Red Light therapy has been around for decades, this is nothing new, but as many technologies, it has improved dramatically in the last decades, and so has the research on its benefits. Note that in most cases, red Light Therapy (RLT) refers to both Red & Near Infrared light. Both are on the red Spectrum but they have different wave length and so provide different benefits.
What is Red Light therapy
Red light therapy has been used for some times now. It can help with Hair loss, Skin problems, but also is a well established treatment for osteoarthritis. There are many other listed benefits, like sleep improvement due to the effect on light on the Circadian Rhythms. Most units on the market provide both Red and Near Infrared wavelength, and I personally always leave both on, but what is the difference between them – in a nutshell:
- Red Light (wavelengths in mid-600nm range) is visible to the human eye. It acts more on the surface of the skin, hence its benefit for skin health, and numerous studies have demonstrated how it can stimulate the mitochondria, resulting in the production of ATP cellular energy.
- Near Infrared Light (NIR, wavelength between 700-1400 nm)) on the other hand is not visible to the human eye. It generates most heat and penetrate deeper into human tissue. It can improve tissue repair and reduce inflammation.
When it comes to Light Therapy, you really want to make sure what you get is of the highest quality, to really benefit from it. The better quality, the more light you get with little exposure. This is why I purchased my units from Joovv, who is probably the leader in the field. What I like about Joovv units is that:
- They are Modular – You can start with only one and build up. Personally I own 2 Solo units which i find is enough.
- There are portable ones, very affordable: this is brilliant if you want to threat some specific areas like a hand, or knee, and do it in the comfort of your coach, of if you want to use it for small injuries on kids and pets (who don’t want to stand in front of a red light!).
- Because of the high quality, treatments are quick (10min) and non-invasive.
- They have a great website with all the information and studies available out there (see https://joovv.com/pages/clinical-studies) which adds to their credibility and provide transparency.
Now you can find a lot of variety on the market, at very different prices, so I really encourage you to do your research, as not all red light is equal!
Now let’s review some of the benefits of RLT which I am most familiar with
Red Light for SAD
I talked about SAD in a previous article. Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect more than 5% of the population in some regions. I suffered from SAD for years. SAD is completely treatable, and Light Therapy for SAD has been around for years. Countries like the Nordics use them every day in home and offices during the winter. But infrared light, in particular, might be even more beneficial. This is not as researched and conclusions might need more studies.
My Experience: In the winter I try to concentrate on a session in the morning and evening, exactly for that purpose. While SAD affect me less than it used to, I haven’t experiences SAD at all since I have my units. This year is particular, because of the lockdown, I am not getting out as much as I would normally, and the support from Red Light has made a difference.
Red Light for Muscle Recovery and Injuries
Where I personally find Red Light works amazingly is for muscle recovery. It is mentioned that Red Light is used by a lot of athletes, and it is no wonder. Recovery is essential, and not just for athletes.
Light therapy is widely used by trainers and pro athletes to improve fitness, boost physical performance, and support the recovery process. Muscle cells require a great deal of energy, and grow and strengthen through a process of tears and repairs. Light therapy helps your body produce and use energy more efficiently.JOOVV for Optimal Performance and Recovery
My Experience: It works. and it works. If I go for a long run and feel pain/heaviness in my legs, red light helps me recover faster, much faster/ It means if I go again the next day, I don’t have heavy legs. I also found that when I use it, I don’t get injured as often. I tend to pull my hamstring easily due to back problems By using the light, I manage it much better, and the results is less breaks and visits to the physio.
It also works miracle for small injuries, bruises and so. We use it all the time with the kids. It also accelerate the scar healing process.
Red Light for Inflammation and Osteoarthritis
One of the main established benefits of red light therapy is how it can help to reduce inflammation in your body.
Inflammation is a response of your body which gets redder, hotter or swollen. Inflammation can be caused be nearly everything, alcohol, stress, toxins, poor sleep, nutrition, bruises, injuries. infection etc … Inflammation can also be chronic due to an ongoing autoimmune reaction for instance, or underlying conditions (arthritis).
You can read more about the mechanism and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation here
Fighting Arthritis is probably one of the most proven benefits. I recently bought a unit for my father in law who has it really bad on his knees.
Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) is an alternative approach with no known side effects and with reports of substantial therapeutic efficacy in osteoarthritis.BMC
My Experience: My dog (again) has really bad arthritis. When it is particularly bad, we use the red light and it is just mind blowing to see how, straight away, she is able to walk better. While this does not last in her case because her arthritis is too advanced, it does help a lot on the worse days.
Red Light for Brain Damage
If you suffer from a Brain Damage due to acute shock (car accident, bad fall etc…), you might suffer a brain trauma and even some broken bones. We already saw that RLT can help reduce inflammation in general, but can it also bring these benefits to more serious brain injuries where you have severe swelling and pressure, as well as cognitive degradations?
My Experience: I hope so, and I believe so. My dad recently had a brain injuries and has been in hospital now for 2 months. While he escaped luckily, he has a bad swelling, and has lost some general cognitions. I will have to come back to update this article, but my hope is that it will accelerate his recovery.
While RLT is good for General Mental Acuity, Memory and Attention, Brain damage are obviously more serious. Fortunately, there are some studies on the topic, and it seems that Light Therapy improves function after traumatic brain injury. This study ran by Dr Greg Hipskind, focused on military veterans who suffered mild traumatic brain injuries.
This involves the use of red/NIR light applied directly to the head to treat the brain injury. Research has also shown that near-infrared light transmitted with LEDs is capable of penetrating the human skull.
The key here is that NIR can penetrate the skull, much thicker than the rest of your body skin. Since it can, then all the benefits we have seen before, should help, especially in reducing the swelling (inflammation of the brain), but apparently also in recovering cognitive abilities.
Following the predetermined course of treatment, all participants displayed improvement in 14 of the 15 neuropsychological assessments with significant improvement on six of 15 neuropsychological tests including memory, concentration and processing speedResearch outreach
My hopes are high! but one thing is sure, it won’t make things worse.