therapist for the correct methods of using these tools. You can also watch online videos for demonstrations.

  • myofascial release therapy

    Breaking Muscle

    Cylindrical Foam Roller: Place the foam roller on the floor and lay on it with the injured trigger point facing the roller. You’ll need to move very slowly at the rate of an inch or so per minute. Pause in between for several seconds on especially tight areas for the pressure to help release the stress. Within 5 to 30 seconds, you’ll start to feel the pressure easing and discomfort lessening. While you can identify the trigger points yourself, you could also ask your trainer for directions.

  • Curved Cane, also called the Theracane: These canes are essentially self-massaging tools that you can use to reach the trigger points that are causing you discomfort.
  • Roller Stick: Some of these sticks may come with spikes, spines, or bumps. You only need to move them over the affected muscles for stress relief.
  • Acupressure Ball: You can use these balls to massage areas such as the biceps or thighs.
  • Floss Band: You can wrap the floss bands around your calf, knee, elbow, or any other affected area for about 2 minutes. After wrapping, put the muscles through the entire range of motion. When you remove the band, the rush of blood to the area can bring in fresh oxygen and nutrients. The boost in lymph flow helps carry away lactic acid and other toxins the muscles have released.
  • Lacrosse Ball: These balls work similarly to acupressure balls and help release myofascial stress.
  • Vacuum Cups: Using cups to create suction on the trigger points is a completely distinct therapeutic modality with a wide range of applications. It is called cupping therapy and you can learn how to perform the therapy on your own or work with a certified cupping therapist.
  • H-shaped Channeled Foam Roller: These rollers work very much like cylindrical foam rollers but they are H in shape and are especially useful for back pain.

Getting myofascial release therapy from a certified therapist is always an advisable method of helping release the pain and stiffness that can occur because of athletic activities and training. However, you can get certain tools to help the healing process along. Use them under the directions of your therapist to supplement the treatment she provides.

References:
“Myofascial Release for Athletes: Pain, Prevention, Performance.” MFR Brisbane. n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.
Wilson, Rob. “Foam Rollers Don’t Work: Understanding Myofascial Release.” Breaking Muscle. n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.
Morgan. “Myofascial Decompression (Cupping Therapy)- The Whats, Whys, and Hows.” Evolution Sports. 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.
Ganfield, Lisa. OTR/L. CHT. “Myofascial Release Therapy.” Spine Health. 8 June 2009. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
Kuhland, Jeff. “What Is A Foam Roller, How Do I Use It, And Why Does It Hurt?” Breaking Muscle. n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.
Kendell, Naomi. “Myofascial Release – Treatments and Massage Techniques You Can Do Yourself.” Streaming Fit. n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.
Vieux, Michele. “The Wonderful World of Voodoo Floss.” Invictus Blog. n.d. Web. 12 mar. 2017.

Understanding How Myofascial Release Benefits Athletes

Myofascial release therapy is highly beneficial for muscular pain. You might have developed the pain because of various issues such as an injury, fall, strain or sprain, and even bad posture. If you enjoy playing high-impact games or are a professional athlete, myofascial release therapy can help you recover from the training sessions you put your body through and the possible injuries you incur when playing the games. This treatment is also good for the specific muscles you use repeatedly when performing an athletic move. Like for example, the shoulder muscles used for making “reach and pull motions” during swimming.

You can perform certain myofascial release exercises on your own. Ask your therapist for the right tools you can use. To see a few great examples, click here.

What is the Myofascial Network?

The myofascial network is a layer of elastin and collagen fibers within a viscous liquid also called ground substance that surrounds every inch of your body below the skin and above the muscles and other tissues. This structure forms 80% of the soft tissues of your body and keeps your internal organs, bones, nerves, and muscles protected. Thick in some areas and thinner in others, this network is highly flexible and helps you perform any kind of movement smoothly. Athletes can perform effective motions like running, kicking a ball, swinging a bat or a golf iron as long as the myofascial structure is healthy and functioning well to cushion the impact of each motion.

How Athletes Cause Damage to their Myofascial Tissues

Any wound, injury, or surgical procedure conducted on the myofascial structure results in bleeding and inflammation. Trauma of any kind can also cause damage to the network of elastin and collagen. The adhesions in the network thus make it difficult for athletes to move freely. Eventually, these adhesions become trigger points that can set off muscular pain in other sections of the body that seem completely unrelated.

Aside from injuries and trauma, the training sessions that athletes undertake also cause stress to the myofascial network. When athletes train, they are likely to make repetitive motions and use a specific set of muscles again and again. To manage the repetitive stress on the same muscles, the myofascial structure thickens, tightens, and makes the appropriate changes to prepare for the next session of training. These distortions make movement difficult and athletes start to feel the stiffness in their muscles.

Symptoms of Issues with the Myofascial Structure

The trigger points in the myofascial structure caused by trauma are also called gristle, ropes, knots, and scar tissue. Essentially, they are small sections of misaligned tissues that result from the biological and chemical changes in the myofascial network. Here are some symptoms that indicate you need treatment.

Pain

Pain is typically caused in the trigger points and makes movement difficult. An expert therapist is trained in identifying the specific trigger points and trauma areas. Often, the injured sections of the myofascial network may not hurt at all but broadcast the pain to other sections of the body that seem disconnected. For this reason, when you come in for a session of myofascial release treatment, your therapist will begin by palpitating and gently pressing down on the different sections of the body. These actions help to identify the injured areas properly before beginning treatment.

Difficulty in Movement

When your skin does not smoothly slide over the damaged, underlying myofascial structure and muscles, you start to feel the stiffness and difficulty in movement. As you strain to continue to move, the muscles and joints start to become inflamed and stressed. To cope with the inflammation, the body sets of chemical reactions in an attempt to heal them. If you continue to move as before and don’t give your body time to heal, you end up with the joints to moving off axis and muscles taking on unnatural movement patterns. In the long run, you end up with an excess of fat and calcium deposits in the damaged muscles and joints.

Tightness and Dense Areas of Tissue

As long as you move normally, the myofascial network remains in its gel-like state and flexible. But, the repetitive stress makes the gel turn into a more solid form that can begin to exert pressure on the muscles, nerves, and bones. That’s the reason why you feel the stiffness and pain. You’ll also start to feel like there are hard patches below the skin that seem sore to touch. Sensations like these patches are pressng down on your muscles every time you try to move are also a common complaint of athletes.

How Athletes can Prevent Damage to the Myofascial Structure

Myofascial Release Benefits for Athletes

King Athlete

Prevention is no doubt better than cure and by taking a few simple precautions, you can minimize the damage you cause to your myofascial structure. Here are a few simple habits to follow:

  • Perform the necessary stretching as directed by your physical instructor before training for or playing a sport. For instance, maintain a stretched posture for at least 5 minutes. This time interval helps your soft tissues return to their normal, flexible, gel-like state.
  • Be gentle with your muscles. If you strain too hard, you’ll cause micro-tears in the tissues.
  • Soft tissues have the capability to remember the repetitive movements you subject them to. By conducting gentle movements, you induce them to stop anticipating stress and return to their flexible form.
  • Conduct long stretches to allow the knotted myofascial network to release the stress and loosen up for movement.
  • By pressing down and holding the pressure for a few minutes on specific sections of the muscles, you can help them become more flexible. Rubbing, palpitating, and rolling the tissues do provide relief but only for a short while.
  • Check with your therapist about the various tools you can use to perform myofascial release therapy on your own. Learn how to use them appropriately so you can release the pressure on your muscles whenever needed.

Benefits of Myofascial Release for Athletes

Of course, the best positive of getting myofascial release therapy is that it keeps athletes’ muscles healthy so they can continue to train and perform well in their sporting events. Here’s how the therapy helps.

  • Lighter sensation because muscles are relaxed and movement is free of restrictions
  • Better posture and ease in running
  • Better range of motion with improved flexibility
  • Fewer instances of muscular, back, shoulder, and any other kind of pain
  • Better hydration.
  • Lower inflammation levels

Myofascial release therapy can prove to be highly beneficial for athletes because it specifically targets the muscles, nerves, joints, and myofascial structures of their bodies. Therapists train extensively to understand the structure and help athletes lower the damage they have and recover quickly and completely. As a result, they can not only continue to perform to the best of their potential but they also avoid long-term adverse effects.

References:
“Myofascial Release for Athletes: Pain, Prevention, Performance.” MFR Brisbane. n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.
Wilson, Rob. “Foam Rollers Don’t Work: Understanding Myofascial Release.” Breaking Muscle. n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.
Morgan. “Myofascial Decompression (Cupping Therapy)- The Whats, Whys, and Hows.” Evolution Sports. 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.

How You Can Benefit from Myofascial Decompression

Myofascial decompression is another term for cupping therapy. It aptly describes how cupping works to help you with musculoskeletal disorders and injuries. The suction provided by cupping helps to create a vacuum between the skin and underlying tissues by way of a process that is the reverse of massage therapy. As a result, the area is flooded with fresh blood that is rich in nutrients and oxygen. These healing elements work to heal the tissues so that the pain and stiffness you feel is relieved. But, how does the mechanism really work? To completely understand it, one must first have a clear idea of what is the myofascial network.

Therapists looking for a great set of myofascial decompression tools can check out this collection.

What is the Myofascial Network?

The myofascial network is a layer present just below the skin that comprises of collagen and elastin fibers packed in a viscous liquid. Not only does this layer keep your inner organs protected and affixed in their appropriate places, it serves another very important function. It works to absorb the impact of your movements and keeps your muscles working efficiently and smoothly. Since the entire layer is a network of fibers, any pain caused by an injury or stress in even a small section gets transmitted to other areas in the body.

Mechanism of the Body’s Healing Processes

Here’s another interesting factor. Each time you have an injury like a strain or sprain and stress your tissues, the body sets off a healing process. However, when it repairs the tissues, collagen, and elastin, they don’t regenerate in an even pattern like the original tissue you were born with. Instead, they form an uneven scar tissue that is tougher and has less flexibility. This scar tissue also has a lesser blood supply so the healing process might slow down and stop before the tissues are repaired completely. That’s the reason why you may continue to experience pain from time to time. You might even feel stiffness in the muscles or joint long after you first had the injury.

How Myofascial Decompression Helps

Myofascial decompression targets the affected areas by following the meridians on the body. Your therapist uses her keen knowledge of the meridians crisscrossing the body and its muscular structure. She carefully places the cups in the injured areas that have lesions and knots. Even as the skin is lifted and the tissues receive more blood, they begin to heal. As a result, you feel the knots loosening and pain easing. With each subsequent session, you’ll find that stiffness is fading away and movement getting better.

Benefits of Myofascial Decompression for Athletes

While cupping therapy or myofascial decompression works exceedingly well to help any person, young or old with any kind of injuries and muscles lesions, the treatment is particularly beneficial for athletes. When athletes conduct intensive training, they develop micro-tears in their tissues. As these mini-injuries heal, the muscles become stronger and athletes develop more strength and stamina. Myofascial decompression helps the injuries heal quickly so athletes can train for longer and harder. Many physical therapists and trainers are training in the therapy so they can help their athletes in training rooms. Athletes also need help with the healing of the injuries they may incur when performing on the field. And, myofascial decompression or cupping therapy is just what they need to get back in the game quickly.

How the Myofascial Decompression Session Progresses

Myofascial Decompression

Yelp

When you first come in for a myofascial decompression session, your therapist will assess the range of motion you can perform comfortably. Using his knowledge of the meridian and myofascial structure of the body, he will identify the exact points that need treatment. Accordingly, he will perform cupping using dry cupping or massage cupping to target the lesions and knots. When he moves the cup over the specific trigger points, athletes may feel a popping sensation as the tension is released with a feeling of deep relaxation afterward.

After each session, the therapist may conduct a repeat assessment to judge the improvement levels and effectiveness of the therapy. Here are some of the motions he may test:

  • Active flexion or extension movement – This is the movement you make when you raise a joint and create an angle with your body. Like, for example, when you bend a knee and raise a leg.
  • Reach and pull movements that swimmers use
  • Hip flexion and knee movements that mimic the running motion

Myofascial Decompression Benefits for Athletes

Myofascial decompression sessions have the effect of relaxing the stiffness in the muscles and relieving pain. They can also provide better range of movement. For this reason, athletes may opt for the treatment for relief from many different muscular injuries. These issues can include hamstring and calf injuries along with hip flexor strains like in cyclists and runners. Or, shoulder and back issues that swimmers deal with. Overhead sports may also cause such issues.

In Conclusion

As a professional athlete training and performing in sports or someone who has musculoskeletal issues, you can opt for myofascial decompression sessions. The American Physical Therapy Association has reported that the therapy can help with issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain, lower back pain, and knee osteoarthritis to name a few. Though, they also say that more extensive testing may be needed to understand exactly how it works.

Suffice to say that the treatment is an ancient practice that has been used by various cultures all through the centuries and it is now attracting interest in recent times. Mainly because it has clearly indicated that it can help patients recover from their musculoskeletal issues.

References:
Ross, Brandi. “New Methods Of Myofascial Decompression (Cupping) For Athletes” Breaking Muscle. n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.
Ross, Brandi. “Cupping And The Injured Athlete – Does It Work?” Breaking Muscle. n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.
Diaz, Brian. “SUSTAINABILITY OF YOU – Myofascial Decompression: Not Just For Olympians.” Endurance Magazine. 5 Sept. 2016. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.
Cobian, Daniel PT. DPT. PhD. and Heiderscheit, Bryan PT. PhD. “Cupping: Why We’re All Seeing Spots.” American Physical Therapy Association. 15 Aug. 2016. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.

Understanding the Ethos Behind Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is a simple, non-invasive form of healing that any person can learn to do on his or her own. You won’t need to get extensive training, nor will you need to dedicate a lot of your time to the therapy. By following a few basic instructions, you can condition your mind to heal any mental and physical ailments including stress and pain. All it takes a few minutes of your time each day and some amount of practice. Age, culture, religious beliefs, gender, or any other differences present no barrier. Here is some added information that you may find useful.

Principles That Form the Basis of Guided Imagery

Principle 1 – The Mind and Body are Closely Connected
Guided Imagery

Guided Imagery and Stress Management

The images that you create in your mind are as vivid as reality. Just like you remember some of your dreams like they were actual events. When you experience the dreams, they seem more real that the actual world. For instance, when you’re in a deep sleep and the alarm goes off, you probably experience a few minutes of disorientation while you come out of the dream and recognize your surroundings. The mind is a very powerful medium and since the mind controls the working of the body, you can train it to heal the body.

Try these examples to understand this connection better. Think back at an instance when you were embarrassed about something. You’ll sense your face beginning to become warm. Or, think about some specific object or situation that scares you completely. You’ll start to feel a chill and maybe, even shiver. So, you see, images can evoke a physical response. And, it is this response that you need to train your mind to induce.

Principle 2. Recognize the Potency of the Subconscious State

Every person has a conscious state and a subconscious state. When you’re having a conversation or executing a task with concentration, that’s your conscious state. But, the alternate or subconscious state is governed by other brainwave activity. While you go about your tasks, your brain is also working to process other information like trying to remember unfinished activities and making notes of the atmosphere around you.

For instance, when you’re loading the washing machine while talking on the phone, you do it perfectly because you’ve taught your mind to do it. Or, you’re picking up the weekly groceries without a list. Your brain knows what you’ll need thanks to the training it’s gone through. However, sometimes, the subconscious mind takes over and puts you in a state of reverie. You become unaware of the reality around you.

Like for instance, when you completely forget where you put down your keys. Or, you know you had a file in your hand, but you can’t remember in which desk drawer you placed it. Or, try this example. You become so focused on playing an online game that you lose track of time. This subconscious or alternate state can be stimulated to help you do tasks that normally you would be incapable of doing.

Principle 3 – You Need a Sense of Control

Having a sense of control over situations around you makes you feel much more confident about yourself. When you plan for how a presentation will progress, you develop self-esteem. In case, you’re faced with unexpected questions, the confidence carries you through. When you’re prepared for pain, you can deal with more pain than you thought possible. When you’re expecting setbacks, you can put together a plan of action. Even if they are bigger than expected, you’ll still be able to cope.

Guided Imagery – Culmination of these Principles

Guided Imagery

Control Stress with Hypnotherapy

By bringing these principles together, you can truly understand and perform guided imagery. You need to learn to awaken the alternate state by conditioning the brain how to act or respond to a situation. And, this can be done by visualizing a series of images that lead up to a certain action. For example, proponents of guided imagery talk about how you can imagine your blood cells surrounding an injured section of your body and repairing it. If you practice positive thoughts long enough, you can stimulate your alternate state to bring about the healing process in reality.

History of Guided Imagery

Records from the 13th century talk about how Tibetan monks practiced guided imagery by imagining that the Buddha was treating their illnesses. Some historians also believe that ancient Romans and Greeks or perhaps, American Indians were the original users of this technique. Modern day practice of guided imagery can be linked to Helen Bonny who built a connection with music therapy and healing by using this modality. In the late 1980s, Leslie Davenport wrote a book, “Healing and Transformation Through Self-Guided Imagery” that traced the method to ancient Indians and Buddhists.

In around 2008, researchers began using brain scans and blood tests to study how guided imagery can affect the functioning of immune cells similar to how they behave in response to meditation or hypnosis.

Although guided imagery as a healing technique was viewed with skepticism by medical science, many medical practitioners, health organizations, and medical facilities are now accepting that it can actually work. You can also find doctors that specifically train to provide this therapy to their patients to help them heal and overcome their illnesses.

References:
Naparstek. Staying Well with Guided Imagery. 1994. Healthjourneys. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.
“Guided Imagery – Topic Overview.” WebMD. n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.
“History of Guided Imagery.” The Healing Waterfall. n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

Stimulate Your Mind to Heal Your Body with Guided Imagery

Each time you’re faced with a challenging task, do you play it in your mind before the actual execution? For instance, when you have a tough interview, you might play the possible questions and your responses to them in your mind. Or, if you’re going to travel, you might work out your itinerary in your head despite having it in detail on paper. This exercise gives you a sense of control over an unfamiliar situation. You condition your brain to manage it and signal your body to prepare for what’s coming next. Guided imagery works on precisely this principle.

What is Guided Imagery?

Guided Imagery

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Guided imagery takes your imagination a step further from preparing you for life situations. It helps you create mental images so you can condition your body to heal itself. Guided imagery is also called “mental imagery” or “visualization.” When you sign up for the therapy, your therapist will show you how to create a series of images about the processes in your body. You’ll learn how to use your imagination to set off a series of positive events that will help heal the many ailments.

The fascinating thing about guided imagery is that as you continue to practice it, you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier. Anyone can learn how to perform the visualization since it only involves aligning the subconscious with the conscious mind. Even kids with their very vivid imaginations can learn how to use images to bring about mental and physical changes. To give you an example. Close your eyes and think of your favorite dish. Remember the aroma and the taste on your tongue. Immediately, you’ll start to salivate in anticipation of the dish.

Similarly, by thinking of good, happy events in your life, you can lift your mood and feel good about yourself. For instance, when you remember the joy of the Holidays you spent as a child. Just as you smile when you remember a funny incident or a joke. Or, you feel sad and angry when you think back at a situation when someone misbehaved with you. If images can alter your mood and emotions, they should also be able to bring about changes in the tissues of the body.

Benefits of Guided Imagery

Guided imagery can heighten your thought processes. You’ll enjoy music better, appreciate art and humor, and have better intuition. You’ll be able to understand and connect better with the people around you or clearly visualize abstract situations giving your creativity a boost. You will also find it easier to train and excel at any sport or artistic field you set your heart on.

In short, guided imagery can help you become a more confident, motivated, and stronger person. In many ways, the technique is similar to meditation, though easier to perform. You can also consider the technique to be a kind of self-hypnosis therapy because you enter into a kind of a trance where your senses are completely in tune with your surroundings.

Guided Imagery

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In addition to the positive effects in your personality, guided imagery can have many good effects on your health. Users of the technique have talked about improvements like:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • Better immunity
  • Fewer headaches and pain
  • Success in attaining weight loss goals
  • Lower stress and anxiety levels
  • Fewer and lower degrees of after effects of chemotherapy such as fatigue, nausea, anxiety, and pain
  • Lesser blood loss during surgery and faster recovery with the need for fewer painkillers
  • Better success in overcoming substance abuse
  • Relief from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

How to Get Guided Imagery Therapy

You can work with a certified professional to understand how to perform guided imagery. Once you understand how it works, you can continue to train your mind in the privacy of your home or any other comfort zone. Here are some of the factors you need to remember about the technique.

    • Choose a location with a relaxed atmosphere where you feel secure and free.
      You need not worry about getting the technique right. You can work with the method that works well for you.
    • Work out the images that fit in with your beliefs and values. Adopt the ones that feel right to you and give you the results you need. You need not borrow the images that other people suggest to you.
Guided Imagery

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  • Aside from mental images, choose the symbols that are in tune with other senses as well such as the sense of smell, touch, or sound. For instance, you might find that music helps or aromas allow you to relax better. Or, you could hold some favorite object in your hands to build a connection with the self.
  • You can work on guided imagery in the privacy of your home or in a group according to your comfort levels.
  • It’s okay to get emotional. A display of feelings indicates that the guided imagery has touched a deep chord inside you and is working well.
  • You might also sense other responses such as a heaviness in the body, muscle spasms, a tingling, warm sensation, the urge to yawn or cough or even to cry. All these responses are normal.
  • You need not be a firm believer in the therapy. Even if you are mildly interested in giving it a try, the treatment could work for you.
  • Build a connection with a specific gesture, word, or object that helps you relax. You can use the trigger in any setting like when you’re at work, shopping, or in a meeting that makes you anxious.
  • You might find yourself drifting in and out of the conscious plane. Some people may also seem to fall asleep and enter a dream-like state. Even in the subconscious state, the therapy, sounds, and scents will continue to heal you.
  • If you would prefer to stay awake, keep your eyes only half-closed or walk around the room slowly. Standing in one place also helps.
  • If you find your mind wandering, that’s fine too. You will learn to concentrate better with practice.

At the end of a session of guided imagery, people have also sensed a deep stillness come over them. Their faces glow even as lines and wrinkles seem to get erased. Their voices also seem quieter and deeper. All these signs indicate that the session has had the desired outcomes.

Possible Side Effects of Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is an absolutely safe, non-invasive form of therapy and can be used by any person without any concerns of risks. However, like with all other kinds of complementary or alternative healing techniques, it is always advisable that you inform your medical practitioner before beginning the treatment. Also, take care never to use these techniques as a substitute for conventional treatments and remain regularly in touch with your doctor.

References:
Naparstek. Staying Well with Guided Imagery. 1994. Healthjourneys. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.
“Guided Imagery – Topic Overview.” WebMD. n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.
“Guided Therapeutic Imagery” GoodTherapy.org. 27 Apr. 2016. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.

Types of Ultraviolet Light Therapy

Ultraviolet light therapy has been proven to help patients with skin conditions like psoriasis, vitiligo, and acne vulgaris, among others. It works very well on dermal conditions that affect large sections of the body or when conventional medications and ointments are not effective. Your dermatologist will likely recommend one of three kinds of phototherapy as ultraviolet light therapy is also called. The number of sessions you need and length of treatment will depend on the severity of the skin issue you have and how well your body responds to the effects of the UV light.

Click here for some product ideas for getting Ultraviolet Light Therapy at home.

Three Categories of Ultraviolet Light Therapy

Ultraviolet light therapy can be of two main kinds that depend on the specific wavelength of light that is chosen for the treatment. Accordingly, you have

  • UVB light therapy
  • UVA light therapy
  • PUVA: Your doctor may prescribe topical ointments to apply or oral medications to take just before your UVA therapy. These agents help to enhance the effects of the treatment. This form of ultraviolet light therapy is called PUVA or Psoralen Ultraviolet A therapy.

UVB Therapy

UVB Therapy is typically used to help patients with skin conditions like psoriasis. It uses a wider range of light wavelengths and has the potential to kill the abnormal growth of cells. This growth occurs when the body’s immune system starts attacking the skin cells. As a result, you sense the symptoms of psoriasis such as itching, skin flaking, redness and sometimes, lesions. Here’s everything you need to know about UVB therapy:

  • The strength of the therapeutic doses depends on your skin color. Lighter-skinned people begin treatment with a somewhat weaker dose while darker-skinned people may need a stronger initial dosage for the therapy to work.
  • Your dermatologist will likely test the treatment on a smaller section of your skin to assess its effects before working on larger sections.
  • In the initial sessions, you’ll receive light exposure for around 30 to 60 seconds until the skin turns slightly pink. Over subsequent sessions, you’ll notice that the skin takes longer to show a change in color. Accordingly, your doctor will increase the time for which you take the treatment.
  • You may be asked to come in several times each week until your skin has healed completely. In most cases, patients need 3 to 5 sessions per week over 5 weeks.
  • Typically, patients need around 18 to 30 sessions before they can see significant improvement.
  • UVB therapy is usually given in a light box that resembles a phone booth or in a tanning bed-like booth. Hand-held devices may be used for smaller sections.

How UVB Therapy is Given

Your dermatologist may recommend that you try therapies like:

  • Goeckerman System: Before you step into the light box, coal tar is applied on the skin. This tar acts like a photosensitizing agent that reacts to the UVB light rays and helps to control the growth of the abnormal cells. This system is used to manage moderate to severe levels of psoriasis. If you cannot tolerate the smell, your doctor may choose to use other emollients like petroleum jelly in its place.
  • Ingram System: This form of UVB therapy involves the application of anthralin, mineral oil, or tar products on the skin before the UV session.
  • Oral medications: Doctors may choose to prescribe oral medications like methotrexate, vitamin A derivatives called retinoids like bexarotene (Targretin). These medications also help enhance the effects of the therapy.
  • Laser therapy: In place of the light box as a source of UV rays, doctors use 308-nm excimer lasers. These devices use a particular combination of gases to deliver high-intensity UV light in short pulses.
  • Narrow-band (NB-UVB) is a new form in use today.

UVA Treatments

Depending on the severity of the patient’s symptoms, dermatologists may also prescribe UVA therapy. Here’s what you need to know:

  • UVA rays can pass through the deeper layers of the skin.
  • Each patient is typically given sessions of 20 minutes at a time.
  • A higher dosage of the therapy can help heal lesions.
  • UVA treatments are typically combined with oral medications like psoralens by way of PUVA. However, if you’re taking the medication, exposure to the UVA light is reduced to 2 minutes.

PUVA treatment

ultraviolet light therapy

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Psoralens are medications that can boost the skin’s sensitivity to UVA rays. Doctors use them to provide PUVA therapy to patients with many skin conditions like eczema, vitiligo, psoriasis and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), among others. Psoralen agents can be applied on the skin or taken orally. Here’s everything you need to know about the therapy:

  • The dosage of PUVA treatment depends on your skin type. Doctors test a small area of your skin before proceeding to work on larger areas.
  • A minimum dosage should produce a reaction of uniform redness 72 hours after the therapy. This dosage is called the minimum phototoxic dose (MPD) and is considered the initial point of starting the therapy.
  • If you cannot tolerate taking the psoralens orally, you can opt to apply them on the skin.
  • Psoralen agents are taken orally with water or milk 1 to 2 hours before starting the UVA session.
  • Psoralen agents can have side effects like nausea and taking PUVA over long periods can raise the risk of skin cancer. This factor is especially true for patients with fair skin. For this reason, PUVA therapy is only used on patients that have a very severe case of psoriasis.
  • PUVA sessions are typically given 2 to 3 times a week for about 16 to 18 weeks.
  • It is essential that you take PUVA treatment under the careful supervision of an expert dermatologist and that you follow all directions and precautions completely.
  • If you are taking PUVA therapy, you must take utmost precautions to protect yourself from sun exposure and UV rays of all kinds. You must also avoid using scented products that can irritate the skin.
  • PUVA has several contraindications. Make sure to discuss the treatment in detail with your doctors before opting for it.

Research Conducted into the Effectiveness of Ultraviolet Light Therapy

Ultraviolet light therapy has been proven to help patients with skin conditions. Here are the results of a few studies:

  • The Archives of Dermatology have records of a 2006 study that showed that patients that had chronic plaque psoriasis were given UV therapy. The patients taking PUVA showed an 85% improvement in their symptoms while those receiving NB-UVB showed a 65% improvement.
  • In a medical facility in The Netherlands, a study was conducted on a group of 196 patients with psoriasis. They were given treatments of Ultraviolet B phototherapy using Ultraviolet B lamps. Some were treated at home while others received at home. At the end of one year, all the patients showed a marked improvement in their symptoms. This study shows that patients can conveniently take the treatment in the comfort of their homes at more economical costs.
  • A study was conducted on 95 patients with plaque-like psoriasis. They were given NBUVB phototherapy three times a week for 6 months. All of the patients showed a better quality of life. They noticed that not only did the severity of their symptoms lessen but the area affected by psoriasis also decreased.

Ultraviolet light therapy for skin conditions is only one of the many applications for treatment. The World Health Organization reports that sunbathing and getting adequate sun exposure can ensure adequate levels of Vitamin D in the body that can promote stronger bones. While getting light therapy is beneficial for dealing with skin problems, an excess of exposure can also lead to adverse effects. People must use exposure to UV rays with moderation to get its positive effects.

References:
“Ultraviolet Light Treatment.” The Free Dictionary by Farlex n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
Hainer, Ray. “A Guide to Using Light Therapy for Psoriasis” Health. 19 May 2009. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
“Ultraviolet light treatment.” Cancer Research UK. n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
“Ultraviolet Light Therapy.” Wound Care Centers. n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
“Phototherapy for Psoriasis.” WebMD. n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.
Koek, Mayke B. G., Sigurdsson, Vigfús et al. “Cost effectiveness of home ultraviolet B phototherapy for psoriasis: economic evaluation of a randomised controlled trial (PLUTO study)” The BMJ. 5 Jan. 2010. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
Al Robaee AA and Alzolibani AA. “Narrowband ultraviolet B phototherapy improves the quality of life in patients with psoriasis.” PubMed. June 2011. Web. 11 Feb. 2017.
“The known health effects of UV” World Health Organization n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Ultraviolet Light Therapy for Skin Issues

Healing with ultraviolet light is a technique that has been used by people for many centuries and modern science also accepts its effectiveness. Light at different wavelengths can be used for many therapeutic purposes. In fact, concentrated beams of light or laser therapy can be used to perform surgical procedures. At lower concentration levels, light can be used to heal skin wounds, infections, and other conditions. Doctors are increasingly applying light waves to help people with different medical issues. One of these applications is ultraviolet light therapy.

Consider using these devices to get ultraviolet light therapyat home. However, make sure to check with your medical practitioner before using any devices without supervision.

What is Ultraviolet Light Therapy?

Ultraviolet light therapy is also called phototherapy or photochemotherapy. A part of natural sunlight, ultraviolet rays are a distinct band of light spectrum that is not visible. In place of just spending time in the sun, you can make use of many high-tech devices for getting ultraviolet therapy. These devices provide you with UVA and UVB rays of light. Aside from using UVA and UVB treatments, doctors also combine the therapy with medications to help with skin issues such as psoriasis, eczema, and jaundice in newborn babies. This therapy is called PUVA treatments. You may be asked to apply ointments and salves or take the medications internally in pill form.

Ultraviolet light therapy is the preferred choice of treatment for doctors. Since it has relatively fewer side effects, they would recommend that you opt for the therapy in place of other medications. While getting the therapy can have a host of positives, it does involve visiting your doctor’s clinic many times during the week during working hours. For this reason, many patients prefer other treatments that are not likely to disrupt their work and home schedules. Getting ultraviolet light therapy may also work out to be a bit expensive since insurance companies consider it as an office visit and you may be asked to co-pay for the treatment.

How Ultraviolet Light Therapy Works

Ultraviolet light therapy is known to be highly effective for many skin conditions. To give you an understanding of how ultraviolet light therapy works, let’s talk about psoriasis as an example. This skin condition is caused when the body’s immune system attacks the skin cells. As a result, they start to multiply rapidly because of which you notice redness, itching, and lesions on the skin. Ultraviolet therapy works to kill the immune cells in the skin that cause the condition. The UV light also prevents the forming of skin lesions by breaking the connections between the skin cells and immune cells. By slowing the rapid, uncontrolled growth of the skin cells, UV rays can stimulate the healing of skin infections and injuries.

Benefits of Ultraviolet Light Therapy

Patients that don’t have a history of skin cancer and are not taking photosensitive drugs can takeultraviolet light therapy for SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Your dermatologist might also recommend that you try natural or artificial ultraviolet light therapy for any of these skin conditions:

  • Psoriasis: A chronic skin disease that appears on the elbows and knees, and in the genital areas. Patients see reddish-pink and silvery scales and even, lesions with itching.
  • Eczema
  • Vitiligo: A condition where the skin loses pigmentation and shows white patches
  • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma: A kind of skin cancer
  • Pruritus: Uncontrollable, constant skin itching
  • Acne vulgaris or blemishes, whiteheads, blackheads, and breakouts
  • Jaundice in newborn babies
  • Graft-versus-host disease that occurs because of a complication from bone marrow transplants
  • Atopic dermatitis: A kind of allergic reaction

How the Therapy is Given

ultraviolet light therapy

John Tsagaris

You can get ultraviolet light therapy naturally by exposing your skin to the sun. You can also try the many devices that are available today in the privacy of your home or in a doctor’s clinic. The number of sessions you need and the time for which each session must last depends on the specific skin issue. Typically, UV therapy sessions last for a few minutes to one hour. You may be asked to come in every day or a few times each week. But, you can rest assured that these devices have carefully controlled levels of UV radiation and are not likely to hurt you. Some of them are:

  • Lightboxes, light beds or walk-in cabinets that are fully-sized to accommodate an adult
  • Handheld devices can be used to give UV therapy to smaller sections of the body like on the arms or legs.
  • UV light combs can be used to stimulate the growth of hair and control hair loss.
  • For newborn babies with jaundice, UV therapy can be given by placing them in special infant incubators where the light source is located on the roof.

Risks Associated with Ultraviolet Light Therapy

If you opt to take UV therapy, it is advisable that you follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. You must also take the treatment under the supervision of an expert physician. While the therapy has several benefits, an overdose and long-term use of UV light can have side effects such as:

  • Premature aging of the skin
  • Skin cancer
  • Sunburns and undesirable discoloration of the skin with brownish pigmentation
  • Cataracts and other eye damage
  • Damage to skin collagen and Vitamin A and C levels in the skin
  • Hampers the formation of free radicals in the skin
  • Skin dryness and irritation
  • Headache and nausea

Precautions to Take When Getting the Therapy

ultraviolet light therapy

Psoriasis Treatments

Before signing you up for ultraviolet light therapy, your doctor will ask you a series of questions to determine that you are a good candidate for the treatment. She will also take various steps to make sure that the treatment is effective and safe.

  • If you have a history of migraines, your doctor may advise you not to take the treatment.
  • If you are taking psoralens also called photosensitizing agents, you must take careful precautions to prevent exposure to sunlight. That’s because these agents can maximize the effects of the sun on your skin. Inform your doctor if you are taking medications like vitamin A derivatives, isotretinoin, tetracycline, and other similar drugs including diuretics.
  • Patients with a history of skin cancer cannot take UV therapy.
  • Your doctor may ask you to wear adequate sunblock before getting the therapy to protect your skin.
  • you have opted to take UV therapy, your dermatologist will recommend that you get tested for skin cancer once a year.

Prepping and Aftercare

When you arrive for your ultraviolet light therapy, the technicians will prep you carefully. Here are the steps they’ll take:

  • You will be asked to keep your eyes carefully shielded from exposure by wearing goggles.
  • You may be asked to keep only the areas affected by the skin condition exposed. Cover the healthy sections of the skin including the face.
  • To enhance the effects of the treatment, your doctor might apply topical agents such as coal tar, petroleum jelly, or emollients.
  • In case psoralens are prescribed, you must take them an hour before starting the therapy.

After the therapy, you need not take any special precautions. However, do keep these pointers in mind:

  • Limit your exposure to sunlight or UV radiation like from tanning beds.
  • Examine your skin regularly for any signs that may indicate cancer.

Ultraviolet light therapy can have many benefits for skin conditions. But, like with all other forms of treatment, you need to take the necessary precautions. As long as you follow your doctor’s recommendations, you can get relief from the skin conditions that the treatment can help you treat.

References:
“Ultraviolet Light Treatment.” The Free Dictionary by Farlex. n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
Hainer, Ray. “A Guide to Using Light Therapy for Psoriasis” Health. 19 May 2009. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
“Ultraviolet light treatment.” Cancer Research UK. n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
“Ultraviolet Light Therapy.” Wound Care Centers. n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.