In this post: Although red light therapy is commonly used in cosmetic procedures, many people are still unaware that you can use red light therapy for pain relief.
The search for the fountain of youth never ends. Every year, thousands upon thousands of new creams, serums, treatments, and therapies are put on the market to address every skin concern. Rising through the ranks of breakthrough treatments, red light therapy is praised left and right by beauty editors and aestheticians for its visible results.
A lesser known use for red light therapy is pain relief and the rejuvenation of scar tissues and cells. With benefits like these, it’s possible red light therapy could be the answer to our most pressing health concerns.
Some medical or aesthetic procedures started using red light to hasten the effects of substances delivered through the skin or other parts of the body. Its popularity has resulted in mass production of red light therapy devices and quick 15-to-30-minute office procedures to target specific concerns.
What could be so special about it? Are there any scientific foundations to any of these claims? Is this treatment safe?
For many years, we’ve been warned against exposure to UV rays emitted by our home lighting fixtures. Does LED carry the same risk? Do the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, if there are any at all? Read on to find out.
Did you know you don’t have to live with pain? Learn all my tips and tricks to find out how I help my clients permanently ditch pain. Sign up!
What is Red Light?
A light emitting diode (LED) is a semiconductor that produces light when energy passes through it. LED light produces photons, and depending on the energy level, it will produce a specific color. A higher energy level produces blue light, while a lower one produces red.
LED bulbs differ from other light sources, such as the incandescent and fluorescent light bulb, because they don’t contain or produce mercury. Although LED bulbs are a source of ultraviolet and infrared light, it’s only
very small amounts.
A substance called phosphor inside a LED lamp converts ultraviolet into white light. While white LED light may contain some UV, once you move lower on the color spectrum and towards red, there’s even less UV emitted. It’s safe to say that red light doesn’t pose the risk of skin damage due to UV emission.
Red Light Therapy for Pain Relief
Red LED light was used by NASA in the early ’90s to help plants grow in space. Due to the success of the experiments, they hypothesized that red LED lights, in conjunction with hyperbaric oxygen, may help heal wounds and repair tissues. Several other studies have proved its efficacy, thus gaining the approval of the U.S. FDA for some devices.
Red LED light strengthens the mitochondria where adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is created. ATP delivers energy to the different cells in the body to help repair, heal, and produce new cells.
Due to its ability to hasten biochemical processes in the body, red light therapy is used to decrease or eliminate pain from inflammation, promote faster healing, and activate the efficiency of some medications.
People suffering from arthritis, musculoskeletal injury, and post-op surgery pain can benefit from red light therapy for pain relief. Exposure to red light must be consistent and continuous to reap the benefits.
Red Light vs. Blue Light vs. Infrared
The use of light and heat to relieve symptoms of pain isn’t something new in the medical world. Previously, doctors were concerned about the risk of exposing patients to harmful UV rays, which pose a more threatening risk long-term.
Scientists and physicians then turned to other types of treatments instead. However, since the invention of LED lights, doctors have started using these lights for treatment.
But how does red light differ from blue or green light as a therapeutic treatment?
The answer lies in a person’s quality of sleep. Melatonin is naturally produced by the body to regulate the sleep cycle. A person low on melatonin may often have trouble falling into deep sleep, a part of the sleep cycle that’s most conducive for the body to repair itself. Sleep and rest are especially important for patients.
Blue light offers similar effects in reducing pain, improving mood and energy levels, and promoting healing. However, it does have other adverse effects. Prolonged exposure to blue light can prod the eyes to degenerate faster and may even be the cause of glaucoma, cataracts, or other macular problems.
Infrared light therapy is almost the same as red light therapy, but it uses invisible infrared light. When infrared is used in conjunction with red light, it can deliver astonishing results in patients with traumatic brain injury, stroke, damaged nerves, and spine injury. There are three infrared wavelengths: near, mid, and far infrared. The most penetrating and most successful therapy is near infrared, which spans 760 to 1,400nm.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a free-for-all exposure to red light is completely beneficial. Precautions are still heavily recommended, especially with the proliferation of non-FDA approved devices or treatments.
There have been reports of burns due to prolonged exposure, faulty devices, and wiring. If a person has extreme sensitivity to UV rays or exposure to LED lights, they may opt for a different treatment with similar effects.
Since red light therapy is still technically in its experimental stage, insurance companies don’t offer coverage for this type of treatment. If it’s something you want to consider for pain relief, it’s best to discuss it with your physician.
He or she can help you find a facility which offers a safe and approved red light therapy procedure. Your doctor will also specify how often your sessions should be.
For everyone near Joplin, Missouri, my favorite wellness retreat–Enlight Inn–now offers this treatment! Check out their website to learn more.
We can expect more red light therapy developments in the coming years. With increased public demand, it’s possible conventional science will combine with this alternative treatment to deliver the benefits of red light therapy to the public.
Red light therapy continues to evolve, but current results from years of careful research are promising.
If you’re interested in natural ways to find pain relief, you might like to read about meditation for pain management.