The Amazing Benefits of Red Light Therapy

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Also known as light box therapy, low-level light therapy (LLLT), photobiomodulation (PBM), biostimulation (BIOS) or photonic stimulation, red light therapy has become very popular in the last few decades. Discovered by NASA, the revolutionary red light therapy is a non-invasive, risk-free and cost-effective solution has several uses and has proven to be extremely effective with almost no side effects or risks.

What is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy makes use of low-power wavelengths of red light in order to repair, restore and protect injured or degenerating tissue. Studies reveal that different wavelengths of light affect our body in various ways; however, when it comes to the healing properties of red light, the most effective wavelengths of the light range between 630-670 nm and 810-880 nm.

When the red light penetrates the skin, you cannot feel it and it is not painful, as the light waves do not produce any heat. These wavelengths of red light are absorbed up to a depth of around 8-10 mm, where it has positive benefits on the metabolic processes, cellular energy and multiple nervous systems in the body.

Red light therapy has proved to be advantageous in treating many conditions and symptoms caused due to osteoarthritis, joint pain, symptoms caused by treatments for cancer such as radiation or chemotherapy, wounds, hair loss, wrinkles, discoloration of the skin, acne, muscular pain, tissue damage like sprains, pulls or tears and neurological damage.

How Red Light Therapy Works

Red light therapy works by creating a biochemical effect in the body. Some of the ways in which the wavelengths of red light work are that they:

  • Increase the energy levels in the body by releasing the adenosine triphosphate or ATP from the mitochondria of the cells.
  • Stimulate the synthesis of DNA and RNA.
  • Activate the lymphatic system which is a very vital part of the immune system and help to remove the waste from our body.
  • Increase the blood circulation in the body and provide more nutrients and oxygen to the cells and tissues.
  • Improve the production of fibroblasts and collagen, which are important for digestive, skin and joint health.
  • Form new capillaries.
  • Repair and restore the soft connective tissue that has been damaged.
  • Stimulate and decrease inflammation and help to control the natural healing processes of the body.
  • Reduce the effects of free radical damage or oxidative stress that is associated with the effects of aging.

Red Light Therapy vis-à-vis Sauna Therapy

Very often, the question arises if red light therapy and sauna therapy are similar and if red light therapy offers the same benefits as sunlight. While all of these have their own advantages, they are quite different from one another and also provide varied results and benefits.

A sauna essentially raises the temperature of the body by exposure to heat. In a traditional sauna such as the Finnish sauna, the temperature of the air around is raised by hot coals or burning wood. An infrared sauna also works on the same principle; however, infrared saunas are heated by of infrared heaters. In the case of an infrared sauna, the body is heated inside out and provides beneficial effects at a much lower heat and in a shorter time.

Both traditional, as well as infrared saunas, cause the heart rate to increase, increase perspiration and have several health benefits. In an infrared sauna, the light is invisible and produces wavelengths of around 700 nm to 1200 nm, which penetrate more deeply into the body.

On the other hand, photobiomodulation or red light therapy does not increase the temperature or perspiration in the body and also does not boost the cardiovascular function. Instead, it affects the cells at a more basic cellular level and increases the function of the mitochondria and the production of ATP. Red light therapy basically fuels the cells in order to increase energy in the body.

Both saunas, as well as red light therapy, have their own specific ways of functioning and different uses depending on the specific results you desire.

History of Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy has been used for the treatment of various health problems for several decades. Through the years, many kinds of light boxes have been used to treat skin, sleep-related, mood-related and pain conditions. In the late 1900s, infrared light technology was developed by NASA scientists to grow plants during their space missions. They later discovered that red light could be used for therapeutic purposes and help provide cellular stimulation in animals and humans for healing.

Dr. Niels Finsen was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1903 for his treatment of lupus and chickenpox using red light therapy. In the 60s, low-intensity lasers such as the helium-neon laser and ruby laser were invented and the Hungarian physician Dr. Endre Mester discovered that using low-intensity ruby light can stimulate hair growth and also heal wounds.

Since the 70s, Russians made use of low-level laser therapy in medical care and also published many research papers over the years on the benefits of red light therapy. Red light therapy has been used for medical treatments since the 80s in countries like China, Japan, Vietnam, North Ireland, Canada, Latin America and Eastern Europe. However, it has only been recognized in Western Europe and the United States in the recent years.

Benefits of Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of chronic joint pain, healing wounds, hair loss, wrinkles and acne. It has also been used successfully for treatment of skin problems such as psoriasis, to improve circulation and boost the immune function.

Anti-Aging Effects

Red light therapy is being increasingly used for anti-aging skin treatments such as fine lines and wrinkles. A study shows that red light therapy is safe and effective for anti-aging skin rejuvenation and increase in intradermal collagen. People who underwent red light therapy experienced considerable improvements in their skin tone, complexion, skin texture and collagen density and reduction in fine lines and wrinkles. Patients suffering from skin problems such as redness and rosacea felt a significant improvement in their condition after undergoing red light therapy.

Red light therapy helps to stimulate the production of elastin and collagen fibers and also helps to improve the blood flow to the tissues in the skin by producing new blood capillaries and increasing the nutrients and oxygen reaching the cells. This along with the new collagen and elastin fibers gives the skin a plump and smooth look. The process helps to slow down the aging of the skin and gives a more youthful and fresh appearance.

Hair Loss

Another side effect of aging is hair loss and greying of hair. Red light therapy has been found quite effective in reversing the loss of hair and also helps to stimulate follicle growth. The red light therapy for hair loss works in the same way as it works in healing wounds. And, although the results have been mixed, quite a few men and women have had positive results in reversing hair loss and baldness using red light therapy.

Increased Immunity and Reduced Effects of Cancer Treatments

According to a study by NASA, the use of red light therapy can reduce the symptoms of patients suffering from cancer and it also reduces the side effects caused due to cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. The near-infrared light emitted by diodes known as HEALS (High Emissivity Aluminiferous Luminescent Substrate) releases long wavelengths of photons that stimulate the cells to accelerate the healing process. This technology is also being used for the treatment of healing wounds and infections, burns, skin ulcers caused due to diabetes and brain tumors in children.

Tissue Repair and Healing Wounds

Red light in the range between 600 nm-1300 nm has been found to be extremely effective in repairing tissues, healing wounds and rejuvenating the skin. Our skin contains fibroblasts that help to produce collagen which helps to maintain the connective tissue and also plays a very important role in the healing of wounds.

When red light therapy is used, it boosts the fibroblasts and also increases circulation, which results in the wounds healing more quickly. Red light therapy is also extremely beneficial for the treatment and quick healing of burns, skin grafts, injuries due to amputation and wounds that are infected. It has also been used successfully to treat skin damage caused due to cancer treatments, in the mucous membranes and the mouth too. Red light therapy is often used by dentists to heal abrasions and sores in the mouth and it also helps to prevent cold sores which occur repeatedly along the mouth.

Musculoskeletal and Joint Health

The increased production of collagen and cartilage stimulated by red light therapy not only makes your skin look wrinkle-free and youthful, it also helps to improve the joint health of people suffering from arthritis and also helps in the case of people suffering from musculoskeletal pains and problems. Red light therapy helps to reduce inflammation in the body and increases circulation that helps to reduce pain and also heal the body. Studies reveal that red light therapy has been found useful for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients for relief from morning stiffness and pain. Red light therapy is beneficial for treatment of degeneration and tissue damage due to aging, even in people who don’t suffer from RA.

Red light therapy has proved to show benefits in reducing acute neck pain after 22 weeks of treatment and other people suffering from musculoskeletal disorders have shown improvement in their functions, such as a significant progress in the range of motion.

Red light therapy results in the increase in the blood flow and also cell rejuvenation which are the main reasons for improvements in tissue and joint health. The soft or connective tissue also are benefitted by red light therapy, which helps to reduce oxidative damage that causes joint degeneration and also helps to reduce the inflammation.

Treatment of Frozen Shoulder and Restless Leg Syndrome

Red light therapy by itself or in conjunction with exercise can help to relieve the symptoms of adhesive capsulitis, which is commonly known as frozen shoulder.

Red light therapy has also been found to beneficial in the treatment of restless leg syndrome or RLS and the treatment showed considerable improvement in the symptoms of RLS.

Reduces Fatigue and Depression

Red light therapy has proved to be of great benefit in reducing fatigue and depression and has been compared to being similar to the way acupuncture works. The light which is used in red light therapy is a form of energy and helps to stimulate the median points and specific chakras in our body. The red light specifically stimulates the first chakra, which correlates to the instinct of survival and provides energy and motivation to act quickly. Red light therapy makes use of focused wavelengths of red light to stimulate the energy system of the body.

Red light has a naturally energizing effect and results in a positive and improved mood by helping to increase sensory stimulation, self-confidence, laughter, passion, positivity, etc. Red light therapy has both emotional, as well as mental perks along with physical advantages.

Treats Skin Problems

Red light therapy has proved to be beneficial for people suffering from psoriasis and studies reveal that patients have seen improvements of 60% and even up to 100% when treated using red light therapy. The infrared wavelength of the light helps in calming the inflammation in the skin, while the skin’s surface is healed by the shorter wavelengths of the red light.

The ATP and collagen stimulation by red light therapy can help to treat skin conditions such as eczema, acne and rosacea and also in reducing stretch marks. Red light therapy has proved to be quite beneficial in the treatment of acne as it helps to improve circulation and also reduces inflammation. This helps to reduce the size of the swollen spots and allows the lymphatic system to remove the wastes more efficiently that cause acne. Red light therapy also helps to shrink the glands that produce oil, thereby reducing the amount of oil produced and also the acne.

The red light therapy for treatment of acne is more effective when it is used along with the blue light. The red light helps to reduce the swelling and pain, while the blue light helps to kill the acne-causing bacteria like Propionibacterium acnes. The two lights, red and blue used together can help to reduce the acne and also prevent breakouts in the future.

However, in the case of treatment of acne using red light therapy, using lower doses has been found to be more effective, so that the skin does not get dried out. So, it may take a while for you to see positive results of the red light therapy. Not only does the red light therapy help to treat acne, it also helps to lighten and treat the scars caused by the acne.

Helps in Weight Loss

As we already know, red light therapy helps to accelerate the rate at which the energy is produced by the mitochondria in the cells and also increases circulation. The mitochondria in the cells convert the glucose into ATP which is used as fuel by the cells. Red light therapy helps to enhance the mitochondrial function, which boosts the conversion of glucose into ATP, which can help in weight loss.

How to Make Use of Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy is commonly offered by dermatologists, rheumatologists and spas. Since the FDA approves only some of the uses of red light as means of treatment, the therapy may not be covered by your insurance. However, these days, you have a more inexpensive and convenient option of getting a red light therapy device that can be used at home.

It is a good idea to look for a device that offers a combination of red light wavelengths as this offers maximum benefit. A red light device offering various wavelengths will allow you to get a deeper penetration when using higher wavelengths of light, while lower wavelengths offer cellular charging.

How Safe Is Red Light Therapy?

Typically, red light therapy makes use of visible light in the form of LEDs or lasers. These light waves do not affect the DNA in any way and cannot cause cell mutation or cancer. Generally, red light therapy is well-tolerated by most people without any side effects. However, the results of what you are using the therapy for may vary from person to person and also the rate of response varies. While some conditions may respond faster, others may take time to show results.

Side Effects of Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy is tolerated well by most people and practically has no side effects and if there are any, the effects are quite mild and do not last long. For instance, the intensity of the light may cause eye strain or a headache. So, it a good idea not to stare directly into the light and wear proper eye protection while undergoing red light therapy. Some kits for red light therapy have inbuilt eye protection.

One of the major issues in the case of red light therapy is pinpointing the light ranges that are optimal for the treatment of different patients and for varied health conditions. Some studies have revealed that red light therapy can cause negative reactions if you use the wrong dosage or use the wrong source of light.

Dosage is a very important factor that should be kept in mind when you are undergoing red light therapy. And, it has been found that using lower doses is more effective when compared to higher doses. Overuse of red light therapy may cause side effects such as nausea, swelling, burning, dizziness or muscle weakness. So, you should take care of how long a red light therapy session should last. Also, ensure that you undergo red light therapy while being supervised by a qualified practitioner and if you have any side effects, be sure to bring it to the notice of the practitioner.

Frequency of Red Light Therapy Usage

The dosage and frequency of the red light therapy essentially depend on the condition that you’re trying to treat and it is always a good idea to check with your doctor for recommendations of how often and the dose of red light therapy you should use. For instance, anti-aging treatments may require 2-3 sessions in a week for a period of 3-6 weeks, with a follow-up maintenance session once a week, every 2 weeks. This depends on the age of the person and also the condition that is being treated.

While for pain relief, the red light therapy session may require treatment of the affected area two times a day for a couple of weeks and then 1-2 sessions every week. If you are using a red light therapy device at home, then you must follow the directions along with the device regarding the usage, and it is a good idea to consult your doctor who can give you the right advice about the most effective red light therapy plan for your specific condition.

The red light therapy will not be effective if you overdo it. To get the best results, you must follow the treatment plan as closely as possible. Using it more than required can restrict the results of the treatment and you may not get the results you desire.

Finally, red light therapy which is also known as low-level laser therapy or LLLT is when low wavelengths of red light are emitted through the skin to stimulate rejuvenation of the cells, causing increased blood flow, collagen production, etc.

Red light therapy is commonly used to treat several conditions such as reducing the signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles, healing wounds, reducing the symptoms of arthritis, neurological damage, hair loss, musculoskeletal disorders and side effects of cancer treatments.

Red light therapy is indeed a wonderful treatment that not only addresses aesthetic issues on the outside but also repairs you from the inside-out.

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