A Guide to Red Light Therapy
In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about red light therapy. Starting from the basics of what red light therapy is, how light influences cell function and our body’s, and how red light therapy works, to the numerous health benefits you can experience through frequent red light exposure, dosing guidelines, and safety practices to ensure your health.
IN THIS GUIDE:
What is LLLT? | How does it work? | What are the benefits? | How to start? | What does the science say? | is it safe? | Takeaway
What is red light therapy (LLTT) or Photobiomodulation?
If you’ve never heard of infrared light therapy, you may be a little confused as to how light can help heal. Much like infrared saunas use heat to penetrate the skin and initiate cellular activity, red light treatment uses red low-level wavelengths of light to stimulate superficial or deeper cells through molecular mechanisms that will be discussed below; the use of light-emitting diodes (LED) or low-level laser therapy stimulates cellular activity to achieve therapeutic benefits through several different mechanisms at the cellular level. Studies have shown that a specific wavelength (600-880nm) of red light is beneficial to stimulate cells to elicit various physical and physiological effects. Red light therapy also goes by several other names including photorejuvenation, LILT (Low-Intensity Light Therapy), LLLT (Low-Level Laser or Low-Level Light Therapy), photobiomodulation, or biostimulation.In the 1990s, NASA discovered the efficiency of red light therapy after running experiments in an effort to help astronauts maintain higher muscle mass and bone density Click To Tweet
Infrared light therapy is a painless, non-ablative, and non-invasive procedure that reports show is generally safe for all skin types with little known side-effects when used appropriately.
Bioactive light and the body
The human body needs light to be healthy — and it’s not just in the form of UVA and UVB light from the sun. Most people associate like with practical uses but forget that our bodies and cells need specific wavelengths of light to function optimally.
For a lot of us, the lifestyle we lead forces us to be boxed in an office anywhere from height to twelve hours a day. The result of that is that most of us don’t get adequate amounts of light that our bodies need to function normally, which leads to a state of light deprivation. Light deprivation can cause a multitude of issues just as sleep deprivation can on hormones and neurotransmitters.
There are 5 different types of light that are bioactive within the human body, of which red light is a part of:
Blue light — Involved in the control of circadian rhythm, blue light is the shortest wavelength of the visible light spectrum, meaning it also has the most energy. Blue light is visible light ranging from 380-500nm and constitutes approximately one-third of all visible light. While the main source of blue light is sunlight, other sources include fluorescent lighting, LED, and display screens on mobile devices (tablets, laptops or computers, phones, and TVs). As it impacts circadian rhythm, blue light also affects the production of many different neurotransmitters and hormones.
UV light — UV light, the main source of light from the sun, is the spectrum of visible light between 180-400nm and induces synthesis of vitamin D31 Trusted SourceThe benefits and risks of ultraviolet (UV) tanning and its alternatives: the role of prudent sun exposure
Raja K. Sivamani, MS,a Lori A. Crane, PhD, MPH,b and Robert P. Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPHb,c,d
Far-infrared — Far-infrared is a wavelength of light that is not on the visible spectrum. It acts to increase arterial blood flow, peripheral blood circulation, improve endothelial function, reduce pain, reduce blood pressure, and promote capillary dilatation.2 Trusted SourceFar-infrared therapy for cardiovascular, autoimmune, and other chronic health problems: A systematic review
Shanshan Shui,Xia Wang, John Y Chiang and Lei Zheng
Red light –The red light spectrum from 600-700nm acts on the mitochondria in cells to stimulate increases in ATP (energy) production and works against nitric oxide and oxidative stress that weaken cells.
Near-infrared (NIR) — Just above the red light is the NIR spectrum at 700-1100nm that acts on many of the same pathways as red light, especially with respect to penetrating mitochondria to increase ATP production.
It’s important to remember that while all 5 types of light are necessary for the body, the benefits of them depend on the correct amounts of each of them.
Infrared vs. Near Infrared
The difference between red light therapy and near-infrared therapy simply comes down to the fact that the two fall into different regions of the light spectrum. While red light falls into the visible part of the light spectrum, between 600-700nm, and is used to treat the surface of the skin, near-infrared wavelengths fall into the invisible part of the spectrum, between 900-1100nm. Research shows that NIR (near-infrared) frequency penetrates deeper into the body to elicit a therapeutic effect for cells, especially mitochondria, which respond to near-infrared wavelengths. Many studies suggest that this wavelength of light triggers an increase in cell metabolism, protein synthesis, and antioxidant activity. It also helps to reduce levels of oxidative stress, inflammation, and pain intensity while simultaneously triggering cell proliferation and regeneration.NIR light allows more oxygen to enter the mitochondria and results in increased ATP synthesis, which leads to more efficient energy production Click To Tweet
How does red light therapy work?
Due to the combination of high degree of skin penetration and absorption by respiratory chain components, most research shows that light in the spectral range from 600 to 680 nm and 800 to 880 nm is beneficial for promoting wound healing, tissue repair, and skin rejuvenation 3 Trusted SourceA Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase
Alexander Wunschcorresponding author and Karsten Matuschka, working on three levels: the molecular, cellular, and tissue.
In contrast to other forms of light therapy such as laser or intense pulsed light (IPL), which induce secondary tissue repair by causing controlled damage to the epidermis or dermis, photobiomodulation (PBM), or red light therapy, bypass this initial destructive step by directly stimulating skin regeneration processes. Certain cell types, namely fibroblasts, keratinocytes, and immune cells (mast cells, neutrophils, and macrophages), that are important for skin and tissue regeneration are stimulated by specific wavelengths with significant tissue penetration properties. When a certain wavelength is used on the skin, it initiates increased cell proliferation, migration, and adhesion 4 Trusted SourceA Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase
Alexander Wunschcorresponding author and Karsten Matuschka.
There are two main mechanisms that red light and near-infrared light work on:
Mechanism # 1: Stimulates mitochondrial energy production (ATP)
The wavelengths of red light and NIR have been found to penetrate cells and directly activate mitochondria, which in turn stimulates increased energy production. Rodent studies show that red light and near-infrared light have the ability to increase proton electrochemical potential, increase ATP synthesis, increase RNA and protein synthesis, and cause increases in oxygen consumption, membrane potential, and enhance the synthesis of NADH5 Trusted SourceBiphasic Dose Response in Low Level Light TherapyYing-Ying Huang.
Mitochondria are so important to the human body because they power virtually every process that occurs within organs, so to increase the efficiency of mitochondria means to increase the amount of energy each cell receives, translating directly into a more optimal body function.
In the four stages of cellular respiration — which is where ATP is created –, red light and NIR have the most profound effect on the last stage, oxidative phosphorylation. In order for the light to elicit an effect on the body, it must be absorbed by something within a cell or organism. In this case, humans have several lights absorbing compounds — hemoglobin, cytochrome c oxidase, myoglobin, flavins, flavoproteins, and melanin, all of which absorb certain wavelengths of light and translate it into biological effects. Of special importance is cytochrome c oxidase, found inside the mitochondria. Cytochrome c oxidase plays an important role in the respiratory chain and the production of ATP. When red and near-infrared photons hit the photoacceptors on cytochrome c oxidase, it assists the mitochondria in using oxygen more efficiently, which increases energy production.
It’s important to understand that mitochondria cannot generate ATP without sufficient oxygen and there are certain compounds within the body that competes with oxygen and inhibit this, namely nitric oxide (NO). So in order for ATP production to generate at as high a level as possible, NO must not displace oxygen; this can be done using red light therapy, as light can reverse the inhibition caused by NO binding to cytochrome oxidase.Light therapy actually dates back to the 18th century when reports in medical literature discussed the power of sunlight to treat various diseases Click To Tweet
Mechanism #2: Hormesis (initiation of low-dose metabolic stress)
The second mechanism by which red and infra-red light affect cells is through a process called hormesis — a transient low-grade metabolic stressor that stimulates adaptations that are beneficial to health.
It’s similar to the concept of exercising to enhance body processes. Exercise works by transiently creating metabolic stress on the body and temporarily increasing the production of free radicals. In response to this, the body must adapt through things like enhanced cardiovascular efficiency, improved blood circulation to the muscles, and strengthening mitochondria, but also by downregulating genes involved in the inflammatory response and oxidative stress and upregulating genes involved in energy production and internal antioxidant pathways.
Red light and infra-red light essentially stress the mitochondria so it sends signals to the nucleus about which genes to express. Specifically, the same defense systems that are activated in response to exercise are activated in response to increases in free-radicals from red and NIR light. These pathways help to eliminate inflammation and free radicals, making cells more tolerable to stress, reduces inflammation, prevents the buildup of free radicals, and makes cells more resilient.
What are the benefits of red light therapy?
Aside from reducing the signs of aging, red light therapy has a multitude of other benefits. It can help to address a number of other conditions, including:
Combats chronic fatigue and increases energy
One of the most well-studied benefits of red light therapy is its ability to increase ATP (energy) production. Red light and NIR light are able to penetrate directly through cells to activate mitochondria, where they upregulate cellular energy production. When red light hits the photoacceptor (enzyme) cytochrome c oxidase, which is present in all mitochondria, it increases the efficiency by which mitochondria use oxygen to produce ATP. Oxygen is needed to produce ATP, thus as exposure to red light increases, cellular use of oxygen and production of ATP increases, providing the body with more energy. As such, individual organs and organ systems can function more optimally.
Reduces adipose tissue and increases fat loss
NIR and red light have been said to increase weight and fat loss by increasing the release of fat stores into the bloodstream to be burned for energy. One study, specifically, found that low-level laser of an appropriate wavelength applied three times per week for two weeks can significantly reduce circumference at a certain targeted tissue site due to a reduction in adipose (fat) layer6 Trusted SourceLow-Level Laser Therapy as a Non-Invasive Approach for Body Contouring: A Randomized, Controlled StudyRobert F. Jackson, MD, Doug D. Dedo, MD, Greg C. Roche, MD, David I. Turok , and Ryan J. Maloney.
It’s important to note, however, that the ability to modulate cellular metabolism and provoke a biological response is highly dependant on the intensity, wavelength, and frequency of the light being applied.
One of the proposed mechanisms behind this is attributed to the formation of micropores in the membrane with the application of 635nm wavelength of light. As such, the pores allow the release of intracellular lipids from fat cells 7 Trusted SourceLow-Level Laser Therapy for Fat Layer Reduction: A Comprehensive ReviewPinar Avci, MD,Theodore T. Nyame, MD,Gaurav K. Gupta, MD, PhD,Magesh Sadasivam, MTech,and Michael R. Hamblin. Another possible mechanism is that light therapy stimulates mitochondria in adipocytes, which increases the synthesis of ATP and upregulates cAMP. An increase in cAMP subsequently activates protein kinases that stimulate enzymes that convert triglycerides to fatty acids and glycerol, both of which can pass through the pores of cell membranes and thus reduce the size of adipocytes 8 Trusted SourceLow-Level Laser Therapy for Fat Layer Reduction: A Comprehensive ReviewPinar Avci, MD,Theodore T. Nyame, MD,Gaurav K. Gupta, MD, PhD,Magesh Sadasivam, MTech,and Michael R. Hamblin.
Aids muscle recovery
Not only does red light therapy appear to enhance the effects of exercise, but it also makes a profound impact on the body’s ability to recover. As muscle tissue is particularly dense with mitochondria, it responds incredibly well to red light. Because mitochondria play such an important role in ATP production as well as involvement in the mechanisms of cellular healing, red light therapy and NIR have been shown to be highly beneficial for muscle repair and recovery.
Red light has been shown to increase the production of antioxidants in the body, which help to combat the free radicals produced during exercise and prevent oxidative stress and tissue damage. As well, red light and NIR help to reduce inflammation levels9 Trusted SourceEffects of Light-Emitting Diode Therapy on Muscle Hypertrophy, Gene Expression, Performance, Damage, and Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness: Case-control Study with a Pair of Identical TwinsFerraresi C, Bertucci D, Schiavinato J, Reiff R, Araújo A, Panepucci R, Matheucci E Jr, Cunha AF, Arakelian VM, Hamblin MR, Parizotto N, Bagnato V.,which may help to decrease muscle fatigue and soreness.
Studies have also shown that when applied prior to exercise, LLLT can improve muscular performance and accelerate recovery 10 Trusted SourcePhotobiomodulation therapy before futsal matches improves the staying time of athletes in the court and accelerates post-exercise recoveryDe Marchi T, Leal-Junior ECP, Lando KC, Cimadon F, Vanin AA, da Rosa DP, Salvador M..
Speeds up wound healing and tissue repair
Initial studies on the effects of light therapy showed that it is beneficial for wound healing and can help to close wounds — even slow healing or resistant wounds — up to 20% faster than without treatment.Did you know that the heat and light you see and ‘feel’ radiating off a fire is mainly in the form of NIR? Click To Tweet
This effect can be partially attributed to increases in blood circulation and the formation of new capillaries, meaning the impacted area receives increased blood supply and nutrients needed to initiate and maintain the healing process. This is accomplished through:
- Phagocytosis (removal of dead and damaged cells)
- Increased ATP production in skin cells
- Increased fibroblast production
- Increased blood flow (great supply of oxygen and nutrients)
- Stimulates collagen synthesis
- Stimulates lymph activity
- Stimulates formation of new connective tissue and capillaries on the wound surface
Helps with symptoms of anxiety and depression
While there is still a lot of research to do when it comes to treating anxiety and depression with red light therapy, the available research shows great promise. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter involved in mood control and is research shows decreased levels in individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. The monoamine-deficiency hypothesis proposes that depression is a result of an imbalance and deficiency of specific monoamine neurotransmitters, including serotonin (5-HT), dopamine, and noradrenaline in the central nervous system11 Trusted SourceTranscranial photobiomodulation prevents anxiety and depression via changing serotonin and nitric oxide levels in brain of depression model mice: A study of three different doses of 810 nm laser.Eshaghi E, Sadigh-Eteghad S, Mohaddes G, Rasta SH.. Studies also show that many individuals with depression have altered blood flow to the frontal cortex of their brain. As NIR and red light produce an increase in blood circulation, it’s plausible to assume that this could be one mechanism for improving symptoms.
Several studies show that NIR light therapy has an anti-anxiety and anti-depressive effect, which may be attributed to an increase in 5-HT (serotonin) and a decrease in nitric oxide (NO); studies have shown NO inhibiting drugs to be effective in the treatment of depression12 Trusted SourceTranscranial photobiomodulation prevents anxiety and depression via changing serotonin and nitric oxide levels in brain of depression model mice: A study of three different doses of 810 nm laser.Eshaghi E, Sadigh-Eteghad S, Mohaddes G, Rasta SH.. One particular study found that a dose of 8 J/cm2 caused the maximum anti-anxiety and anti-depressive effects, while anything higher or lower was not beneficial13 Trusted SourceTranscranial photobiomodulation prevents anxiety and depression via changing serotonin and nitric oxide levels in brain of depression model mice: A study of three different doses of 810 nm laser.Eshaghi E, Sadigh-Eteghad S, Mohaddes G, Rasta SH.. Another study found that 2 weeks of NIR treatment in patients with depression improved outcomes for both the HAM-A (Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale) and HAM-D (Hamilton Depression Rating Scale) — measures of severity of symptoms14 Trusted SourcePsychological benefits 2 and 4 weeks after a single treatment with near infrared light to the forehead: a pilot study of 10 patients with major depression and anxietyFredric Schiffer, Andrea L Johnston, Caitlin Ravichandran, Ann Polcari, Martin H Teicher, Robert H Webb & Michael R Hamblin ..
Improves hair growth
Hair growth takes place in three distinct stages: anagen (growth phase), catagen (hair transition to the skin surface), and telogen (resting phase when strands are released and fall out, where the follicle then remains inactive for 3 months before the whole process is repeated).
Red and NIR have been shown to stimulate hair follicle cell proliferation and increase the number of follicles in the anagen stage. Subjects received a total of 18 treatments over a 12-week period to the vortex of the scalp. Outcomes were measured based on four variables: number of hairs present, presence of anagen hairs, number of hairs containing melanin, and presence of Ki76, a marker of hair follicle cell proliferation. Results showed that all subjects showed improvements in at least one measure15 Trusted SourceThe growth of human scalp hair mediated by visible red light laser and LED sources in malesLanzafame RJ1, Blanche RR, Bodian AB, Chiacchierini RP, Fernandez-Obregon A, Kazmirek ER.
Improves skin complexion and increases collagen synthesis
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and is critical to keeping the skin looking healthy and young. It’s in everything from skin and hair, to joints, bones, and muscles. In a study on the effect of photobiomodulation on skin appearance, results showed significant improvements in skin complexion and skin feeling, skin roughness, and collagen density using a light wavelength of either 611–650 or 570–85016 Trusted SourceA Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density IncreaseAlexander Wunschcorresponding and Karsten Matuschka..
As well, NIR can help to reduce and/or improve the appears of scars. Hypertrophic scars are benign tumors of the skin that result following trauma, surgery, or acne and are generally quite difficult to eradicate. They form as a result of two main reasons: fibroblastic proliferation and excess collagen deposits; there is an imbalance between the rate of collagen biosynthesis and its degradation. Studies have shown considerable improvements in the appearance of scars following treatment with red light or NIR light used to alter the wound healing process to avoid or reduce the formation of hypertrophic scars 17 Trusted SourceLow-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring
Pinar Avci, MD, Asheesh Gupta, PhD,Magesh Sadasivam, MTech, Daniela Vecchio, PhD, Zeev Pam, MD, Nadav Pam, MD and Michael R Hamblin, PhD
Improves joint health
As light therapy has a profound impact on reducing inflammation, it’s been shown as a beneficial therapy for the treatment of joint disorders, specifically arthritis. There are four main mechanisms by which LLLT exerts its effects 18 Trusted SourceComparison of low level laser, ultrasonic therapy and association in joint pain in Wistar rats.Coradini JG, Mattjie TF, Bernardino GR, Peretti AL, Kakihata CM, Errero TK, Escher AR, Bertolini GR.
Modulating the inflammatory response (decreases release of pro-inflammatory cytokines)
Increases blood circulation to the affected area
Stimulates wound healing and repair mechanisms to the damaged area (connective tissue growth)
Relieves pain and inflammation
Red light and NIR light therapy have been shown to be effective for treating chronic inflammation due to its ability to suppress the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which is particularly important for joint disorders, traumatic injuries, lung disorders, and disorders in the brain.
Light therapy works by reducing oxidative damage in tissues and increasing blood supply and nutrient delivery, especially in tissues with a high density of mitochondria. It also helps to increase the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines.
With respect to pain relief, red and NIR light therapy has been shown to be effective at decreasing pain sensation by changing tissue opioid receptors, initiating changes in substance P (the neurotransmitter associated with pain) and interrupting nerve transmission and pain sensation. LLLT applied with a sufficient level of intensity has been shown to inhibit action potentials (nerve impulses), which has a cascade effect to suppress the activation of cortical areas associated with pain 19 Trusted SourcePro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine content in human peripheral blood after its transcutaneous (in vivo) and direct (in vitro) irradiation with polychromatic visible and infrared light.Zhevago NA1, Samoilova KA.
Cellulite appears on the skin’s surface as a result of unhealthy collagen and elastin in the skin layers, in conjunction with excess fat. Red and NIR light has been shown to help eliminate, or reduce the appearance of cellulite in three ways:
Boosts collagen and elastin production, as well as supports the health of the extracellular matrix — the fibrous structure that supports cells
Increases blood circulation in the surrounding area
Causes release of stored fat from fat cells into blood circulation where it can be burned
Research has shown that red light and NIR light can help to improve skin tone and enhance smoothness 20 Trusted SourceA double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial evaluating the ability of low-level laser therapy to improve the appearance of cellulite.Jackson RF1, Roche GC, Shanks SC..
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How to start red light therapy?
Red light therapy isn’t one of those treatments that you need a lot of equipment for. It’s something that once you decide you want to significantly improve your health, you can seek out a location that offers a service. Alternatively, portable light therapy devices and in-home devices are now more affordable to purchase. Whereas they used to cost anywhere from $2000-$5000, devices can now be purchased for a fraction of that and offer a convenient way to reap all the benefits of light therapy in the comfort of your home.
Red light therapy at home
With advancements in technology, red light is easily accessible in your home. For newcomers to it, there are a wide range of variables to choosing a red light device. Before purchasing something, you’ll want to consider:
- Size and coverage
Wavelengths and irradiance levels are your most important factors when choosing a product. Wavelengths are crucial for achieving the right benefits and irradiance levels are crucial to determine dosing. Also, for some conditions, a larger device that covers a wider surface area will elicit better results as treating your full body is more effective than treating just a small section. Larger devices are known to achieve higher irradiance levels, thus increasing light exposure to cells across your body and increasing the total number of Joules (J/cm2) received.
While larger devices offer full-body coverage, smaller devices can be just as effective for targeted treatments. A small device with enough power can effectively treat smaller areas like the face to help reduce signs of aging, or target injuries to areas like the wrist, knee or ankle. Plus, small portable devices offer a great alternative for on-the-go treatments when you’re traveling.
How to dose red light therapy
Dosing red light therapy can be difficult, especially when you don’t know the exact irradiance level of your device. Too little dosage and you don’t get minimal benefits, but too much and you also get minimal benefits — it’s all about that sweet spot.
Research shows that the most benefit from red light comes from light outputs of 20-200W/cm2, which refers to how much power the light is emitting over a specific area.
But irradiance alone shouldn’t be taken as an exact measure for dosing. Studies have covered a wide range of Joule exposure from 1J to over 100J per area. As such, distance and irradiance should be taken into account to calculate the exact Joule (J/cm2) exposure.
Here is a list of things you should take into account when determining how to dose red light therapy:
Distance from the light — The further you are away from a device, the less power density it will have, and therefore the less benefit it will provide. Being within a few inches of the light will provide the highest potency and the greatest effect. However, staying about six inches away from the light will also minimize exposure to EMFs, so as a general rule, position yourself anywhere from 6-36 inches away from the device.
Light wavelength — Wavelength emission will differ between devices. Some will emit all of the light at the designated therapeutic wavelength, while others will emit only part.
Claimed vs. actual wattage — As a general rule, light emits a power density anywhere from 25-50% less than is claimed. As this is the case, it will change the dose needed to receive the same benefits as if the actual output was the same as the claimed output.
Size of device and treatment area — The size of the device is critical to the effect elicited. Even if a device has an adequate power density, if it only emits light over a small area of the body, you’re not going to receive the same effect as if it were covering a greater area.
So how long should you apply the light?
The dose of exposure has a simple calculation:
As a general rule, for deep tissues, you want larger doses and higher power density (light intensity) to achieve the best results. For skin or surface treatments, you want to aim for lower intensity (further away from the light and covering a broader area) for a lower dose.
For example with MOJO PLAY, here’s what you should aim for:
Skin issues (anti-aging, etc.) and superficial treatments:
– 6” away = 30sec – 2.5 minutes (per area)
– 12” away = 1 – 3 minutes
– 20” away = 1.5 – 4 minutes
This is for maximum treatment of approximatively 15J/cm2 per area
Deep tissue (muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, organs, etc.):
– 6” away = 3 – 7 minutes (per area)
– 12” away = 4 – 9 minutes
– 20” away = 5 – 10 minutes
This is for maximum treatments of approximatively 45J/cm2 per area
It’s important to remember that for most devices, the deeper the tissue is that you want to treat, the closer the light should be to your body for optimal effects. Our lights are powerful enough to have you stand around 12inches away from the device for 5 minutes for deeper treatments. If you’re going over the recommended time dosage, however, you’re not necessarily experiencing any benefit. In a case like this, more isn’t always better.
Red light therapy how often
The frequency of treatment will depend on your goal or the therapeutic effect you’re looking to achieve. As we just mentioned, more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to red light therapy due to something called the biphasic dose-response, which states that “weak stimuli slightly increase metabolic activity, stronger stimuli increase it even more until a peak is reached, and from there, increasing the dose further suppresses the effect until a negative or harmful effect is eventually reached.” This means that dosing higher than the recommended guidelines doesn’t provide any benefit.
It comes down to reaching that threshold, but not crossing it, to elicit a beneficial response.
However, red light therapy has been used for decades and is considered safe. For most people, overdoing it will come in the form of fatigue, in which case you know to reduce the time during the next session.
As a general approach, start out slow (1-2 minute sessions) with red light therapy to see how your body responds, and gradually build up to 3-7 sessions per week. While there is little research on the recommended frequency of red light therapy, every other day seems to elicit a beneficial response, with daily treatment at the most.
It is suggested that the total treatment dose for all areas of the body be no more than approximately 120J. This is the total sum of all areas, not specific treatments.
What does the research say about red light therapy?
As red light therapy is becoming more popular, there are a number of studies available about the positive effects of engaging in frequent red light therapy. With an abundance of benefits, researchers agree that red light is beneficial to treat a number of chronic conditions.
But red light therapy isn’t a new thing. Studies looking at the effects date back to the early 1990s when NASA first started to experiment with how it impacted the circadian rhythm and bone density of astronauts. Since then, a significant number of studies have been published in the scientific literature. To date, there are more than 3500 papers with most research showing the positive effects of red light on various conditions. Despite the efficiency, red light alone should not be taken as the magic pill to treat or improve a condition, but rather it should be used as an adjuvant therapy to other lifestyle interventions or medical treatments.
Is red light therapy safe?
Red light therapy is generally considered safe and painless. As mentioned prior with respect to dosing, minimal benefits are achieved by less or more than the recommended dose, but harmful effects are practically non-existent if the length of treatment is more than what is ideal. It’s important to note that some cases of burns and blistering have been reported from individuals after falling asleep with the unit in close proximity to their body, or as a result of broken wires of device corrosion. There also may be a potential risk of damage to eyes, so it’s crucial to wear proper eye protection to prevent harm.
Additionally, some concerns may arise overexposure to EMFs from a red light device. All electronic devices emit EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies) and there is still much debate over the health effects of them. Studies have shown that at a safe distance from red lights, approximately 5-6”, there are minimal detectable EMFs. As you move further away from the source, the emission further decreases. Thus, by staying a the recommended and reasonable distance away from the light source, you’re minimizing your exposure to potentially harmful frequencies.
For certain problematic areas like malignant tumors or cysts, red light therapy is not recommended. This is because shining light on any area will stimulate tissues, which, for cancerous growth, may not necessarily by the most ideal treatment. However, preliminary studies on the safety of red light for pre-existing malignant lesions showed no harmful effect of whole-body red LLLT on tumor growth21 Trusted SourceA Preliminary Study of the Safety of Red Light Phototherapy of Tissues Harboring CancerMax Myakishev-Rempel, Ph.D.,corresponding Istvan Stadler, Ph.D.,Philip Brondon, M.D., David R. Axe, M.Sc., Mark Friedman, Ph.D.,Frances Barg Nardia, M.Sc., and Raymond Lanzafame, M.D., M.B.A..
Red light therapy can be a great addition to your health journey, whether you’re looking to improve joint health, improve your skin and hair health, reduce the appearance of scars, or reduce inflammation and pain, red light therapy can be a highly beneficial practice to implement into your life. With minimal known side effects, just a few minutes every other day can turn your body around. Even if there is no specific condition you need to be treated, frequenting red light can benefit your general health and increase energy levels so you can go about your day without hitting that wall of fatigue.
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