Far Infrared (Waon) Therapy for Heart Disease
Waon (Far Infrared) Therapy for Heart Disease –Recent pioneering cardiology developments in Japan
What is Waon (Far Infrared) Therapy
Waon therapy is a soothing warm therapy for severe or refractory heart failure that was developed by Chuwa Tei, MD, FACC, FAHA, professor and chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Metabolic Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, Kagoshima University, Japan.
In 1989, Tei and his colleagues developed a form of thermal therapy for heart failure using a far-infrared-ray dry sauna with temperature maintained at 600C. The temperature is lower than the traditional saunas of northern Europe (usually 800C and sometimes 1000C ) and the temperature is uniform throughout the room. Most sauna rooms experience temperature differences of around 300C from the ceiling to the floor.
In 2007, they changed the name to Waon therapy to distinguish it from local hyperthermia therapy for cancer.
‘Wa means soothing,
and On means warmth,
Hence Waon means soothing warmth which infers warmth that comfortably refreshes the mind and body’, says Tei.
During the therapy, the entire body is warmed and deep body temperature is increased by 1.0–1.20C . Afterwards, patients rest supine on a bed outside the sauna where they are covered with blankets for an additional 30 min to continue the soothing effects, and drink 150–300 mL water to compensate for weight loss through perspiration.
Tei says that the three main advantages to Waon (Far Infrared) therapy are: high medical value to cost ratio; safe and free from side effects; and gentle and relaxing unlike western-style therapy which is often painful.
He has studied the effects of Waon ( Far Infrared) therapy in more than 400 patients with moderate-to-severe heart failure including refractory heart failure. It has been shown to improve acute haemodynamics including cardiac output, mean pulmonary artery wedge pressure, and systemic vascular resistance.
Four weeks of therapy (once a day, 5 days a week) improves clinical symptoms and decreases cardiac size. Two weeks of therapy (once a day) reduce brain natriuretic peptide levels,
improve endothelial function, decrease arrhythmia, and increase heart rate variability.
More recently, they have shown that Waon therapy improves autonomic nervous activity by increasing parasympathetic activity and decreasing sympathetic activity and that it decreases oxidative stress in patients and hamsters.
A prospective, multicentre clinical trial has confirmed that Waon (Far Infrared) therapy is safe, improves clinical symptoms and cardiac function, and decreases cardiac size in heart failure patients. A retrospective 5-year follow-up study has shown that when given twice weekly, it decreases hospitalization and mortality. This indicates that Waon ( Far Infrared) therapy is a promising non-pharmacological treatment for heart failure’, says Tei.
He is now conducting a prospective clinical trial in 20 major cardiovascular centres in Japan to investigate the long-term effects of Waon ( Far Infrared) therapy on the prognosis of moderate-to-severe heart failure. Waon( Far Infrared) therapy was included in the Japanese Circulation Society
Revised Guideline Update for Chronic Heart Failure in December 2010 and is set to be approved for severe or refractory heart failure by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare as a highly advanced medical technology in Japan.
Its clinical applications extend beyond heart failure to peripheral arterial disease, fibromyalgia/chronic pain, and chronic fatigue syndrome. As society gets older, Tei believes that ‘gentle medicine’ will become increasingly important.