RED LIGHT THERAPY
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy (RLT) is a treatment that may help skin, muscle tissue, and other parts of your body heal. It exposes you to low levels of red or near-infrared light. Infrared light is a type of energy your eyes can’t see, but your body can feel as heat. Red light is similar to infrared, but you can see it.
Red light therapy is also called low-level laser therapy (LLLT), low-power laser therapy (LPLT), and photobiomodulation (PBM).
Red light therapy (RLT) is a therapeutic technique that uses red low-level wavelengths of light to treat skin issues, such as wrinkles, scars, and persistent wounds, among other conditions.
In the early 1990s, RLT was used by scientists to help grow plants in space. The scientists found that the intense light from red light-emitting diodes (LEDs) helped promote growth and photosynthesis of plant cells.
Red light was then studied for its potential application in medicine, more specifically to find out if RLT could increase energy inside human cells. The researchers hoped that RLT could be an effective way to treat the muscle atrophy, slow wound healing, and bone density issues caused by weightlessness during space travel.
You may have heard of red light therapy (RLT) by its other names, which include:
low level light therapy (LLLT)
soft laser therapy
cold laser therapy
low-power laser therapy (LPLT)
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
With red light therapy, you expose your skin to a lamp, device, or laser with a red light. A part of your cells called mitochondria, sometimes called the “power generators” of your cells, soak it up and make more energy. Some experts think this helps cells repair themselves and become healthier. This spurs healing in skin and muscle tissue.
Red light therapy uses very low levels of heat and doesn’t hurt or burn the skin. It’s not the same type of light used in tanning booths, and it doesn’t expose your skin to damaging UV rays.
There are many different types of red light therapy. Red light beds found at salons are said to help reduce cosmetic skin issues, like stretch marks and wrinkles. Red light therapy used in an medical office setting may be used to treat more serious conditions, like psoriasis, slow-healing wounds, and even the side effects of chemotherapy.
Red light is thought to work by producing a biochemical effect in cells that strengthens the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell — it’s where the cell’s energy is created. The energy-carrying molecule found in the cells of all living things is called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
By increasing the function of the mitochondria using RLT, a cell can make more ATP. With more energy, cells can function more efficiently, rejuvenate themselves, and repair damage.
RLT is different from laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) therapies because it doesn’t cause damage to the skin surface. Laser and pulsed light therapies work by causing controlled damage to the outer layer of the skin, which then induces tissue repair. RLT bypasses this harsh step by directly stimulating regeneration of the skin. The light emitted by RLT penetrates roughly 5 millimeters below the skin’s surface.
What Does It Treat?
Researchers have known about red light therapy for a while. But there aren’t a lot of studies on it, and they don’t know if it’s better than other types of treatment used to help you heal. Red light therapy may help with:
Dementia. In one small study, people with dementia who got regular near-infrared light therapy on their heads and through their noses for 12 weeks had better memories, slept better, and were angry less often.
Dental pain. In another small study, people with temporomandibular dysfunction syndrome (TMD) had less pain, clicking, and jaw tenderness after red light therapy.
Hair loss. One study found that men and women with androgenetic alopecia (a genetic disorder that causes hair loss) who used an at-home RLT device for 24 weeks grew thicker hair. People in the study who used a fake RLT device didn’t get the same results.
Osteoarthritis. One study found red and infrared light therapy cut osteoarthritis-related pain by more than 50%.
Tendinitis. A very small study of 7 people suggests RLT lessens inflammation and pain in people with Achilles tendinitis.
Wrinkles and other signs of skin aging and skin damage. Research shows RLT may smooth your skin and help with wrinkles. RLT also helps with acne scars, burns, and signs of UV sun damage.