The growing interest in Red Light Therapy has been outstanding but does it really work? Medical science institutions have engaged a lot of research to not only answer this question - but to answer “how it works”? Extensive clinical research on a multitude of medical applications for red light therapy have been highly encouraging - particularly for those people preferring natural, non-invasive treatments for a wide range of medical conditions.
Early history of Red Light Therapy
There have been many references throughout early history of ancient tribes using the power of sunlight for therapeutic purposes. Indeed the sun is worshipped as “the giver of life”. In the 18th century reports started to appear in medical literature about the power of light to treat an array of conditions. In 1735, Fiennius described a case in which he cured a cancerous growth on the lip using a sunbath. In 1776 LePeyre and LeCobnte found that sunlight concentrated through a lens accelerated wound healing and destroyed tumors.
With the advent of light emitting diodes (LEDs) NASA led the way in the early 1990’s by using LED light of certain wavelengths to grow plants in outer space. A major finding was that red light therapy activated natural plant growth in outer space. They also found that light had an effect on human cells. This then led to the application of light to help astronauts maintain muscle and bone mass, as well as treat chronic wounds. NASA’s findings demonstrated multiple health benefits from specific wavelengths of red light delivered through light emitting diodes.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
Red and infrared wavelengths are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and more specifically, part of the spectrum of light emitted by the sun. These wavelengths are shown to be “bioactive” in humans and animals – meaning it literally affects the functioning of our cells.
The term “photobiomodulation” means the changing of biology with light, and is well used in science research. Whilst the whole cellular process is multilayered with dozens of mechanisms – in a very simplified way you could look at the body being a little like a plant absorbing light in the process of photosynthesis. In humans and animals light energy (photons) are absorbed through the skin and taken up by photoreceptors within the cell’s mitochondria. Through this stimulation within the mitochondria, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – cellular energy is produced. ATP is the energy currency of cells and is vital for all cellular processes and regeneration. The mitochondria are the life-yielding, energy producing machines within the cells of all living things. It has been shown that specific wavelengths within the red and infrared range have a better uptake at the cellular level (due to the activation of cytochrome C oxidase). 660nm and 830nm are two of these wavelengths.
In essence, red and infrared light stimulates the engine of the cell driving up ATP production. Since everything in the cells depend on this cellular energy, red and infrared light have been linked with a wide range of health benefits.
Hamblin M. “Mechanisms and Mitochondrial Redox Signaling in Photobiomodulation”
Photochemistry and Photobiology. 2018, 94:199-212. 2017 October 31. doi: 10.1111/php.12864
Thousands of peer-reviewed clinical trials and studies on red light therapy have been conducted over the last 3 decades and published in major scientific journals. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of its effectiveness & safety.
Here’s an overview of some of the major, clinically-proven health benefits of red light therapy:
This link will take you to a large data base of 1442 published medical studies.
Some Focused Health Benefits of Red and Near Infrared Light Therapy
Inflammation and Joint Pain:
One of the primary responses to red and infrared light therapy is a pronounced reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress, with significantly lowered joint pain.
Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation.
AIMS Biophys. 2017; 4(3): 337–361. doi: 10.3934/biophy.2017.3.337 Hamblin M.
Short term efficacy of low-level laser therapy in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a randomised placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial.
Fukuda VO1, Fukuda TY2, Guimarães M3, Shiwa S3, de Lima Bdel C3, Martins RÁ4, Casarotto RA5, Alfredo PP6, Bjordal JM7, Fucs PM8.
Low-level laser therapy induces dose-dependent reduction of TNFalpha levels in acute inflammation.
Aimbire F1, Albertini R, Pacheco MT, Castro-Faria-Neto HC, Leonardo PS, Iversen VV, Lopes-Martins RA, Bjordal JM.
A systematic review of low level laser therapy with location-specific doses for pain from chronic joint disorders. The Australian Journal of Physiotherapy. 2003; 49(2): 107-16. Bjordal JM, Couppe C, et al.
Low-level laser therapy in meniscal pathology: a double-blinded placebo-controlled trial. Lasers in Medical Science. 2013 Jul;28(4):1183-8. Malliaropoulos N, et al.
Low level laser therapy for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis: a meta-analysis.
The Journal of Rheumatology. Aug 2000; 27(8): 1961-9. Brosseau L, Welch V, et al.
Incorporation of photobiomodulation therapy into a therapeutic exercise program for knee osteoarthritis:
A placebo-controlled, randomized, clinical trial. 2018 Oct;50(8):819-828. de Paula Gomes CAF, et al.
Training and Muscle Recovery:
Studies show that red and infrared light therapy can powerfully repair muscle tissue and help people perform better.
World renown scientist Prof Hamblin PhD states “Sports medicine will benefit from photobiomodulation because both professional and amateur athletes can better recover from intense exercise, and the process also aids in training regimens”.
What is the effect of red and infrared light on muscles?
• Red and infrared light increases mitochondrial functioning during exercise.
• Red and infrared light stimulates the production of antioxidants by your cells, which prevent oxidative stress and damage to muscle tissue.
• Red and infrared light help reduce inflammation that leads to cellular damage and fatigue.
• Red and infrared light promote the development of stem cells and myosatellite cells.
• Red and infrared light increase the production of specific types of heat shock proteins that protect cells from oxidative stress.
• Pre-conditioning – using red light before exercise creates a “pre-conditioning” effect where the muscle cells suffer less damage from exercise. Treated muscles also display higher strength/stamina in subsequent exercise.
Effect of phototherapy (low-level laser therapy and light-emitting diode therapy) on exercise performance and markers of exercise recovery: a systematic review with meta-analysis.
Lasers in Medical Science
February 2015, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 925–939 Ernesto Cesar Pinto Leal-JuniorAdriane Aver Vanin Eduardo Foschini Miranda Paulo de Tarso Camillo de Carvalho
Simone Dal Corso Jan Magnus Bjordal
Red (660 nm) and infrared (830 nm) low-level laser therapy in skeletal muscle fatigue in humans: what is better? De Almeida, et al
Protection of skeletal muscles from ischemic injury: low-level laser therapy increases antioxidant activity. Photomed Laser Surg. 2005;23:273–277. Avni D, Levkovitz S, Maltz L, Oron U.
Effect of phototherapy on delayed onset muscle soreness. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2006 Jun;24(3):377-82.
Douris P, Southard V, et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16875447
Phototherapy in skeletal muscle performance and recovery after exercise: effect of combination of super-pulsed laser and light-emitting diodes. Lasers in Medical Science.
2014 Nov;29(6):1967-76. Antonialli FC, De Marchi T, Tomazoni SS, et al.
Light-emitting diode phototherapy improves muscle recovery after a damaging exercise.
Lasers in Medical Science. 2014 May;29(3):1139-44. Borges LS, et al.
Low level laser therapy before eccentric exercise reduces muscle damage markers in humans.
Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Nov;110(4):789-96. Baroni BM, et al.
Anti-aging effects on skin:
Because red light therapy stimulates the production of collagen it is an integral part of the connective tissue matrix throughout the body. This means it helps skin improve its elasticity, wounds to heal faster, and hair to grow stronger.
Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring.
Avci P, Gupta A, et al. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2013 Mar;32(1):41-52.
Effects of radiofrequency, electroacupuncture, and low-level laser therapy on the wrinkles and moisture content of the forehead, eyes, and cheek.
Hee-Kyoung Kim, PhD, PT1 and Jung-Hyun Choi, PhD, PT2,* Pesqui Odontol Bras. 2003 Oct-Dec;17(4):307-13. Epub 2004 Apr 19.
The influence of low-level laser therapy on biomodulation of collagen and elastic fibers.
Pugliese LS1, Medrado AP, Reis SR, Andrade Zde A.
Sleep / Headaches / Cognitive function
Studies have shown that red and infrared light helps increase melatonin levels. Melatonin has been shown to increase the level of good quality, restorative sleep. Red light is ideal for evenings due to its calming effect. Blue light on the other hand has a stimulating effect. Hence if you’re having trouble sleeping it is advisable to reduce your exposure to blue light (computer screens) for an hour prior to bedtime. Most people are exposed to a lot of unhealthy artificial light which disrupts their circadian rhythm -making it harder to sleep. Red and near infrared light does the exact opposite and helps protect their circadian rhythm.
Medical research is showing not just improved sleep from red and infrared light therapy but a significant improvement in cognitive functioning. There is now a number of studies being undertaken researching the effect of red and infrared light therapy for the treatment of Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease.
Improved cognitive function after transcranial, light-emitting diode treatments in chronic, traumatic brain injury: two case reports.
Photomed Laser Surg. 2011 May;29(5):351-8. doi: 10.1089/pho.2010.2814. Epub 2010 Dec 23 Naeser MA1, Saltmarche A, Krengel MH, Hamblin MR, Knight JA.
Red light and the sleep quality and endurance performance of Chinese female basketball players.
J Athl Train. 2012 Nov-Dec;47(6):673-8. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-47.6.08. Zhao J1, Tian Y, Nie J, Xu J, Liu D.
Traumatic Brain Injury: A Major Medical Problem That Could Be Treated Using Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared LED Photobiomodulation
Margaret A. Naeser, PhD, LAc1,,2 and Michael R. Hamblin, PhD3,,4,,5
Transcranial infrared laser stimulation produces beneficial cognitive and emotional effects in humans.
Neuroscience. 2013 Jan 29;230:13-23. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.11.016. Epub 2012 Nov 27.
Barrett DW1, Gonzalez-Lima F.
Botulinum toxin A (BT-A) versus low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in chronic migraine treatment: a comparison.
Arquivos de neuro-psiquiatria. 2018 Oct;76(10):663-667. Loeb LM, Amorim RP, et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30427505
Turning on Lights to Stop Neurodegeneration: The Potential of Near Infrared Light Therapy in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease
Daniel M Johnstone, Cecile Moro, Jonathan Stone, Alim-Louis Benabid and John Mitrofanis
Safe, Non-Invasive, and Drug-Free
What makes red light therapy stand out from other conventional treatments is that it is safe, non-invasive, uses no chemicals or drugs, and is not associated with harmful side effects. Red light therapy through the use of highly efficient, medical-grade LEDs is able to deliver specific wavelengths of light in a targeted manner to specific areas of the body where it is needed most.
Why our Red Light Therapy Pads?
Our red light pads are truly unique in that they are 100% wearable. This gives the person total mobility when self-treating. It also allows for the specific targeting of light onto any designated region needing treatment. The pads are powered by a lithium ion rechargeable battery for maximum ease of use and functionality for in home and field applications. This is of significant importance when treating large animals.
Note: Our Red Light Therapy Pads are indicated for use in the relief of muscle and joint pain, including arthritis and muscle spasm pain, and increasing of blood circulation, and relaxation of muscles. The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and not to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It's not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with your healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.