How it Works

Introduction

With 50 million people experiencing chronic pain, it seems pain is a part of living. And while we've grown to expect pain at some point, little do we realize the many consequences pain has on us. It's not just physical, but mental as well. If mishandled or ignored, acute pain can turn into chronic pain, which has adverse long-term effects. This can lead to mental conditions, including depression, anxiety, and stress. Not only that, but it creates a cycle of pain that can significantly impact one's ability to use that section of their body. Chronic pain can also lead to high blood pressure, fatigue, sleeping issues, and even eating disorders.

Proactively managing pain is the key to avoiding the long-term negative effects and using medications is a popular solution for today’s consumers.   While this pain relief method may seem like a go-to given its convenience, it can lead to further health concerns. Yes, low-risk drugs such as ibuprofen (NSAIDs) are not harmless at first. But too much use can result in adverse health consequences. And heavier drugs such as opioids are proven to lose their effectiveness over time, resulting in potential addiction.

With all of this information and the known effects of pain and medications, a key answer we're forced to face is "how do we manage pain safely and effectively?" The answer lies in the holistic approach of red light therapy.   In this guide, we'll break down what red light therapy is, how it works, conditions it treats, the many benefits it offers, and more.

What is red light therapy?

Red light therapy is a therapeutic and holistic treatment used to treat various pain conditions. This treatment method uses low-level red wavelengths of light to treat pain.   It is known for being a super effective, straightforward, painless alternative to traditional pain medications.

The visible light spectrum is just a segment of the electromagnetic spectrum visible to the human eye. Nanometers are a unit of measurement used to measure light. One nanometer is the equivalent of one billionth of a meter.  Human eyesight is limited to wavelengths from 380 to 700 nanometers.   Humans cannot see infrared, which lies in the mid-800s nanometer range.

The colors on the light spectrum that humans can see include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.  The hotter an object grows, the more energy it produces, dominated by shorter wavelengths—changing colors visible to our eyes. The flames produced by a blow torch, for example, change from red to blue as the heat increases and its wavelengths grow shorter.

Scientists use the light spectrum to measure the temperature of stars. The sun creates more yellow light than any other light because of its 5,500 C° temperature. If it were cooler, say 3,000 C°, it would appear reddish. And if it were 12,000 C°, it would look blue.

Types of Light Therapy

Blue Light Therapy

Blue light, on the light spectrum, sits at 400-500 nanometers. It is most commonly used for bright light therapy (known as phototherapy) as it has been proven to boost alertness, help memory, and raise one's mood. It is advantageous in turning off melatonin production, which helps us feel more alert. However, too much blue light can create sleep disorders. This is why it's recommended to limit electronic usage at night as they're notorious for emitting blue light.

It's essential to proceed with caution when it comes to blue light therapy. Because it has lower wavelengths and higher energy levels than other light types, it can cause eye damage. Studies show that light colors between 415 and 455 nanometers can cause damage to the eyes. Most electronics such as TVs, computers, and cell phones emit wavelengths of 400 to 490 nanometers. However, more research is required to understand long-term effects.

Full-Spectrum Therapy

Full-Spectrum light therapy is used in the same manner as blue light therapy; to boost one's energy, improve moods, enhance sleep, and maintain wellness. This type of light therapy uses all colors in the electromagnetic spectrum, including infrared, ultra-violet, and blue. While there are still ongoing disputes in terms of which is more effective, full-spectrum has been proven to be safer than blue light.

When it comes to bright light therapy, light intensity is the most vital facet to consider. To be effective, light therapy lamps need to produce 10,000 LUX from 10-12", which is equivalent to morning sunlight. Light therapy lamps should be used for 20-30 minutes each morning. This method of light therapy is generally safe. Common side effects include headaches, nausea, dizziness, and eye strain. These adverse side effects can be reduced by lowering the dosage.

Red Light Therapy

Red light sits at the opposite end of the spectrum, compared to blue light. This type of light is delivered at mid-600 nanometer, while infrared is produced in the mid-800s. Because of its range and longer wavelengths, infrared is not visible to the human eye.

These types of light are useful because they can penetrate deep into the skin. They promote melatonin production, which stimulates adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. ATP provides energy to cells in the body, making it essential for proper functioning. This is how red light therapy products are effective in speeding up the healing process. Later in this guide, we’ll cover what red light therapy treats and its benefits.