The Olympic Games aren’t just one-and-done affairs. They’re gruelling, exhausting efforts that can last for days on end.
Even physically-fit athletes can only take so much of this before their muscles and joints start to break down. To aid their recovery, some athletes combine stretching with physical therapy. Others turn toward more bizarre or illicit means.
On the US gymnastics team, the athletes have been using a futuristic-looking device called the LumiWave.
Developed in 2005 by the Colorado-based company BioCare Systems Inc., the device is a chain of four black discs, each of which contains 50 infrared LEDs. When placed on painful areas, such as a strained bicep or an inflamed lower back, the device sends pulses of light that induce the release of nitric oxide in the body, which promotes healing on a cellular level.
“The light helps activate the metabolic exchange in the cells, helping them regenerate faster,” Dr. Eric McCarty, chief of Sports Medicine & Shoulder Surgery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, tells Tech Insider.
Research suggests that by helping individual cells to heal faster, the infrared light causes that area of the body to return to good health. “That allows an athlete to move their body sooner and more efficiently than just doing nothing,” McCarty says.
LumiWave has been a favourite among high-level athletes for years.
Olympic figure-skater Evan Lysacek used it to help him win his gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and BMX rider Jill Kitner used it in 2008 to help her win bronze. Other organisations including the US Ski Team, US Speed Skating, and the US Naval Academy have used LumiWave to get their athletes back in the action.
Lisa Ralston, a physical therapist and former professional figure skater, says the device far outperforms ice or heat to eliminate soreness. Those methods only promote blood flow to the area; LumiWave goes deeper.
“When I am treating athletes, sometimes I use it before I do manual therapy like soft tissue work or joint mobilization,” Ralston tells Tech Insider. Or she might use it after treatments such as dry needling — a form of acupuncture — in conjunction with moist heat to promote healing and reduce soreness and pain.
Until earlier this year, LumiWave was available only to elite athletes. But given its widespread success, BioCare decided earlier this year to allow anyone to pre-order the device. The company sells a single chain for $449.99 and a double chain for $579.99.
You might not be able to complete a floor routine like an Olympian, but at least you can recover like one.