What is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy falls under two categories based on whether you are using just the short waves from red light or if you add in long waves from infrared as well.
Short Wave Red Light Therapy:
On its own, red light cannot penetrate deep into the body and is thus used for dermatology applications, such as treating skin and superficial flaws.
Mixed Wave Light Therapy:
Also known as photobiomodulation therapy, or PBMT, mixed wave light therapy combines red light’s surface benefits with the infrared’s penetrating benefits. More often than not, when you hear of red light therapy, it refers to PBMT. The wavelengths necessary for best results are clinically determined.
How does it work?
The use of PBMT supports the body’s innate mechanisms for metabolizing free radicals and reducing the harm they do. This acceleration of the body’s normal healing process aids in reducing inflammation and encourages the repair of damaged tissue. PBMT improves athletic performance, speeds up and improves the quality of tissue repair, speeds up and improves recovery, and lessens discomfort.
Where did Red Light Therapy Come From?
The interest in Red Light Therapy began when NASA studied its effects on plant growth in space. In the future, they hope it can treat astronauts, especially for wound care. Like most NASA discoveries, Red Light Therapy took off in the academic community as researchers began investigating other uses.
Red Light Therapy is medically accepted in photodynamic therapy already. In this practice, the red light is used to stimulate a photosensitizer drug.
Does Red Light Therapy Work?
If you ask in a crowded room, expect a mix of responses. You’ll get emphatic yesses, emphatic noes, and the genuinely accurate “we’re still figuring that out.” So far, studies around red light therapy are promising but not definitive.
As such, PBMT has only been approved by the FDA for muscle relaxation and muscle spasm relief; temporary relief of aches, pains, and stiffness; joint motion restoration; temporary relief of arthritis; temporary circulation improvement; temporary inflammation relief.
However, more studies are underway. And if you’re willing to listen to anecdotal data, many patients swear by their red therapy treatments for several different issues. This panacea-like reputation has left other users skeptical, especially since we’re still learning about the science behind light therapy.
To truly be proven effective, PBMT needs to undergo long-term studies and blind placebo trials. But research takes time, so it’s up to you if you want to wait to try red therapy or discuss it with your physician today.
Many companies and blogs promote uses for red light therapy that are not proven. If you have any of the following, do not place your hope in untested tech:
- Depression and Mental Illness
This touting of miracles treatments certainly doesn’t help PBMT’s reputation among naysayers. Now, some of the above do make use of therapy lasers, but therapy lasers are not the same as red light therapy.
Is Red Light Therapy Safe?
No adverse effects have been found. This is one reason why so many patients are willing to try it regardless of FDA approval. The main precaution is to shield your eyes.
How You Can Get the Most from Red Light Therapy?
If you are willing to give red light therapy a try without waiting for long-term studies, then you should follow these key steps to get the best results:
Treat the Cause, Not the Symptoms:
The key to managing pain is to address its underlying causes as well as its effects. Light therapy solutions with the appropriate dosage, wavelengths, and treatment coverage will help you achieve this.
Combine Red Light with Several Infrared Wavelengths:
Red light alone can only treat skin disorders; it won’t work on other conditions that call for deeper penetration.
Optimize Treatment Doses:
Clinical outcomes depend on finding the optimal dosage. Only use PBMT products with varying treatment times, high power, and multiple wavelengths. Finding the right setting for your needs may take a few attempts.
Treat the Entire Body
Only treating small areas at a time minimizes results. You want to treat your entire body all at once.
Where Can You Get Red Light Therapy?
Many options exist, including purchasing an at-home device. You can generally find red light therapy in doctor’s offices, salons, and dental offices. If you want to treat at home, it’s best to talk to your physician first and ensure you understand how to use your device safely.