Almost Everything You Need To Know About Red Light Therapy

Almost everything you need to know about red light therapy

With more and more people around the world using this fantastic treatment day in day out why hasn’t everyone heard about the benefits it can bring? 

In this article, we will go into detail about what Red Light Therapy is, how it works and the many different things that you can treat using it. We hope that you learn something new and find a new way to manage some of your current or future ailments.

This is a long article so you might want to bookmark it for further reading!

What is Red Light Therapy?

If you haven’t already read about what light therapy is then, we suggest you read this page.  Red light therapy is a branch of light therapy.  In simple terms, it uses red light to aid in healing and repairing your cellular tissue.

This treatment can be used to heal an ever-growing number of healthcare issues.  Anything from increasing the speed with which a cut on your arm heals, to reducing the ageing effects on your body have been proven to be successful.

It is commonly used as pain relief, for restoring function and reducing inflammation.

Red light therapy has also been referred to as as low level light therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation. These terms are usually only used in medical journals or by salons offering laser treatments.

What does Red Light Therapy do?

This is a tough question to answer simply as red light has been proven to have many positive effects on many different ailments. It not only depends on what you are treating but also on the wavelength of light you are using and even the strength of the light you are using.

It should be noted that we do not precisely understand exactly the biological mechanism that is affected by red light therapy although we have a pretty good understanding and what we do know I have tried to summarize below.

The red wavelengths of light are absorbed into or penetrate our skin to a distance of about 8 mm. The distance the light penetrates is dependent on the strength of the light emitted as well as the wavelength of light.

Stick with us through this as it is about to get a little scientific!

It has been hypothesised that the photons from the light are absorbed by mitochondrial chromophores that are present in the skin cells. Once absorbed there is an active effect which causes a variety of events to occur and leads to biostimulation of various processes within the body.

The absorption of this light energy leads to an improvement in various metabolic processes including an enhancement, mitochondrial respiration and electron transport11,

Sounds very complicated I know. Also, there is an increase in adenosine triphosphate production. Why is this important? 

The below extract from Laurence A. Cole’s book, Biology of Life answers it more succinctly than I ever could.

“Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is at the root of all organisms energetics. ATP provides the energetics for all muscle movements, heart beats, nerve signals and chemical reactions inside the body”

Excerpt taken from Laurence A. Cole, Biology of Life, 2016

What is the history of Red Light Therapy?

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) was originally discovered towards the end of the 1960’s, but it is only in recent history that its use has become more widespread.

There were initial concerns with the use of lasers because of the prohibitive cost, the need for trained staff to use them and ongoing safety concerns.

The emergence of LEDs as a cheap and viable light source has addressed the majority of those concerns. They have also allowed many home devices to be manufactured and placed on the market allowing people to use this technology affordably in their own homes.

A lot of the most prominent research was carried out by NASA in the early 1990’s, and it was during this period that the use of light as a therapeutic device gained a more significant following.

In 1993 a company called Quantum Devices created an LED for NASA which was hoped to be used to help grow plants in space. Their device was a success, but it was also discovered that the red light helped heal the NASA scientist skin wounds.

Because of this, NASA began studying the use of LEDs as a way to increase the metabolism of human cells and promote healing, again with the hope of using this for astronauts.

LLLT was approved for use by the FDA in 2003.

It has been used by European sports scientists for well over a decade and as a beauty treatment for even longer.

Which wavelengths are used in Red Light Therapy?

Wavelengths in the range of 390 nm to 600 nm are used to treat superficial tissue, and longer wavelengths in the range of 600nm to 1,100nm, are used to reach deeper tissue.

Red light therapy uses wavelengths of light between 625nm and 1100nm.

Visible red light is between 620 and 750nm. Although the range 700 nm to 750 nm have been found to have limited biochemical activity and are not often used.

Near-infrared therapy lights used for therapy emit anywhere between 750nm and 1100nm.

In general, the longer the wavelength of light is the deeper it will sink into/penetrate into your skin.

What is Red Light Therapy good for?

Red light therapy is suitable for a wide range of issues.  Primarily it is used for pain relief, for restoring function and reducing inflammation.

Below are some of the injuries, diseases and cosmetic uses that have been effectively treated with Red light Therapy.

  • Accelerated wound healing
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Dentistry pain
  • Increase microcirculation
  • Increased Collagen
  • Inhibiting apoptosis
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Neck pain
  • Pain relief
  • Psoriasis reduction
  • Reducing Eczema
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Reducing Rosacea
  • Reducing sunburn
  • Skin Rejuvenation
  • Skin tightening
  • Stimulate Hair growth
  • Tinnitus
  • Treating Acne Vulgaris
  • Wrinkle reduction

What are the benefits of Red Light Therapy?

How long have you got! An ever-increasing list of uses are being proven with red light therapy and with that comes an ever-increasing list of benefits to using this treatment over prescription medications.

Below are a few bullet points on what we believe are the main Health benefits of Red Light therapy

  • It’s a natural process. You are using natures own wavelengths of light to treat your health problem.
  • The treatment is drug-free. This is great as there is no chance of you picking up an addiction to a prescription drug as many patients in the past have done. With current pharmaceutical prices, this makes red light treatment a much cheaper option.
  • No chemicals. Some prescription drugs have unwanted chemicals inside which can have detrimental effects on your body/bodily functions. With red light therapy, there are no chemicals involved in any part of the treatment.
  • Treatment can be administered at home. Because this treatment is essentially pointing a light at an injured area, it can easily be done in the comfort of your own home. Although before you decide to go out and pick up your Red light make sure you’ve gone over all of the risks linked to this therapy.
  • The treatment doesn’t cause any discomfort. There is no itching, burning sensation, pain or stinging connected with Red Light Therapy which is more than can be said for most forms of treatment.
  • No long or short-term effects. Although there is more research being done into red light therapy as we speak there has to date been no short or long-term effects for anyone who has undergone the treatment!
  • Noninvasive. Light therapy, in general, is a transcutaneous and is noninvasive.
  • It won’t take over your life. Some medication can stop you from driving, leaving the house, eating/drinking certain things. With Red Light therapy you can do what you want when you want to without any side effects.

Is Red Light Therapy Safe?

Yes! There have been over 5000 thousand published medical studies into Red light therapy administered in all different forms.  What is clear after all these studies are that there is an almost complete absence of side-effects. If anyone reading this knows of one that we do not cover here, then please let us know!

The first mention of a side effect we could find was during a study titled “The effectiveness and safety of topical PhotoActif phosphatidylcholine-based anti-cellulite gel and LED (red and near-infrared) light on Grade II-III thigh cellulite” Where “Patients experienced minimal and transient side effects that included pruritus, erythema and swelling.”

It was noted in this study that this could not be put down to Red Light therapy itself because of the inclusion of the PhotoActif phosphatidylcholine-based anti-cellulite gel in the study.

The most significant risk is burning your skin by putting the bulb in direct contact with your skin. You can avoid this by using your equipment as per the manufacturer’s recommendations and not touching a bulb directly on your skin.

Many devices list pregnancy as a contraindication. Although there are many articles which say it is safe to conduct Red Light Treatment while pregnant is it worth the risk? We don’t know which wavelengths could cause damage to an unborn child so we wouldn’t expose it to any.

Side effects of light therapy

What are the side effects of red light therapy?

You may have read about Red light therapy side effects such as headaches, eyestrain or irritability but there have been no noted cases of these in any of the medical trials and studies performed.  These are potential side effects observed for white light, the type commonly used in Bright light therapy. 

What is Red LED light Therapy?

Light Emitting Diode (LED) Red Light therapy is a term used to define devices that use LEDs as their light source. These Red-Light LED’s emit a narrow band of low intensity light ranging from visible Red light through infrared.

LED technology has improved massively over the years. Now bulbs can emit very specific wavelengths of light, ideal for targeted light therapy.

Constant improvement in manufacturing techniques means that the cost of these bulbs is now at an all time low.  Their low cost, energy efficiency and durability mean that they have become the light source of choice in the majority of modern home treatment devices on the market today.

One LED on its own emits only a low level of light that covers only a minimal area.  To treat more extensive areas, many LEDs are arranged in panels to produce a larger light source.

LED’s are different from lasers primarily because the light emitted from a LED bulb radiates in all directions whereas light from a laser is focused on one particular area. 

Both types of light have lots of similarities.  The wavelength of light, power and energy density, as well as radiation levels, are all similar in the two types of light source.

It has been demonstrated that both light sources have similar improvement impact on both cells and tissues although a laser light source has been proved to be slightly superior.

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