Red light therapy — which we’ll also call infrared therapy — is a non-invasive treatment that uses specific wavelengths of light to penetrate the skin and tissues, promoting healing and reducing inflammation. This therapy has been around for decades, and its origins in pain management can be traced back to NASA’s research on using LED lights for wound healing in space.
Unlocking the healing power of red light therapy can be a game-changer for those dealing with chronic pain, as it offers a natural and drug-free alternative to traditional pain management methods. But gaining a better understanding of its potential is just the first step. To effectively use red light therapy for pain relief, knowing the proper techniques, equipment and protocols is important. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about how to use red light therapy for pain — from choosing the right device to developing a personalized treatment plan. Whether you’re new to red light therapy or a seasoned user, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and tools to make the most of this powerful pain management technique.
Understanding the Terminology
It’s important to understand that the terms “red light therapy” and “infrared therapy” do have some differences. Regular red light has a longer wavelength than infrared light, meaning it can only penetrate the surface of the skin and is primarily used for skin treatments like reducing the appearance of wrinkles and promoting collagen production. On the other hand, infrared light has a shorter wavelength, allowing it to penetrate deeper into the body’s tissues, making it more effective for pain relief and healing.
However, in practice, the terms “red light therapy” and “infrared therapy” are often used interchangeably, and many devices marketed for “red light therapy” actually emit both red and infrared light. We will use the terms “red light therapy” and “infrared therapy” interchangeably, as the principles behind their use for pain management are similar.
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The Science Behind Red Light Therapy
Bear with us while we get technical for a moment, but understanding the science behind red light therapy can help you see why it’s such a powerful tool for pain management and healing. Red light therapy works by stimulating the mitochondria, the powerhouses of our cells that produce ATP, the energy currency of the body. When red and near-infrared light penetrates the skin and reaches the mitochondria, it triggers a process called photobiomodulation.
During photobiomodulation, the light energy is converted into chemical energy, which the mitochondria use to produce more ATP. This increased ATP production gives cells the energy they need to function optimally, repair damage and promote healing. Additionally, photobiomodulation has been shown to increase nitric oxide production, which dilates blood vessels and improves circulation, further supporting the body’s natural healing processes.
Red light therapy has also been found to have anti-inflammatory effects, which can be particularly beneficial for those with chronic pain. Studies have shown that red light therapy can reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines, which play a role in pain and inflammation. Additionally, red light therapy has been found to promote collagen production. This protein supports the body’s connective tissues and can help to reduce pain and stiffness.
The science behind red light therapy is still being explored, but the evidence so far suggests that it can be a powerful tool for promoting healing, reducing inflammation and managing pain. So whether you suffer from chronic pain, injury or simply want to improve your overall health and wellness, red light therapy may be worth considering as a natural, non-invasive treatment option.
Using Red Light Therapy for Different Types of Pain
From chronic conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia to acute injuries like sports strains and dental pain, red light therapy offers a wide range of potential benefits for pain relief. Whether you’re dealing with back pain, migraine headaches or menstrual cramps, red light therapy may be a promising treatment option to consider.
Here are some common conditions where it can be useful:
- Chronic pain – When managing conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia, red light therapy may help reduce inflammation, improve circulation and accelerate healing, providing relief for those struggling with chronic pain conditions.
- Acute pain – Whether it’s a sports injury or muscle strain, red light therapy may help reduce swelling and inflammation, promoting faster recovery and alleviating pain from injuries or muscle strains.
- Dental pain management – When dealing with dental pain such as toothaches and post-extraction discomfort, red light therapy can reduce inflammation and promote tissue repair, resulting in less throbbing pain so you can get back to living your life.
- Headache and migraine pain relief – Infrared therapy can help alleviate tension headaches and migraines by improving circulation, reducing inflammation and relaxing muscles.
- Nerve pain and neuropathy – For individuals suffering from nerve pain and neuropathy, red light therapy offers the potential to reduce pain and improve nerve function. This is particularly important for those dealing with damaged or malfunctioning nerves.
- Back pain and sciatica – Find relief through red light therapy, which can help alleviate lower back pain and sciatica by reducing inflammation and promoting healing. This therapy offers a non-invasive and drug-free alternative to traditional back pain management methods, around which much controversy exists.
- Menstrual pain and cramps – Menstrual pain and cramps can be debilitating for many women. Red light therapy can provide relief by reducing inflammation and promoting relaxation in the pelvic muscles.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist pain – These conditions can be caused by various factors, such as repetitive motion or injury. Red light therapy may provide relief by reducing inflammation and promoting healing in the wrist. This non-invasive treatment has the potential to alleviate pain and discomfort, helping you regain your quality of life.
- Neck and shoulder pain – This pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor posture and tension. Infrared light therapy can help alleviate this pain by reducing inflammation, improving circulation and promoting muscle relaxation.
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Special Populations and Situations
In addition to the general population, red light therapy can also provide pain relief for special populations and situations. These include:
- Pregnancy – While pregnant women should always consult a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment, red light therapy has been used to manage pain during pregnancy, such as lower back pain and joint discomfort. It’s important to ensure the safety of both the mother and the unborn baby, so again, consulting with a healthcare professional is a must.
- Pediatric Pain Management – Red light therapy can be a safe, non-invasive option for managing pain in children, but always consult with a pediatrician before starting treatment. As with any medical treatment, it’s important to ensure the safety of the child and to seek professional guidance.
- Elderly Individuals – Infrared light therapy can help alleviate age-related pain, such as arthritis, by reducing inflammation and promoting tissue repair. This can provide significant relief for elderly individuals who may be struggling with chronic pain and other age-related conditions.
- Veterinary Medicine – Red light therapy has been successfully used in veterinary medicine to manage pain in animals, such as dogs and horses, suffering from arthritis or injuries. This non-invasive treatment can provide relief for animals in pain and can be a viable alternative to traditional pain management methods.
Combining Red Light Therapy with Other Techniques and Treatments
Integrating red light therapy with other treatments and techniques can enhance its effectiveness, providing even greater relief for those struggling with pain. Here are some examples:
- Post-Surgery Pain Management – Combining red light therapy with standard post-surgery care can help reduce inflammation, promote healing and accelerate recovery. This can be a great option for those who are recovering from surgery and looking for natural ways to manage pain.
- Nutrition and Supplementation – Nutrition and supplements are important for managing pain because certain nutrients can help alleviate chronic pain through the management of inflammation via oxidative stress, and a balanced diet has a positive effect in reducing chronic pain. Additional red light therapy may provide a more holistic approach, boosting the effects of supplements and improving nutrient absorption.
- Post-Workout Recovery – Incorporating red light therapy into your post-workout routine can help reduce muscle soreness and inflammation, promoting faster recovery. This can be a great option for athletes or fitness enthusiasts who are looking to speed up their recovery time and reduce pain. You can use it alongside massage therapy, acupuncture and other treatments to speed up recovery and get back to training faster than before.
- Sleep Disorder Therapy – A weighted blanket can help with better sleep and sleep disorders like insomnia by calming the heart rate and breathing, which prepares the body for rest. Red light therapy can also be helpful for people with insomnia and circadian rhythm sleep disorders, so it is possible that the calming effects of both therapies could work together to promote better sleep.
- Daily Pain Management Routine – By combining gentle exercise, stretching, meditation and relaxation techniques with regular red light therapy sessions, you may experience enhanced pain relief and greater overall physical and mental health. The natural, drug-free nature of red light therapy makes it a particularly attractive option for those seeking an alternative to prescription medications or other traditional pain management methods. Plus, the convenience of at-home red light therapy devices makes it easy to incorporate into a daily routine.
Choosing the Right Red Light Therapy Device for Pain Relief
When it comes to choosing a red light therapy device for pain relief, there are various options available on the market. Here are three popular devices to consider:
- Infrared Sauna Blanket – This portable, at-home device provides a full-body treatment. It uses infrared light to penetrate the skin and tissues, relieving pain for various conditions. An infrared sauna blanket is a great option for those seeking a relaxing, full-body experience.
- Portable Infrared Back Wrap – A portable infrared back wrap can be a game-changer for those suffering from back pain. This device wraps around the lower back and uses infrared light to reduce inflammation and promote healing. This calming heat back wrap is portable and can be used on the go, making it a convenient option for those with a busy lifestyle.
- Infrared Heat Pad – An infrared heat pad is another at-home option for pain relief. It uses infrared light to penetrate deep into the tissues, providing targeted relief for a range of conditions, including menstrual cramps, arthritis and muscle pain. This device is convenient and easy to use, making it a popular choice for those seeking at-home pain relief.
When choosing a red-light therapy device, consider the device’s size, portability and power output. Additionally, make sure to choose a device with a proven track record and FDA clearance. Considering these factors, you can select the best device for your specific needs and maximize the benefits of red light therapy for pain relief.
At-Home vs. Professional Red Light Therapy for Pain Management
When it comes to using red light therapy for pain relief, you can self-administer treatments with at-home devices or seek professional treatment. At-home devices offer convenience, allowing you to administer treatments at your own pace and on your own schedule. They are also often less expensive than professional sessions, making them a more budget-friendly option for those seeking pain relief.
On the other hand, professional red light therapy sessions may provide a more comprehensive treatment plan. A healthcare provider can tailor treatments, as well as monitor your progress and adjust as necessary. Since they are generally more expensive than at-home devices, you can see if professional sessions are covered by insurance. Otherwise, you may want to consider the use of at-home devices with healthcare professional consults to achieve pain relief without breaking the bank.
Unlock the Restorative Power of Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy is a promising treatment option for those seeking a natural and drug-free alternative to traditional pain management methods. With its ability to reduce inflammation, promote tissue repair and manage pain in various conditions, red light therapy is a versatile tool for promoting healing and overall wellness. By choosing the right device for your needs and considering the option of professional treatment, you can maximize the benefits of red light therapy and unlock its potential as a powerful pain management tool.
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Red light therapy is noninvasive and is painless for most people. A handheld device may be pressed against the skin at the site of the injury or pain. If you are lying in a full body bed or pod that uses both red and near-infrared light, you may feel warmth from the near-infrared bulbs.How long does it take for red light therapy to work for pain? ›
Red light therapy starts to work immediately, and the results only get better with each session. Improvement for long-term problems is usually noticeable after 8 to 12 weeks of consistent use. As with other treatments, the results of red light therapy are long-lasting, but they are not permanent.Does red light therapy really help with pain? ›
Benefits of red light therapy
Its major benefits include improving joint mobility and easing muscle pain. More specifically, red light therapy helps with: Arthritis pain. Joint pain.
Timing and Frequency Techniques
It's recommended to start with shorter treatment times and gradually increase duration, allowing the skin to adjust to the therapy. Generally, it's best to use red light therapy for at least 10 minutes, but no more than 20-30 minutes per session, two to three times per week.
What Should I Put on My Face Before Red Light Therapy? For best results, it's always recommended to use LED products on a clean face with no serums or moisturizers. This allows the light therapy to effectively penetrate the skin without any barriers.How many minutes should I use red light therapy? ›
We recommend doing at least a 5-minute treatment daily to get maximum results. People who use it diligently for 4 to 6 weeks see more pronounced results. Since using the device more often improves your results, it can get costly to go to a salon or spa since you will need several sessions to see results.Can you overdo red light therapy? ›
In fact, you can't overdo LED light therapy. Overuse won't cause burning or damage to the skin, but it won't fast-track your results, either. Generally, LED light therapy works best when used at least three to five times a week over a four to five week period.Does red light therapy get rid of inflammation? ›
Natural light therapy & inflammation treatment: Red light therapy alleviates chronic inflammation by increasing blood flow to the damaged tissues, and it's been found in numerous clinical trials to increase the body's antioxidant defenses.Is 30 minutes too long for red light therapy? ›
15-20 minutes for symptomatic areas may be beneficial, but beyond that, the evidence points to diminishing returns (your cells can only absorb so much light at once). For this reason, we recommend you allow at least 6 hours between treatments of the same area.How long does it take for red light therapy to reduce inflammation? ›
The good news is that red light therapy does start helping your body from the very first session, but continued treatments help achieve more lasting results. You may see or feel minor results immediately, but the best results are typically achieved over 3-6 months if you consistently visit Sculptology for treatments.
Is red light therapy safe? Our experts believe that red light therapy is safe, as long as you use an FDA-cleared device at its recommended dosage. While most FDA-approved LED masks have cutouts for the eyes, some do not.What is the best red light therapy for inflammation? ›
Beurer Infrared Heat Lamp – Best Overall
The infrared light therapy provided by this heat lamp penetrates deep layers of the skin for better pain relief. It also improves cardiovascular health and treats inflammation while promoting cell repair.
The length of Red light therapy sessions depends on the type of device used. Treatments vary from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. Some hand-held devices can be used within 3-5 minutes per treatment area. However, treatments may become longer depending on how big the surface area you are working on.How much water should I drink after red light therapy? ›
After your treatment, drinking plenty of water will help to flush your lymphatic system and rid your body of the fat and toxins. For optimal results, drink 8-10 glasses of water on non-treatment days to allow your body to remove toxins and flush them away as you begin burning up fat. Hydration is key with the Light!How many times a day should you do red light therapy? ›
This is not a one-time treatment for most skin conditions. You'll need to be seen one to three times a week for weeks or even months.What not to use with red light therapy? ›
The major contraindications for the use of light therapy are diseases that involve the retina of the eye, such as diabetes, and the use of photosensitizing medications like lithium, melatonin, phenothiazine antipsychotics, and certain antibiotics.What not to do before red light therapy? ›
Guide to Preparing Your Skin for Red Light Therapy
Treat your skin nicely—avoid irritating your skin with aggressive exfoliant products or sun exposure. Clean your skin with a gentle, non-drying cleanser before treatment to remove any mineral-based sunscreen or makeup containing zinc.
In the morning: Using red light therapy in the morning, similar to the sunrise, suppresses melatonin (the sleep hormone) and gives you the energy to start the day. In the evening: Using red light therapy in the evening at least 60 minutes before bed (1-2 hours before seems to be optimal).Do you need goggles for red light therapy? ›
Protective eyewear is included and should be used whenever the NIR mode is active and the eyes are within the beam window, which is the surface area of the device. This includes the following light modes - Red + NIR, NIR only, and Recovery+.How many days in a row can you do red light therapy? ›
“If you are using a handheld device, it can be used 3-5 times a week for 10-20 minutes each time.” Dr. Paulvin himself recommends undergoing red light therapy 4-5 times per week, ideally, as it takes consistency to get more noticeable results. “There is no maximum or limit to exposure,” he adds.
Start with three a week, and more up to five times a week if your schedule allows. The most important part is to be consistent to see results. So you really want to ensure you are doing your Red Light Therapy at three twice a week, every week.Why am I tired after red light therapy? ›
The theory is that red light wavelengths stimulate the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps you sleep.Does red light therapy have any negative effects? ›
Potential side effects
RLT is a completely natural process. It exposes the skin to levels of light that are not harmful — unlike UV light coming from the sun. Because of this, there is virtually no risk of side effects from undergoing RLT.
For best results, follow Red Light Therapy with Localized Cryotherapy, or the “ice” portion of the treatment.Is it good to do red light therapy every day? ›
Can you do red light therapy everyday? The answer is yes. As long as you are following the manufacturers instructions, you can use red light therapy everyday. If you have chronic pain, it's recommended to start a daily routine with using red light therapy.What are the immediate benefits of red light therapy? ›
stimulates healing of slow-healing wounds, like diabetic foot ulcers. reduces psoriasis lesions. aids with short-term relief of pain and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. reduces some of the side effects of cancer treatments, including oral mucositis.How close should red light therapy be to your face? ›
With hand-held devices, you might hold the tool 6 to 12 inches from your face for 10 minutes. Whatever device you choose, be sure to follow the directions carefully.How many red light sessions does it take to see results? ›
process when you use red light therapy. This means that results start to appear much more quickly than they do with many other treatments. You can expect visible results from just one session of red light therapy!How many times can I do red light therapy? ›
For best results, we recommend the following red light treatment regimen: 3-5 treatments per week during the first 4 weeks. 2-3 treatments during the next 4 to 8 weeks. 1-2 treatments per week to maintain results.How long does it take for red light to tighten skin? ›
It may not be instant but after each day, you and other people will notice the difference in your skin. In clinical studies, it takes at least 4-6 weeks to see visible results. Be patient. Your body is doing its work to reverse the hands of time.
The application of red and near infra-red light is designed to maximise the efficiency and performance of your brain. It delivers near infra-red energy to neurons, which helps to increase spatial awareness and reflex time and balance.Does red light therapy results last? ›
Experts say you will likely see some skin-enhancing effects with red light therapy, but as with most skin rejuvenation treatments, most visible results will be temporary. “This is not going to stop the clock,” says Dr. Baron. But that's why regular use is recommended, either in an office, spa, or at home.What color light helps inflammation? ›
Photobiomodulation (PBM) also known as low-level level laser therapy is the use of red and near-infrared light to stimulate healing, relieve pain, and reduce inflammation.Which is better red light therapy or infrared? ›
If you want to treat skin conditions on the surface, Red light LED session is focused and effective. If there is toxicity in the body or stronger metabolic effects are desired, an Infrared session may be the better choice.How many hours do you spend at a red light? ›
Driving can be a fun and liberating activity—until you get stuck at a red light, that is. The National Association of City Transportation Officials says that the average time spent waiting at a red light is 75 seconds, accounting for approximately 20% of all driving time.How long after red light therapy can I shower? ›
Home Care for Red Light for Ameluz/Red Light for Treatment of Skin Cancers. Day of Treatment: Remain indoors as much as possible over the next 48 hours. You may shower and gently cleanse the treated area.Should I moisturize after red light therapy? ›
There are special skin-care products for red light treatments, which complement and intensify its action. The use of normal day cream/body lotion after a red light treatment is not necessary, but will not have any negative effect on the results.Should I moisturize before or after red light therapy? ›
LED light therapy should be undertaken when the skin is clean - after removing makeup and thoroughly cleansing the skin, and before you apply any serums, moisturisers or treatments.How long does it take for light therapy to work? ›
Many people experience some benefits from light therapy within a few days. Symptoms of depression should improve in about 2 weeks. If they do not, you can increase your time in front of a 10,000 lux lamp to 60 minutes per day. If this does not work, you can reach out to a doctor for advice.How do you do red light therapy at home? ›
We recommend once daily use, although using your device 2-3 times a day may be beneficial for symptomatic areas. Using red light therapy is simple and easy: Switch on your Vital Red Light, aim it at the part of your body that you wish to treat, and relax for 10 minutes.
Can you do red light therapy everyday? The answer is yes. As long as you are following the manufacturers instructions, you can use red light therapy everyday. If you have chronic pain, it's recommended to start a daily routine with using red light therapy.What color light is best for pain? ›
A new study, led by pharmacologist Mohab M. Ibrahim, M.D., Ph. D., found that the color green may be key to easing pain.What are the effects of too much red light therapy? ›
Potential side effects
However, a practitioner with little experience or someone who exposes themselves to too much of the treatment may cause tissue and cell damage. Products for use at home may also lead to misuse, causing damage to the skin, burns, or damage to unprotected eyes.
You'll likely need ongoing treatments. This is not a one-time treatment for most skin conditions. You'll need to be seen one to three times a week for weeks or even months.Is red light therapy better in the morning or night? ›
In the morning: Using red light therapy in the morning, similar to the sunrise, suppresses melatonin (the sleep hormone) and gives you the energy to start the day. In the evening: Using red light therapy in the evening at least 60 minutes before bed (1-2 hours before seems to be optimal).When should you avoid red light therapy? ›
The major contraindications for the use of light therapy are diseases that involve the retina of the eye, such as diabetes, and the use of photosensitizing medications like lithium, melatonin, phenothiazine antipsychotics, and certain antibiotics.Which light is best for inflammation? ›
Red LED light therapy may reduce inflammation and stimulate the production of collagen, a protein responsible for younger-looking skin that diminishes with age. Blue LED light therapy may destroy acne-causing bacteria (P. acnes).What color is healing pain? ›
Green: Adds harmony, balance, and natural healing. It's a safe color for both physical and emotional pain relief.