What Is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy (RLT) is a therapeutic technique that uses low level wavelengths of red light (620 to 750 nanometers) to stimulate energy production in the cells, in order to treat and number of ailments and provide a variety of health benefits.
According to reports, which still require more research and peer reviews, the technique can help treat conditions such as wrinkles, psoriasis, scarring and tendonitis, it can also offer relief from chronic pain, and enhance athletic abilities.
The novel treatment was discovered on accident, by astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-73), on the U.S. Microgravity Laboratory Spacelab mission to analyze how plants grow in space. According to red light therapy researcher Janis T. Eells, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the astronauts noticed that exposure to the red light present in the grow chambers had a healing effect unexpected in space:
“It was here that astronauts tending the plant growth chambers noticed little scratches on their hands began to heal…
“Nothing heals in space, so NASA funded many years of research with these lights for human trials.”
This led to the discovery that red light therapy could be utilized as a type of photomedicine; using light for the application health and healing. Red Light Therapy eliminates the need for harmful chemicals or invasive procedures, but whilst the technique does show much promise it’s important to remember that the technology is still in experimental stages and more research is required before it can receive official approval from medical and government authorities.
That said, when the technology is applied properly there is little risk of experiencing side effects or adverse reactions, and thus Red Light therapy procedures are already being performed by many clinics, with reported success.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
Visible light penetrates the body’s cells, muscle and nerve tissues. Red and near-infrared (NIR) light penetrate deeper than other spectrums/color, and can therefore, be focused at specific wavelengths to target and stimulate cells into working at higher rates.
Red light therapy achieves this by leveraging a phenomenon called photobiomodulation. This refers to how the body’s cells respond to different wavelengths of light.
Red light activates the body’s mitochondria, also known as the ‘Powerhouse of the cell’; a molecule responsible for kick starting the cells into performing their tasks.
Benefits of Red Light Therapy
- Improvement for Skin Conditions: Red light therapy is a not a new concept in skincare. Over the past 50 years a number of benefits have been cited, the most common being to treat fine lines and wrinkles through the stimulation of fibroblasts, which in turn create collagen.
- Acne: The same properties that promote cell activity and collagen production are also thought to be capable of controlling acne breakouts. In tests red light therapy has been shown to reduce breakouts by up to 36%.
- Scarring: The stimulation of collagen can also help reduce the appearance of scars. Red light therapy has also been shown to modulate key cell characteristics that contribute to scarring, thus aiding healing.
- Wound healing: In addition to healing scars, red light therapy’s can also treat wounds such as diabetic ulcers.
- Hair growth: Red light therapy can reduce the effects of androgenetic alopecia by decreasing inflammation and increasing blood flow to the scalp. This promotes cell activity and increases the presence of nutrients.
- Reduction of Pain: Red light therapy is often utilized to treat chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. It has also been shown to reduce neuropathy pain, and the painful side effects of some cancer treatments like bone marrow transplants.
- Enhancement of Fat Loss: This claim is still somewhat controversial, however there are a number of studies that showed red light therapy aided in the weight loss process. This was due to adipocyte cells releasing triglycerides, which resulted in increased loss of fat.
- Acceleration of Sports Recovery: Red light therapy can speed up respiration process in cells and increase adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the cells source of energy. This in turn promotes recovery.
- Injury Prevention: The same process that aid the body in recovery also helps the body’s ability to repair.
- Promotion of Brain Health: Another area where treatment has the community divided, however research is increasingly demonstrating that red light therapy can help treat brain conditions such as dementia, stroke, depression and anxiety. In addition it may also help patients with Parkinson’s disease manage their symptoms and sleep/wake cycles.
Disadvantages of Red Light Therapy
Fortunately for most there are basically zero side effects of using red light therapy. However anyone suffering from photosensitive conditions such lupus, solar urticaria or erythropoetic protoporphyria (EPP), or anyone taking medications that cause them to be photosensitive, should not use red light therapy.