Unveiling the Benefits of Red Light Therapy: Pain Relief, Skin Health, and More
Red Light Therapy: Fact or Fake?
Red light therapy is another new treatment to hit the market in the last few years. It has skyrocketed in popularity for a number of reasons we will discuss below.
But is it all smoke and mirrors? Or are there real concrete health benefits associated with red light therapy?
Red light therapy uses specific wavelengths to stimulate cellular processes in the body. It is called red light because the wavelength used produces red light. Simple enough.
Because it’s so simple to set up and operate red light therapy is popping up everywhere. All you have to do is buy a light and sit in front of it. For that reason, people are putting them inside saunas, buying standalone devices, and so on. You can probably find it near you, regardless of where you live. If you can’t they are easy to buy.
Let’s get into the different ways you can use red light therapy to improve your health.
Everyone has aches and pains; some have more than others. This is one of the most effective uses for red light therapy. There are a number of studies like this one showing how red light is effective in reducing pain. The basic underlying physiology is pretty simple.
Red light in certain wavelengths (633-830 nm) is shown to improve blood flow and cause neovascularization (new blood vessel formation). Improved blood flow to the painful joint helps remove toxic metabolites and other products involved in healing. Without adequate blood flow, whatever pains you have will be slower to heal.
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At that same wavelength, there are a number of cytokines and immune cells that are activated. Similarly, this is a necessary step in healing. Without a healthy immune system, your body’s ability to heal itself is reduced.
There is evidence that red light therapy helps reduce pain by reducing muscle tension. Most times red light therapy is paired with the sauna. Together, these can help reduce muscle tension which itself can reduce pain. It can also promote blood flow and reduce nerve signaling. Both of these help reduce pain.
You can apply these principles to basically anywhere in the body. If you have a headache, target the muscles of the upper back and neck. If you have knee pain, target the knee. So on and so forth.
The benefits of red light therapy on the skin are very similar to the musculoskeletal system.
As we discussed, red light promotes the production and release of multiple cytokines and inflammatory cells. Using red light therapy can therefore reduce redness and swelling on the face associated with things like acne.
The underlying pathology associated with eczema and psoriasis is inflammation. Throw a red light on these areas and it can go a long way towards reducing that inflammation and improving your symptoms.
Another mechanism through which red lights improve your skin health is collagenesis. The skin is loaded with collagen. It is the molecule that keeps the skin tight, supple, and beautiful. By promoting collagen production, red light therapy can help to reduce wrinkles and lines in your face.
Likewise, the skin needs collagen to heal wounds. Red light has been proven effective in promoting wound healing, especially in chronically nonhealing wounds.
Red light has uses beyond the physical. It can also improve your mental health in a number of ways. Red light promotes the production and release of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. These are the same neurotransmitters responsible for your mood.
They are also necessary for adequate sleep. Red light therapy can help promote deep, restful sleep by maintaining the circadian rhythm.
If you live anywhere in the north, you probably don’t get enough sunlight during the winter. Red light therapy can be a good therapy for people in that position. An hour a day can be a useful substitute for the real thing.