Red light therapy is taking the health community by storm. The positive reviews and life changing experiences that people are having with their red light panels continue to spread.
Most people dismiss the benefits as being 'too good to be true', and I admit I was one of these doubters when I first heard about how light could be so healing.
But it's now being over 6 years since I received my first red light device and I've seen first hand the benefits this therapeutic light has had on my health and body.
This article isn't about me however, instead, I took a deep-dive into the literature and discovered what the sciences say about the health benefits of red light therapy.
Also, at the end of the article I share my own personal experiences with using red light therapy after 5+ years.
Let us begin.
Red Light and Health
Let's first consider how red light therapy can improve your health. To be specific, red light therapy can:
- decrease inflammation,
- improve thyroid functioning,
- increase gym performance,
- boost recovery,
- and promote optimal testosterone levels among other things.
I'll treat these subjects one by one.
But first, a quick overview of how light impacts the body. It is now well known that the body responds to light—different wavelengths of light create different effects on the body. Light in the range from 600nm to 900nm has been shown to create the biggest biological response (most of this range is encompassed by red light).
The energy from this light is absorbed by the body and through a series of metabolic events this light energy is converted into cellular energy. For example, one benefit is the release of ATP—more ATP in the cell - better cellular functioning.
Below, I have listed some of the most common ways red light can help the body heal, recover and improve performance.
1. Red Light Decreases Inflammation
Red light therapy can dramatically lower inflammation levels in the body (3). This means that red light can be used to treat problems like osteoarthritis, joint injuries, and excessive swelling without any of the side-effects that are commonly associated with inflammation-reducing non-prescription drugs such as NSAIDs (4).
Exercise therapy and red light therapy actually work synergistically in reducing inflammation, meaning that they improve each other’s effects (5). So if you're just exercising without taking advantage of red light therapy, you might not reduce localized or systemic inflammation as well as you could. Your injuries could, thus, heal much faster if you decide to integrate red light therapy into your life.
The efficacy of red light therapy for reducing inflammation has been scientifically demonstrated on many different locations of the human body such as the back, neck, shoulders, knees and even the jaw. This means that you can use a red light therapy device—even a small one—to very specifically treat an area that is bothering you.
Inflammation is actually a problem that extends way beyond the health of joints or the recovery from injuries. Many modern diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer are all associated with excessive inflammation levels.(6) This does not mean that inflammation is the single underlying cause of these diseases, but it instead means that inflammation is one important issue related to these diseases.
Inflammation is not always a bad thing. Some activities, such as exercise, temporarily increase inflammation due to damage that is caused to the body. However, when individuals habitually exercise, these activities actually decrease their general inflammation levels in the body (7).
Red light therapy has the same effect... decreasing elevated inflammation levels to more healthy levels.
Larger (and more expensive) red therapy devices may come in handy when curbing systemic inflammation that is not localized to a specific area of the body. Another previously treated option to reduce systemic inflammation is to use cold therapy.
2. Red Light Upgrades Thyroid Functioning
Red light therapy can increase thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones are very important because they are responsible for adequate energy production in the human body. While a lot of different variables are responsible for energy production, the thyroid is one of the most essential body parts responsible for actually creating high energy levels so that you do not feel sluggish.
Red light therapy can actually improve hypothyroidism conditions (9). To achieve this effect, red light therapy should be applied to the thyroid on the body for longer periods of time (10). Measurable differences can be achieved within a week of daily applications.
The same effect is true for thyroid hormones in healthy individuals who improve their thyroid function as well. A benefit tied to up-regulated thyroid functioning is increased fat loss and higher body temperatures (11]; 12)
Combining red light therapy with exercise increases fat loss to a greater extent than exercise alone. This is yet another reason why working out in the sunlight is more beneficial than working out indoors under the typical blue-light lighting of a gym.
Getting enough light during the day, even if it's red light therapy on days that you cannot get out in the sun, is also very beneficial for weight loss (13). However, if you were to choose between sitting inside exposed to a red light therapy device or laying outside in the sun, always choose sunlight because it has many more all-around health benefits.
3. Red Light Therapy Can Help With Fat Loss
It's not just that red light therapy helps you lose fat: what's even more surprising, is that red light therapy may help you lose fat from problematic areas. The waist, hips, and tights are especially affected by red light therapy.
For the best results, you need to combine red light therapy with a healthy diet and other fat-loss supporting behaviours, such as sunlight, making sure you don't expose yourself to artificial light after sunset, adding some cold exposure, and exercise (if you're healthy overall).
To get even better results, lower your overall (psychological) stress levels.
It's important to remember that red light therapy is not a magic pill. Instead, red light therapy only supports any already-effective fat loss routine.
4. Red Light Therapy Leads To Increased Performance in the Gym
Red light therapy will also increase your performance in the gym. One of the main mechanisms whereby red light increases performance is by stimulating mitochondria functioning in the human body.
Remember that mitochondria are the main energy producing entities in (human) cells. Red light therapy influences these mitochondria to increase the production of their main energy source called ATP (14).
Red light therapy not only improves the functioning of the existing mitochondria but also helps create new mitochondria. This means that red light therapy can aid in increasing energy over time because of the new mitochondria.
Red light therapy also has additional performance benefits—increasing the gains from any workout you might complete in the gym (15). Red light therapy, when combined with exercise, improves muscle size and power to greater extents than exercise alone. This positive effect applies to both strength and endurance gains from workout sessions.
5. Red Light Therapy Speeds Up Recovery
Red light therapy stimulates the activity of stem cells which are the basic undifferentiated cells in the body. Stem cells can turn into any cell with a specific function, such as skin cells or muscle cells (16). Such stem cell activity can consequently decrease levels of general fatigue, meaning you will feel less tired after a workout, because the stem cells are turned into new cells.
Red light therapy also increases recovery after exercise. This means that after applying red light, you can last longer the next workout, use more volume during subsequent workouts and protect yourself from excessive damage that has resulted from previous workouts (17).
The effects of red light therapy are actually so large that questions have emerged whether red light therapy should be considered doping (18). In essence, red light therapy might be considered a very healthy unfair advantage for gym performance because red light therapy does not have any serious side effects.
Additionally, red light therapy increases muscle blood flow, preventing excessive scar tissue from forming in the first place (19). Scar tissue is a common problem associated with injuries. It is related to immobility issues and increases the risk of developing injuries over time (20).
Tendons that are located near the application area of red light therapy increase their speed of regeneration (21). The same is true for ligaments—torn ligaments improve their healing when red light therapy is applied (22).
Another beauty of red light therapy is that it might help prevent injuries from occurring in the first place because of increased blood flow and reduced scar tissue build-up.
Overall, red light therapy can help you recover faster, make you less prone to get injured and heal any current injuries that you have much quicker.
6. Red Light Therapy Can Promote Optimal Testosterone Levels
Optimal hormone functioning actually starts in the brain. Different brain areas, such as the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, are involved in that process. Up until recently, however, it was not known that thyroid function also affects steroid hormone production (23).
Thus, improving thyroid function will also improve steroid hormone production, such as testosterone. To accomplish this effect, you specifically need to use the red light device on your thyroid.
Optimal testosterone levels are not only important for men, but for women as well. Testosterone in women is linked to sex drive, energy and general levels of well-being (24). In women, testosterone is produced in the ovaries—while in men, testosterone is produced in the testicles.
In addition to improving steroid functioning through thyroid hormones, red light therapy can also increase steroid hormones such as testosterone by directly stimulating the energy production in organs associated therewith. An example would be testosterone production in the testicles (25).
Remember that red light can penetrate deeply into the body thereby increasing energy production in specific organs. When the correct dose of red light therapy is applied to the testicles, it might actually increase testosterone levels up to three-fold (26).
Sadly enough, no such scientific studies have investigated the effects of red light therapy on the ovaries yet.
7. Red Light Therapy Increases Energy Levels
Red light therapy makes the creation of "ATP" - the energy form we've talked about earlier - more efficient (375; 376; 377; 378).
The deeper red light penetrates into your tissues, the more ATP can be created. Many studies have also demonstrated that red light therapy can offer positive benefits for lowering fatigue.
If you've got energy issues, it's thus highly recommended to try some red light therapy in your life.
Don't want to buy a device yet? Look for a spa or beauty salon nearby - these places often offer red light therapy treatments nowadays.
Therapy at these places is expensive though. From a value point of view, you are better off buying your own in home red light therapy panel.
8. Red Light Enhances Blood Circulation
Red and infrared light penetrates up to a couple of inches into your body, that penetration means that the red and infrared light can also reach your blood vessels (60; 399; 400; 401; 402; 403; 404; 405; 406)
Red light therapy has many effects on your blood circulation. First of all, red light therapy helps your body create new blood vessels. Secondly, your "microcirculation" is enhanced, which is the blood circulation of your smallest blood vessels.
Circulation matters a lot...
If your body's circulation is not good, oxygen is not transported well in your body. Blood circulation is also important for getting rid of toxic waste products and delivering nutrients.
Red light therapy is thereby also "winning" in the anti-ageing department - as circulation declines with ageing. Red light therapy thus allows you to age more gracefully.
9. Red Light Boosts Fertility
In men, red light therapy can improve semen volume, its movement, and survival.[192; 193; 195; 196] Modern men need that boost, especially because fertility levels have been going down for decades.
Red light therapy can also help men with erectile dysfunction.[310; 311; 312] Erectile dysfunction has also become more common in the last few decades, at increasingly younger ages.
While there are many possible underlying issues why men end up with erectile dysfunction, not having adequate blood flow is one of them.
How does red light therapy improve erectile dysfunction?
Well, red light therapy increases the amount of CO2 in your blood. Contrary to popular opinion, CO2 is not just a waste product. CO2 helps you carry more oxygen in your blood, and also opens up your blood vessels.
Due to opening up your blood vessels, more blood can flow to your penis.
Fortunately, men aren't the only ones benefited by red light therapy...
In women, almost 25% of severely infertile women conceived after treatment with red light therapy (194; 196; 197) That's an enormous boost in fertility because you can expect the boost in women who are not "severely infertile" to be much bigger.
There are indications that red light therapy even improves egg quality, and slows down the (eventual) decline in female fertility. As a woman, you're thus able to have children at a higher age (which is not always a good choice though).
Great news for many people who are unable to get children (yet) though...
10. Red Light Therapy May Boost Your Immune System
There are several mechanisms through which that immune boost is accomplished. Let's go through these reasons one by one.
First of all, red light therapy can stimulate the "thymus" gland in your chest. That gland is essential to your immune system, but sadly enough degenerates with ageing. Red light therapy can slow that degeneration process.
Red light therapy thus helps you stay healthier at an older age.
Secondly, red light therapy increases the activity of several immune-system-cells (124). Different types of immune cells exist.
Macrophages, for example, clean up dead cells and respond to infections (125; 126; 127). Red light therapy can increase the functioning of those macrophages.
Dendritic cells, which have more of a messaging function, also increase through red light therapy - although that positive effect is yet to be established in humans (128^) .
Mast cells, a specific type of white blood cell, are significantly increased by red light therapy when such an increase is necessary for a proper immune response(129; 130; 131; 132; 133). One role of mast cells is to create fibrous material in wound healing.
Lastly, red light therapy positively affects both "leukocytes" and "lymph cells". Leukocytes are white blood cells countering invaders in your blood. Lymph cells, secondly, are active in detoxification. In these specific areas though, more human research is needed as well (134; 135; 136).
Red light therapy may thus prevent disease, and keep your immune system stronger at an older age.
11. Red Light Boosts Eye Health.
Red light therapy's eye health-boosting effects are especially noticeable if you're already having eye problems.
Your eyes have an enormously high relative energy demand, compared to tissues of the same size (159). Decreases in the body's energy production are thus very prone to first affect eye health (160; 161).
It's thus not surprising that red light therapy helps to treat eye problems, as red light therapy is so influential in improving energy production in the body.
Let's consider a few eye pathologies that are helped by red light therapy (don't try to remember these names though):
- "age-related macular degeneration", wherein the light-sensitive area in your eye degenerates (162; 163; 164).
- cataracts, which is a clouding of the lens of your eye (163).
- dry eye problems, or "meibomian gland dysfunction" (165).
While more (human) research is needed to understand the effects of red light therapy on your eyes, the current results are very promising.
And myopia is just one eye disease. Eye problems are thus not a "side issue" in health care, and it's amazing that red light therapy might help offer eyesight improvement.
12. Red Light Helps Stem Cells Proliferate
Stem cells can differentiate in all types of cells, such as brain cells, muscle cells, and bone cells. Phrased differently, the undifferentiated stem cells can thus transform into a cell with a more specialized task.
When red and infrared light hits stem cells, it helps these cells proliferate (149; 150; 151; 152; 153; 154; 155; 156; 157). Your body is thus more able to use stem cells for creating new brain cells, or repair wounds.
But there's another reason why red light therapy is interesting:
Since a few years, stem cell therapy has become very popular. In stem cell therapy, your own stem cells, animal stem cells, or stem cells cultivated in a lab are inserted in your body.
Those stem cells can help restore damaged organ function, for example. Other goals of stem cell therapy are to slow down ageing, help you perform better, decreasing pain, and just looking younger overall.
By adding red light therapy on top of your stem cell therapy, you may get additional benefits.
More studies on human beings are currently needed though...
Red Light and Beauty
In addition to improving general health, red light therapy can also be used for looks and beauty. Red light therapy has proven benefits for increasing skin health, healing wounds and scar tissue, improving oral care and reversing hair loss.
13. Red Light Produces Vibrant Radiant Skin Health
Nowadays, many people have skin issues and try to cover such issues up with cosmetics or use other invasive treatments that commonly have serious side-effects. Red light therapy has been proven to improve the looks of the skin without resulting in any known side-effects (27). Red light therapy increases blood flow to the skin thereby increasing the skin's regeneration.
Additionally, red light activates stem cells around the skin which then aids them to proliferate into new skin cells. In turn, many skin processes improve, such as: reducing acne, inhibiting scar tissue in the skin, reducing sunburn, inhibiting striae and even healing burn wounds (28).
Red light therapy can also improve skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema and psoriasis.
However, even if you don't have any skin issues, red light therapy will still improve the looks of your skin. This skin improvement is achieved through an increase in collagen formation in the skin.
The skin will become tighter and smoother. Wrinkles will be reduced in number and decrease in size. The collagen density of the skin will improve (29). The feeling of the skin and the complexion of the skin are also enhanced.
This means that even if you're a very healthy 20-year-old woman, red light therapy can improve your beauty without the associated downsides that many commercial cosmetics have. So even if you don't have any scars, the moisture and collagen formation from red light therapy will still surprise you in positive ways.
14. Red Light Therapy Enhances Wound Healing
Red light therapy can also aid in healing damaged skin, such as wounds. Wounds are often problematic because they take a long time to heal and might leave scar tissue. Red light therapy enhances the wound healing process even after surgery (30).
After the wounds are gone, red light therapy can significantly reduce scar tissue formation (31). Treatments with red light therapy decrease scar tissue in both circumference and thickness.
15. Red Light Therapy Prevents and Treats Sunburn Damage
There's also anecdotal evidence that you can use red light therapy to both prevent sunburns and lower the intensity of sunburns.
To prevent sunburns, use red light therapy for a few minutes on the skin before stepping into the sunlight. Red light therapy protects you from sunburns because the infrared light is actually stored in the human body. Venturing into the morning sun, which also contains a high portion of infrared light, can also help you prevent sunburns later that day. The same effect is reached through red light therapy.
To help yourself recover from sunburns, apply red light therapy to the affected areas for just a couple of minutes. Red light therapy accomplishes this effect by improving skin recovery.
16. Red Light Therapy Improves Oral Health
Next, red light therapy can be used for oral care. Red light therapy applied to the teeth decreases hypersensitivity of the teeth (32; 33), reduces harmful mouth bacteria (34), heals wounds and gums in the mouth and increases the bone remodelling after teeth damage (36).
This means that red light therapy can aid good dental practice... working as a holistic method to improve all-around dental care.
To use red light therapy for oral care, the light does not only need to penetrate into the cheeks, but the light needs to reach the teeth as well. You can simply add a few minutes of red light therapy after brushing your teeth every day.
17. Red Light Therapy Can Reverse Hair Loss
Red light therapy can reverse hair loss in both men and women (37).
This means that red light therapy might be a preferable option before prescription drugs are used to reverse hair loss because these prescription drugs often come with side-effects.
While red light therapy is not a universal solution to hair loss—meaning that it won't work in 100% of the cases—other options such as prescription drugs are not a universally working solution either. Thus, red light therapy is a non-invasive therapy that you could try before attempting to fix hair loss with more invasive options.
Red Light and Well-Being
I've treated the benefits of red light therapy for general health improvements, gym recovery and beauty. Now I'll explore some benefits of red light therapy for general well-being.
18. Red Light Decreases Pain
Red light therapy can decrease perceived levels of pain, even in common diseases like osteoarthritis, back pain and other joint disorders (38; 39; 40). Red light therapy is also an effective treatment for headaches when applying it to the head (41). Even chronic pain decreases in intensity after red light therapy (42).
More research needs to be carried out regarding this topic, but red light therapy seems to be a promising modality to treat different types of pain at different locations of the body.
19. Red Light Boosts Your Mood
When the red light is applied to the skull, it penetrates into the brain. Applying the light for just a few minutes to the brain decreases anxiety and depression (43).
While such treatments currently do not have any side-effects associated with them, I would advise you to do some research concerning the application parameters before trying red light therapy on the brain (44).
The best option would be to buy a device that is preconfigured in terms of application variables (light dosage, time of usage and position of use) so that you are assured of the best possible treatment.
Many users of red light therapy actually state that their moods are significantly improved after a red light therapy session.
20. Red Light Protects Against Cell Stress
Let's say your body is under lots of stress, for example, due to too much physical labor or jet lag after some long haul travel. In that case, red light therapy can reduce these negative effects (187; 188; 189; 190; 191).
These effects have (currently) only been proven in animal studies. But because most animal studies point the same way, it's expected that for humans the effects will be roughly similar.
21. Red Light Increases Your Brain Function
There are several ways to use red light therapy for improving brain function (86; 87; 88; 89; 90)
The first option is to use red light therapy LED panels, which I've talked about earlier. But there's another option. The second - and better - option, is to use red light therapy devices that are specifically made for your brain. An example is the Vielight Neuro Alpha (get a 10% discount with code ALEX10)
Basically, the Vielight is a "headset" that you put on your brain, which then emits light that passes your skull.
What are that headset's alleged benefits?
- First, you'll have better memory consolidation - which means you'll better remember anything you learn.
- Secondly, helping your brain cells become healthier.
- Thirdly, attention, reaction time, brain energy, and mood are all enhanced.
- Lastly, even if you're healthy, red light therapy protects your brain cells and helps new brain cells to grow, and genes that are protective to the nervous system to be activated...
These beneficial effects are especially profound once you've already got brain problems, such as a traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer. If your brain is healthy, however, using red and infrared light on your brain will still have benefits.
22. Red Light Clears Your Nose & Helps You Breathe Properly
In other words, red light therapy clears your nasal passages (95; 96; 97; 98; 99). This effect is especially helpful for people who have certain allergies, such as hay fever (137; 138; 139).
Don't want to buy a red light panel, but want to treat your sinuses with red light anyway?
Buy a red light device that's specifically targeted towards treating your nose. There are cheaper variations which have decent reviews, and higher-quality ones which are recommended for longer-term use (use discount code ALEX10 for a 10% discount)
On the one hand, there are not many studies which have investigated the effects of red light therapy on blocked nasal sinuses. On the other hand, there are thousands of customer reviews of red light devices that indicate that red light therapy alleviates a blocked nose.
If you've got problems with allergies, I highly recommend trying a cheaper red light therapy device that can be put in your nose first. There's almost no downside risk to trying, and a huge improvement in your life as a possible beneficial upside.
Don't walk around with clogged sinuses all the time - you can do something about that problem. If red light therapy does not work, I can help to improve your breathing pattern.
23. Red Light Helps You Sleep Deeper At Night
If you expose yourself to red light therapy at the right times of the day, your body can increase its secretion of a hormone called "melatonin". Melatonin helps you sleep deeper, longer, and fall asleep quicker.
Beware not to apply red light therapy too close to bedtime though. In that case, red light therapy can decrease your overall melatonin levels, and thus lower your sleep quality.
Red Light Therapy For Disease Management & Prevention
You might be wondering whether red light therapy can also be beneficial if you've got certain diseases...
I have to make a disclaimer before you start to read the effects of red light therapy upon these diseases: very often, although lots of positive research is available, red light therapy examinations are still in their infancy.
In the coming decades, I do expect that red light therapy will become a standardly included treatment in many of these diseases.
There is more and more evidence coming out showing how beneficial Red Light is for modern diseases. Let's take a closer look:
24. May Counteract Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.
Although these effects are not yet well proven in humans, there are indications that red light therapy can treat certain symptoms in dementia and Alzheimer's disease (201; 202; 203; 204; 205; 206; 239).
What goes wrong in Alzheimer's? In that disease, your higher brain area related to reasoning capacity, and another brain area concerned with memory shrink severely.
There's plaque buildup which is characteristic for Alzheimer's disease - called "beta-amyloid" - may be reduced through red light therapy, for example. These beta-amyloid plaques prevent proper communication in your nervous system.
The growth of new brain cells and certain brain areas is also triggered by red light therapy, helping to heal the areas that were affected by Alzheimer's in the first place.
Alzheimer's disease would be best treated with a device that's specifically made to be used on your brain--instead of a LED panel. You can find a device to treat Alzheimer's here (get a 10% discount with discount code ALEX10)
If you want to treat your brain, you'll want to rely on infrared light in your device more than a red light. Remember from the second section that infrared light penetrates much deeper than red light - which is necessary to correctly get the light through your skull.
25. Could Assist With Depression
Again, this effect is mainly proven in mice. Nevertheless, the first human studies that only include a few participants are already very promising (207; 208; 209; 210])
When I told you earlier that red light therapy can improve mood, I also mentioned that it's best not to rely on red light therapy alone. That advice is applicable to any disease, but especially depression.
For depression, it's best to combine red light therapy with adequate sunlight exposure, as sunlight offers additional light frequencies besides red that improve mood. Of course, movement, a proper diet, and many other interventions help with depressions as well.
26. Aid In Recovery From A Brain Injury.
Another brain-related event, next to depression and Alzheimer's (397; 212; 213; 214; 215; 224)?
Traumatic brain injuries are more common than you think: every year, more than 1 million people in the US get a brain injury. Almost 100.000 end up with a permanent disability.
People with a traumatic brain injury can have all kinds of problems. Even with a mild brain injury, for example, you can have cognitive problems for weeks. Let's not even talk about severe brain injuries...
How will red light therapy help?
Memory, attention, and mood all improve after treatment. Moreover, red light therapy is increasing your brain oxygen supply, blood flow, and the protection of cells against premature death, while swelling decreases.
Again, you have to apply red light therapy specifically to the brain to properly treat a traumatic brain injury but be sure to work with a trained light therapy expert before treating yourself.
27. Might Help Treat Heart Disease
As you now know, red light therapy also has enormous benefits for the functioning of your mitochondria. The human heart and brain tissues are the tissues that are richest in mitochondria in human beings.
It's therefore not surprising that red light therapy has beneficial effects for many brain and heart diseases (217; 218; 219; 220).
Let's consider the latter condition...
Red light therapy can help you heal more quickly after a bypass surgery. Pain after heart surgery also decreases. The overall quality of your blood vessels also improves with red light therapy.
Unfortunately, overall research of red light therapy for heart disease is still in its infancy.
28. Helps You Recover Better And Quicker From A Stroke.
Using red light therapy after a stroke seems to have many benefits (397; 216; 222; 223; 225; 226; 228). First of all, cognitive deficits after a stroke are reduced.
Secondly, when red light therapy is applied 24 hours after a stroke, the overall recovery is significantly better compared to an absence of red light therapy. These benefits persist for months after the initial treatment.
Thirdly, the later application of red light therapy can help with improving the recovery of your language ability.
Again, for this specific instance, the best option is to use a red light therapy device that treats your brain.
29. Reduce Fatigue If You've Got Fibromyalgia
Stiffness, fatigue, and spasms can be reduced through red light therapy (229; 230; 231)
Although there is conflicting evidence, the studies that claim that red light therapy does not improve fibromyalgia use excessively high dosages. Make sure to get the dose right to get your well-deserved benefits.
Why does the red light therapy dosage matter so much?
Well, remember that red light therapy puts some stress on your body. If you have fibromyalgia, you're already less stress tolerant than most other people. It's thus not surprising that using red light therapy at a very high dosage - which creates a larger amount of stress - creates negative outcomes in people with fibromyalgia.
You can take back (part of) your life with red light therapy, but don't rely on red light therapy alone...
30. Can Counteract Problems With Your Bones and Joints (such as "osteoarthritis", "osteoporosis", and " rheumatoid arthritis.")
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that mainly influences the functioning of your joints (127; 182; 183; 184; 232; 233; 234)
For rheumatoid arthritis, red light therapy can reduce morning stiffness, pain, and increase movement capacity in the joints. Excessive inflammation levels may also be lowered.
In osteoarthritis, your bones come in (almost) direct contact with each other due to a loss of cartilage. There's thus no "cushioning" effect due to the cartilage in your joints anymore. People with osteoarthritis end up with stiffness and pain...
But red light therapy can help:
Swelling, your ability to fully move your joints, and pain are reduced. Joints also increase in temperature, which signifies that your circulation and metabolism increase in that area.
Fortunately, almost all joints have been studied in osteoarthritis, such as the knee(180; 181; 182); shoulder,(359; 319; 320) elbow, wrist, and hand, and fingers, and show positive results (321; 322; 323).
(Back and neck problems are treated later on this blog post.)
For the billions of people with joint problems, red light therapy might prove to offer assistance in the coming years.
31. Lowers Your Chances of Getting Cold Sores.
Cold sores are caused by a virus--not by cold temperatures as many people think. Viruses transfer more easily in cold weather (235; 236; 237; 238)
One of the common treatments for this virus are creams or tablets, but red light therapy works just as well (and without any side-effects).
Cold sores can recur over time, especially when you're stressed or when your immune system is compromised. In both of those cases, fortunately, red light therapy helps out as well.
32. Help Counteract Parkinson's Disease.
In Parkinson's disease, the nerve cells in parts of the human brain degenerate. As a consequence, people with Parkinson's have rigidity, problems with their movement, and part of their body are constantly shaking.
While many studies confirm the benefits of red light therapy in animals, human studies have not yet been carried out (239; 240; 241; 242; 243; 244; 245; 246; 247; 248). Animal studies are promising though: movement ability goes up, brain cells are protected, and the activity of the mitochondria increases.
Remember one thing: if you've got Parkinson's, there's no downside to trying red light therapy. Even though the results are only proven in animal studies, results in human beings are expected.
33. Help You Deal With (Chronic) Pain.
This effect is one of my favorites. Why? I've used a small red light therapy device to help my family cope with shoulder and back pain (249; 250; 251; 252; 253; 254; 255; 256; 257; 258; 259; 281)
Of course, not all types of pain are the same. There are tremendous differences, for example, between chronic nerve pain and spraining your ankle. Nevertheless, red light therapy has a well-proven track record for dealing with many types of pain.
Currently, the most common pain treatment is to take painkillers. Red light therapy is a viable side-effect-free alternative to such painkillers.
Red light therapy literally lowers pain and inflammation. Remember that many people take painkillers from the "NSAID drug class" for those specific purposes.
Let's consider different types of pain.
There's outstanding evidence to use red light therapy for chronic pain and low back pain (without a specific cause), and nerve pain. Neck and shoulder pain are treatable with red light therapy too.
But there's more...
Other instances where red light therapy can help include pain (and recovery) after a stomach-hernia surgery, in breast cancer, after a broken lower leg, or muscular pain.
Red light therapy is quickly becoming a side-effect free and cost-effective method for dealing with pain. Red light therapy turns out to a Swiss all-purpose knife yet again - for the pain this time...
34. Opposes Diabetes.
If you combine exercise with red light therapy, you'll decrease what is called "insulin" resistance more than by just using exercise alone (270; 271; 272; 273; 274; 275; 276).
If you're healthy, insulin will help your body move sugars into your body's cells. If you have insulin resistance, however, the body's cells do not respond to insulin anymore. As a consequence of insulin resistance, sugars in the blood will no longer be taken up properly in the body's cells, and you'll end up with high blood sugar.
Combine red light therapy with exercise for improvements in the insulin resistance department...
There's more though:
Red light therapy can also help you deal with the side-effect of diabetes: pain and wounds often associated with diabetes can be prevented.
As diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in the world - and even poised to increase in prevalence - red light therapy may be a great help for hundreds of millions of people.
35. Aid If You Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
In carpal tunnel syndrome, a nerve near your wrist has impinged. Due to the impinging of that nerve, you'll experience tingling, pain, and numbness in your hand.
Red light therapy can decrease overall pain, the strength of your hand and its recovery, and the health of your nerves (277; 278; 279; 280).
Most evidence actually exists red light therapy improving carpal tunnel syndrome in the short-term. It's not yet known whether red light therapy can improve wrist health in carpal tunnel syndrome in longer-term yet.
Nevertheless, applying red light therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome is almost a no-brainer, because it's very inexpensive to apply.
36. Help Prevent A Decline In How Well Your Brain Functions With Age.
The best way to combat a cognitive decline (as you age), is to use red light therapy that's specifically targeted at your brain. LED panels are thus suboptimal for this purpose.
Most people's brain functions decline with age, but red light therapy can slow that process (354; 186; 199; 200)
This effect kind of overlaps with preventing and combating Alzheimer's, and other nervous system diseases.
Plus Many Other Benefits
If you take a deep dive into the published literature on red light therapy, you will soon see that the benefits listed above are only scratching the surface. I decided not to go into all the health benefits of red light therapy to keep this article shorter than a book.
That's it: an almost intimidating list of benefits of red light therapy for countering disease at many levels.
And just to be clear:
I've even chosen not to include many diseases on this list, such as bacterial and fungal infections, cancer, and additional types of pain.
Nevertheless, I hope you yourself conclude that red light therapy is at least very promising.
I do think, that because red light therapy offers so many benefits for so many diseases, that in the coming decade, many households will have a red light therapy device in their homes.
Just like computers and smartphones took the world by storm, red light therapy devices will be no different.
Be a thought leader in health, and be the first who experiments with red light therapy in your community. It only takes a few years to completely change the world into something unrecognizable.
What Wavelengths Are Best?
It depends. It depends on what you want from your device. There are a plethora of published papers showing the effectiveness of certain red light wavelengths to help the body.
But in the comprehensive meta-analysis on light therapy titled 'The Nuts and Bolts of Low-Level Laser (Light) Therapy' (52), the researchers stated:
The wavelengths of light used for (light therapy) fall into an “optical window” at red and NIR wavelengths (600–1070 nm). Effective tissue penetration is maximized in this range, as the principal tissue chromophores (hemoglobin and melanin) have high absorption bands at wavelengths shorter than 600 nm.
Wavelengths in the range 600–700 nm are used to treat superficial tissue, and longer wavelengths in the range 780–950 nm, which penetrate further, are used to treat deeper-seated tissues.
Wavelengths in the range 700–770 nm have been found to have limited biochemical activity and are therefore not used.
If you are trying to choose a device with the 'best bang for your buck', you may want to find something that has minimal energy going to 700–770nm light. For example, check out the budget tabletop panels I cover below:
For premium red light therapy tabletop panels, check:
Also, if you want a bigger red light therapy panel, consider this video:
Dosing Red Light Therapy
Contrary to the application of UV light, the risks associated with overdosing red light therapy are much lower. Using too much red light usually means that the effects of red light therapy are greatly diminished. Diminished effects mean that you simply won't gain any benefit from the session—UV light, on the contrary, can actually damage you when you apply too much of it.
This optimal dose means that red light therapy follows a reversed U-curve where either too little or too much red light therapy offers no benefits, and only optimal dosing offers the most benefits.
As you can see in the picture above, it's still important to get the dose right in order to get the most benefits from red light therapy. It's very hard for me to give exact guidelines on how long you should use any device because the specific device, your distance from the device and the reason for using red light therapy all need to be taken into account.
For example, if you are using red light therapy for treating scar tissue, this goal merits the application of a lower dose than when you are using red light therapy for joint pain. The reason for this difference is that joints are located deeper into the body compared to the skin. Not all red light applied to the skin will reach the joints, as some of the red light photons are taken up by other tissues in the process.
Please consider whether the company that you buy a red light device from offers any dosing guidelines. If such guidelines are not included with the product, then it’s probably best to shop around some more.
Possible Red Light Therapy Side-Effects?
The worst-case scenario, qua side-effects of red light therapy, are headaches and exhaustion because the body needs a lot of energy for the healing and mitochondria-building processes that red light therapy initiates. Luckily, red light therapy can never result in a sunburn because no red light therapy device emits any UV wavelengths.
Also, consider asking the company how high the emitted non-native electromagnetic frequencies of the device are. There have been reports by some users that their LED red light therapy devices emit high amounts of non-native electromagnetic frequencies (nnEMF).
Lastly, red light therapy should not be used late at night. On the one hand, red light therapy will never suppress melatonin levels as blue or green light does. But on the other hand, red light can suppress melatonin levels to a lesser degree when the light intensity is sufficiently strong enough (51).
The light intensity of many LED devices does achieve very high levels because these devices are made to be used very close to the human body. You do not want your melatonin levels suppressed because optimal melatonin levels are necessary for deep sleep.
Alex Fergus' Personal Experience With Red Light Therapy
We know the science shows that it it does. But what about my experiences?
After regular daily use (5-20mins exposure to 70-100% of the body with my PlatinumLED BioMax) I have noticed:
Much less tooth pain
I have two 'high gums' on either side of my jaw. I believe this was the result of a mouth guard I wore for tooth grinding. Anyway, for the past 18 months I have had a very sensitive spot on the outside of two of my teeth. It was sensitive to cold and hot temperatures and nothing has been able to fix it - conventional and unconventional approaches. I figured I would just have to deal with it for the rest of my life.
About 2 weeks after regular use - including 5-10minutes of of red light exposure on either side of my cheeks and also front on (with my mouth open), I started to notice that my tooth sensitivity was decreased.
After a month of use, one of the teeth is completely pain free. The other still flares up now and then. But I think with time and regular use I may be able to eliminate this pain once and for all.
***Update*** I recently travelled overseas for 2 weeks to attend a health expo. I didn't take my BioMax so went 2 weeks without red light therapy sessions. Towards the end of the trip I noticed my tooth pain was coming back. As soon as I got home I started hitting the red light again, within 2 days the pain had disappeared again!
Note - I highly doubt that this is a placebo effect, as studies have proven that red light can help regenerate dentine and assist with dental health and pain.
For even more updates from Alex on this be sure to watch the video below:
Clearer Skin After Red Light Exposure
I'm fortunate that I don't have an issue with facial acne. But, I do get a few pimples on my arms and back. They don't bother me directly (I don't see them), but they do bother my partner (and in turn me when she tries to 'fix' them!)
As I use the BioMax on my back every day I have started to notice less 'bumps' on my back. Tell a lie, my wife has noticed them more than me!
Again, I doubt it's a coincidence, as there is plenty of research showing red light decreases acne and improves skin health.
Smaller Cysts After Red Light Exposure
I know I know, gross! And way too much information... but I wanted to share my experiences with you folk. These devices are rather expensive, so you should know these things before forking out hard earned cash.
I touched on this in the video above, and again you have to take my word for it as I'm not going to upload images here, but I have had a cyst or a growth of some sort since I was about 15 years old (I'm 30 at the time of writing). It's been with me all my adult life.
Sometimes it becomes inflamed and gets really big and sore, and other times it shrinks. But it's always been there and I know roughly how big it usually is.
Well, after 4 weeks of regular red light therapy, I have noticed its the smallest it's ever been. Seriously. I cannot remember a time when it was this small. It's still there, but its getting smaller.
Again, coincidence? Maybe, but when multiple coincidences start appearing you have to question if there is a driving cause..
Those are the main things I have noticed so far. I am using it after training, but it's so hard to quantify recovery and I'm not really doing anything too intense on the training front at the moment.
I have also noticed it works amazing for sunburn.
The Take Away On Red Light Therapy
Let's wrap this up. Red light therapy can be beneficial in many different areas, such as general health, beauty, and well-being. However, red light therapy cannot replace the sun. Full-spectrum sunlight has even more all-around benefits than red light therapy. But used as an adjunct, red light therapy has some impressive benefits on health and wellness.
The science is solid, the benefits are numerous and using red light therapy is now accessible to everyone, thanks to new LED technology. Sure a $140,000 NovoThor full body bed may be restricted to high-end health clinics, but a wall hanging device for $1000+ like those sold by PlatinumLED is a lot more practical from the size and financial point of view for you and me.
And if that price range is still too high, the smaller units on the market should allow everyone who is eager to boost their health and wellness to add red light therapy to their health toolbox.
Overall, red light therapy is an amazing tool for improving general health, increasing workout performance, improving one's beauty and enhancing general well-being. If you follow the prescribed dosages, then red light therapy will not have side-effects and only provide benefits.
Found This Interesting? Then You Might Like:
- Start Here - Light Therapy 101 & Buyers Guide
- Discount Codes, Deals & Recommendations - Red Light Therapy
- What Is Red Light Therapy?
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is a ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog.