What You Need To Know About 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 also referred to as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation—is the act of using red light (or near-infrared light) for beneficial properties on the body.
These beneficial properties are outlined in detail below, but red light (in the proper intensity and dose) has a therapeutic or healing effect on the tissue and body.
Red light therapy may involve using a laser that emits light in the red light spectrum onto an injured body part or using a red light LED shone on the body, as practical examples.
Research has shown that light in the red and near-infrared spectrum has a lot of benefits on the body. This light typically ranges from 620 nanometers (nm) in length to around 1000nm in length.
These specific wavelengths penetrate very deep into the bodily tissues and are also absorbed very well by the body.
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.
As you can see, red light has a greater penetration depth compared to other forms of light, such as UV, blue, green or the longer infrared wavelengths meaning that the red light can reach deeper bodily tissues.
Other non-red wavelengths cannot reach that deep and cannot affect the underlying tissue in the way that red light therapy with stand does.
The deep-tissue penetration also means that red light can have a systemic effect on the human body instead of the biological effects remaining localized in one specific area.
The reason for the systemic effects is due to the red light's ability to stimulate ATP production.
This quote from the paper titled 'Low-Level Laser Therapy for Fat Layer Reduction: A Comprehensive Review' states: The mechanism is based on absorption of red and near infrared photons by chromophores in the mitochondria (particularly cytochrome c oxidase), leading to increases of mitochondrial membrane potential, oxygen consumption, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and a transient increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS).
A reader of mine simplified this paragraph with the following comment:
It's the energy of the photon that's being utilized by the body. Just as a plant uses light energy to generate complex molecules via chlorophyl, our chromophores utilize the energy of the photons to do much the same, just for a different set of reasons: changing membrane potential, enhancing oxygen utilization, generating ATP, etc.
Because red light therapy devices (and the LEDs often used in them) can be made in such a way that they emit very specific light wavelengths, such as 630nm or 670nm, these LEDs have other advantages. Red light therapy devices aim to affect the mitochondria throughout the body. Mitochondria are the energy-producing units of our cells. Improving mitochondrial function will improve the overall health of your body.