Far-infrared ray patches relieve pain and improve skin sensitivity in myofascial pain syndrome: A double-blind randomized controlled study

Complement Ther Med. 2017 Dec;35:127-132. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2017.10.007. Epub 2017 Nov 4.


Objective: Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a common disorder characterized by muscle pain if myofascial trigger points (MTrP) are stimulated. This study evaluated the effectiveness of far-infrared ray (FIR) patches in reducing the severity of pain in patients with MPS.

Methods: A double-blind, randomized controlled study involving 125 patients with MPS and 201 MTrPs located in the trapezius muscle. A FIR patch was applied to 98 MTrPs for 24h in the intervention group (61 patients) and a placebo patch was applied to 91 MTrPs in the control group (57 patients) at the end. Pain intensity was measured using the visual analogue scale (V) while pressure pain threshold (P) and maximal pain tolerance (T) were measured using an algometer before and after treatment.

Results: The mean age of the patients was 37.16 years old and 67% were female. There was a positive correlation between P and T (p<0.001). Older Age was associated with higher P and T due to poor skin sensitivity (p<0.001). V improved significantly in both groups to a similar extent, but only in the intervention group, P and T decreased significantly (which implied better skin sensitivity) (p<0.05). P and T decreased the most in the female group aged over 35, probably due to thinner skin in this subgroup.

Conclusions: FIR and placebo patches were equally effective at relieving pain (with decreased V), but P and T dropped only in the intervention group with FIR patches. This probably resulted from FIR penetrated only to the skin layer and improved skin sensitivity with more blood circulation, but the muscle remained unaffected. Further studies should investigate the effect of longer exposure or higher energy applications.

Keywords: Double-blind randomized controlled trial; Infrared ray; Myofascial pain syndrome.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / pathology
  • Fibromyalgia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Myalgia / prevention & control
  • Myalgia / therapy
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / pathology
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / therapy*
  • Pain
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold / radiation effects*
  • Pressure
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Superficial Back Muscles*
  • Trigger Points*