MG writes: “ . . . [M]y wife has been ill for many years and we have gone to all kinds of alternative medical people and have gained nothing. Now she has gotten an infra red wand and is treating herself with this. We got it from a Chinese person who does this for a living. I would like to know if this is the same as acupuncture and with the new age movement.”
While the infra-red wand has no scientific evidence to support its claims, it is not associated with acupuncture or the New Age.
For those who have never heard of it, infra-red wands such as Painease and the Precision LED Pain Reliever are small hand-held devices that deliver low-level infrared light. Many claim these wands can relieve pain and treat a variety of other conditions such as wound healing, acne, kidney disease, osteoarthritis and Parkinson’s disease; however, there is no evidence to support these claims.
According to this blog appearing on Science Based Medicine, “There is no good biologic reason to think that low level laser would have any effect. Most of the purported mechanisms are unimpressive . . . .”
The author goes on to compare the existing studies of low level lasers to be similar to that of acupuncture (although there is no other correlation between the two).
“Like the various forms of acupuncture, there is no consensus on where to apply the lasers, what duration, what dose, what wavelength and whether or not to pulse the light.
“Like acupuncture the most consistent effect is a decrease in pain, a subjective endpoint that is subject to bias, and like acupuncture, there is no reliable and consistent effect on any objective endpoint.
“Like acupuncture, there is a huge [collection of] literature (4,000 on the Pubmeds) of mostly poorly done studies, some showing effect, some not. . . . Like acupuncture, better studies demonstrate decreasing effects.
“Like acupuncture, many of the studies are done by believers and published in journals whose raison d’etre is the intervention being studied. . . .
“Like acupuncture, reading the literature suggests there is no reason for lasers to have any real effects beyond placebo, which regular readers know I consider to be no more than the patient convincing themselves they are improved when, in fact, they are not.
“The status of laser therapy is not unlike that of acupuncture a decade ago: a complete mess from which you can draw any conclusion you like . . . .”
However, he adds, “unlike acupuncture I would not totally dismiss low level laser. Superficial benefits, like minor wound healing, are not without plausibility, but probably of little clinical relevance.”
He concludes: “I suspect that time and careful studies on the efficacy of low level laser will have the same results as the last decade of acupuncture studies: there is no there there.”
But that’s not to say some purveyors of the wand are willing to miss a chance to attract New Age shoppers.
Consider this advertisement about the Iyashi wand: “By using the Iyashi wand on a regular basis, the body begins to shed all kinds of problems that you have learned to live with over time. If you clip the wand to your clothing, your energy begins to shift into a more positive and happy place. Little aches and pains seem to disappear and stiffness decreases. You are simply different and life eases enough that you can be more of a participant than an observer.” You get all this for just $129!
If your wife has already purchased a wand and is using it and feeling better, there’s no harm in her continuing for as long as she feels it is working. (Remember, pain relief is subjective.)
However, for those who are considering a purchase, I would not recommend investing in one of these devices.