Based on Washington Post, an estimated 20.3% of Americans (50 million) experience chronic pain, making it seem as if it’s a part of being alive. And while we’ve grown to accept the fact we’ll experience pain at some point, we rarely realize the negative impact pain can have physically and mentally. When ignored or mistreated, acute pain can manifest into chronic pain, bringing along a series of adverse long-term effects. This can create a cycle of pain and can immensely affect one’s ability to use the area in pain. Chronic pain can also develop many health issues, including high blood pressure, fatigue, sleeping problems, and even eating disorders.
When we talk about pain relief, it’s mandatory to bring up pain medications. While this type of pain relief is tempting because of its convenience, it can bring further health complications. Low-risk drugs such as ibuprofen may be harmless at first, but overuse can have adverse health consequences. And opioids are proven to lose effectiveness long-term, making them highly addictive. But then, “how do we manage pain safely and effectively?” One option is the holistic method of red light therapy.
The Light Spectrum
To understand red/infrared treatment clearly, one must first understand what the light spectrum is and how it works. The light spectrum visible to the human eye is just a portion of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Our eyesight is only able to see wavelengths from 380 to 700 nanometers. Nanometers are units of measurement which measure light. One nanometer equates to one billionth of a meter.
Humans can only see violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red colors on the light spectrum. Humans are not able to see infrared, which is measures in the mid-800s nanometer range. As objects become hotter, they produce more energy which is dominated by shorter wavelengths. Thus, changing colors before our eyes. Flames from a blow torch, for example, transform from red to blue as their temperature increases and wavelengths grow shorter.
Scientists use the light spectrum as a method for measuring the temperature of stars. Our sun produces more yellow light because it has a 5,500 C° temperature. If our sun were cooler, say 3,000 C°, it would have a reddish appearance. If it were 12,000 C°, it would appear to be blue.
One the light spectrum, blue light is measured at 400 to 500 nanometers. This type of light therapy is commonly used for bright light therapy (aka phototherapy). It’s proven to increase alertness, memory, and moods. It’s beneficial for turning off melatonin production to make us feel more alert. It should be noted that too much blue light can cause sleep disorders. It’s recommended to limit electronic usage at night because they emit blue light.
When it comes to blue light therapy, it’s best to proceed with caution. Due to its lower wavelengths and higher energy levels, blue light can cause eye damage. Studies have shown light colors between 415 and 455 nanometers to cause harm to the eyes — standard electronics including TVs, computers, and cell phones produce wavelengths from 400 to 490 nanometers. Additional research is needed to understand the long-term effects.
Red and Infrared Light
In comparison to blue light, red light is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Red light is delivered in the mid-600 nanometer range, while infrared is in the mid-800s. Due to its range and longer wavelengths, infrared is invisible to the human eye.
Red and infrared light, commonly used to treat skin and pain conditions, have been proven to be a holistic treatment for:
- Increasing injury recovery time
- Recovering muscles
- Balancing hormones
- Reducing wrinkles
- Lowering inflammation
- Losing weight
- And more
These types of light are effective because of their ability to penetrate deep into the skin. Red and infrared light promotes melatonin production. This stimulates the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is essential to function properly as it provides our body’s cells with energy. This is why red light therapy products are so effective for speeding up the healing process.
Red light therapy lights are effective because of their ability to reach deep into the skin without damaging it. Red light therapy machines penetrate 2–7 centimeters into inner skin layers using red and infrared light to effectively reach muscles, nerves, and bones. Wavelengths from 700 to 1,000 nanometers are ideal for treating inflammation conditions.
The warmth we feel from the sun is infrared light. Infrared light does not contain ultraviolet radiation, which is harmful to us. Once the skin is penetrated, red and infrared light becomes absorbed by photoreceptors in our body’s cells. This creates a series of metabolic events and natural processes within the cells. When our bodies are exposed to red light therapy, here’s what happens:
- Cells receive a boost of energy: Once red light is absorbed, each cell’s mitochondria boost energy. Mitochondria, known as the powerhouse of the cell, is responsible for producing energy. Because their function is increased, mitochondria produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is an energy-carrying molecule found in the cells of all living things. When given more energy, cells can function correctly.
- Cells repair and regenerate more quickly: Many experts believe that they gain an enhanced ability to repair and restore themselves because of excess energy from red light therapy. This creates healing in skin and muscle tissues. The quicker cells can regenerate and repair, the faster injuries heal.
- Nitric oxide gets released: Nitric oxide is essential to healthy arteries. This gas helps arteries relax, reduces oxidative stress by fighting free radicals, prevents vessels from platelet clumping, and aids in blood pressure regulation. This allows the molecule to enhance blood circulation to deliver vital nutrients and oxygen to damaged tissues. This sparks the repair and regeneration of injured tissues, reducing pain and inflammation.
- Collagen production is increased: The protein collagen provides structure to the skin. It’s also existent in muscle and connective tissue. When injuries heal, separated tissues are stitched back together through a latticework made up of collagen. Collagen production is increased when exposed to red and infrared light. Increased collagen production equated to healthier skin which is better able to heal effectively.
- Stem cells become activated: Stem cells are where specialized cells such as brain cells, blood cells, heart muscle cells, and bone cells come from. When stem cells are exposed to red and infrared light, they become activated. They then travel through the bloodstream to the injured area. After arriving, they transform into the needed cell type to help with healing. One study found red and infrared light effectively activates stem cells in the bone marrow. Thus, assisting in the healing process.
When it comes to how red light therapy works and improves our body’s functions, it’s pretty complex. There is still much research required to understand how it works fully, its benefits, and the long-term effects. Yet, our current knowledge shows a promising future for pain relief and holistic health.
Type of Pain Treated by Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy has clinically proven to be versatile for treating many pain types, including chronic, joint, neck, osteoarthritis, and more. Because it provides targeted pain relief, it’s incredibly versatile for various conditions. We’ve provided a list of the many pain types red light therapy helps, along with studies.
Because of its general safety, red light therapy can be used at home or anywhere it’s needed. It’s excellent for anyone with chronic pain and can be used as often as it’s needed, up to three times per day per target area.
A study on elderly patients with osteoarthritis in their knees (joints) found red light therapy to treat their pain and disability.
Red light therapy for neck pain is an effective treatment for chronic pain in the neck. One study involving 60 students with chronic neck pain found red light therapy an effective pain relief method. In six weeks, red light therapy increased range of motion, decreased pain, and improved functionality.
By nature, osteoarthritis causes inflammation in affected areas. This makes red light therapy an excellent treatment for osteoarthritis. A study that compared high-intensity light therapy to low-intensity light therapy found both effective decreasing pain and improving function when combined with exercise.
Red light therapy enhances the healing process by boosting the body to lower swelling in target areas. Chiropractors use red light therapy to treat bursitis because it effectively treats this condition.
Healthline reports red light therapy as an effective short-term method for carpal tunnel relief. However, these studies are limited.
45 patients with diabetic foot ulcers, in a study, reported improved blood circulation and autonomous nervous system regulation after using red light therapy.
A study conducted in 2011 on patients with psoriasis compared red and blue light therapy’s effectiveness. Participants were given high-dose treatments three times each week for four hours, applying 10% silicic acid solution to plaques. The study concluded both are effective in treating psoriasis.
It’s been shown that red light therapy reduces pain and stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Healthcare professionals are now starting to study and consistently use red light therapy to diagnose and analyze this condition. Red light therapy gives them the ability to see how much light passes through the body. RA often alters the number of tissues, water, and blood in the affected area. Red light gives doctors an insight into how it’s progressing.
When treating ailments, red and infrared therapy offers a drug-free, safe, and effective relief method. Extensive studies on red light therapy show it a great source of foot pain relief, back pain relief, and more. As studies move forward, we’ll continue to gain a fuller understanding of red LED light therapy, its capabilities, and the conditions it can treat.
Injuries & Recovery Time
When it comes to recovery for athletes, red light therapy has made significant strides. During the Rio Olympics, the US track team was spotted bringing a $181,000 red light therapy bed to the event. Micheal Hamblin, a Harvard expert, stated, “red light therapy may help you recover from exercise, sleep better, heal wounds and injuries like tendonitis, reduce arthritis.” What’s more, a study involving 65 athletes with varying strains, sprains, tendonitis, ligament damage, and contusions found red light therapy to reduce the average return to play period. This treatment was able to reduce the average recovery time from 19.23 to 9.6 days.
Rats with Osteoporosis experienced enhanced bone repair and growth via red light therapy. This was achieved through stimulation of the newly formed bone, fibro vascularization, and angiogenesis.
With more than 15 years in the light industry, we can help you develop a light therapy device for all the conditions described above.