What is red light therapy?
Light has been a subject of interest since the beginning of time. The effect of light on mood, healing, sleep and wellness has been well recognized. The light coming from the sun and other sources consists of rays of different wavelengths and frequencies. Lights of varying frequencies are being used for medical purposes, such as for the treatment of health conditions or disinfection. Red light therapy or RLT is a type of therapy that exposes you to low levels of red or near-infrared light for treating certain conditions, such as skin and muscle issues. Red light belongs to the higher wavelength component of the visible light spectrum, whereas infrared light, which has a longer wavelength than red light, is invisible to the human eye. RLT is emerging as a popular therapeutic option. It is known by several names, such as photobiomodulation (PBM), low-level laser therapy (LLLT), biostimulation and soft laser therapy. RLT is provided at various clinics, wellness centers, spas and athletic centers. Devices for home use to provide RLT are also widely available. The safest way, however, to get this therapy is through a qualified practitioner.
What does red light therapy do?
Red light therapy (RLT) is a type of light-emitting diode (LED) light therapy. The red LED used in this therapy produces red light and infrared light of low-level wavelengths that penetrate the skin without destroying it or causing any discomfort (in a non-invasive way). The cells in the body have a structure (organelle) called mitochondria. It is called the powerhouse of the cell as it produces energy for the cells’ functioning and growth. The mitochondria in the target cells absorb the red light to create energy. This energy is believed to aid cellular repair and health. This results in healthier skin cells, providing a more aesthetically pleasing and youthful appearance. The therapy also results in improved blood circulation. This causes an increased supply of oxygen and nutrients to the target cells, boosting cell regeneration as well.
RLT has various applications, although it is generally used for improving skin health and appearance. RLT can help treat skin conditions, such as
Other uses of RLT include
- Pain relief, including relief from nerve and muscle pain and arthritis
- Wound healing
- Scar reduction
- Muscle healing and recovery after a workout, injury or athletic performance
- Treatment of oral health conditions, such as gum disease, dental pain, infections, foul breath and discolored teeth
- Hair loss treatment
Is red light therapy safe?
Red light therapy (RLT) is generally safe, particularly when provided by a qualified professional. Unlike laser therapy, RLT is noninvasive and does not cause side effects, such as pain and burning. The LED used in this therapy generates less heat than standard light bulbs. This makes the procedure comfortable and calming for the body. The instruments used for the therapy must have FDA clearance for a safer experience.
Nonetheless, excessive LED exposure may cause tissue damage. Hence, the therapy must be used under proper guidance. Some people could be sensitive to the therapy. It is advisable to do a patch test on the skin to rule out sensitivity. Excessive use of light therapy can also damage the eyes. Although various studies are going on, deep red light is not yet approved for eye conditions.
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American Academy of Ophthalmology: "Does Red Light Protect Aging Eyes?" https://www.aao.org/eye-health/news/red-light-protect-aging-eyes-rlt-pbm-near-infrared
WebMD: "What Is Red Light Therapy?" https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/red-light-therapy