What Is Red Light Therapy
How Does It Work?


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 nearly infrared (NIR) or red light. The treatment is used for slow-healing wounds, pain management and a series of medical disorders. It is known for being a super effective, straightforward, painless alternative to traditional pain medications.

The light wavelengths used in this therapeutic treatment are of a lower energy density than other forms of laser therapies, which is why it is sometimes called Low-Level Light Therapy (LLLT). Red Light Therapy (RLT) is also known as Biostimulation, Photobiomodulation (PBM) and Photonic Stimulation.

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.

How Does Red Light Therapy Work?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the prevalence of chronic pain ranges from 11% to 40%, and that it is also the most common reason that patients seek medical care. That being said, coping with chronic pain or acute pain can leave you with a feeling of helplessness and fear. Fortunately, there are options available to manage your pain, including non-invasive Red Light Therapy. This post informs you about Red Light Therapy, how it works and how it can help manage your pain.

Red Light Therapy Has Roots in Space

Red Light Therapy has been around since the early 1990s when researchers used it to grow plants in space. Since the experiments in space, RLT has been extensively researched in clinical and laboratory settings to determine if it had potential as a medical treatment. Specifically, scientists wanted to find out if Red Light Therapy was effective in causing energy to elevate within human cells.

Space travel can cause health problems, such as wasting muscle, bone density issues and persistent wounds. Findings by the research teams would be key as to whether RLT would help astronauts with medical issues they encounter during zero gravity. The extensive research they conducted on the light therapy provided the framework for other studies that followed – studies that show Red Light Therapy is effective in treating certain disorders of the skin, muscles, and other areas of the body.

How Does Red Light Therapy Work?

We measure wavelengths of light in nanometers, and some wavelengths are more beneficial to us than others. Red wavelengths that range from 630 to 660nm, and NIR wavelengths that range from 810 to 850nm, give the most health benefits without being invasive or having side effects.

With Red Light Therapy, Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs emit beams of red and NIR wavelengths, penetrating approximately 8-10 millimeters below the surface of the skin. Specific benefits of Red Light Therapy include:

  • Increased Cellular Energy: The natural light used in RLT stimulates cellular energy production, which promotes the body’s natural healing power.
  • Rejuvenated, Healthy Skin Cells: Red Light Therapy stimulates collagen production. Skin cells are rejuvenated in the process, and the damaged skin is slowly replaced by healthy skin.
  • Improved Blood Flow: Red Light Therapy improves blood flow. Cells exposed to red light produce new blood vessels, capillaries and the fibroblasts that create the collagen and connective fibers that are necessary to heal wounds.
  • Reduced Inflammation and Swelling: Patients who have had surgery or have an injury experience less inflammation and swelling when red light treatments are used. They also heal faster.
  • Regenerated Nerve Cells: Studies indicate that NIR light acts as an antioxidant and reduces inflammation, which in turn, reduces neuropathic pain and stimulates the regeneration of damaged nerve cells.
  • A Stronger Immune System: Red light therapy has immune boosting properties that can strengthen your body’s metabolism and enhance the function of cells, organs and systems in your body.
  • Stem Cell Activation: LLLT stimulates the production of stem cells. The stem cells then develop into a wide array of cells in your body, where they activate and create healthy new tissue to replace affected bone, cartilage, ligaments, and muscle.

How Does Red Light Pain Therapy Work?

With Red Light Therapy, you expose bare skin to a lamp or other device. Mitochondria are the powerhouse that creates energy in human cells, and red light works by inducing a biochemical effect that makes mitochondria stronger.

With more energy, the cells function more efficiently, working better to rejuvenate themselves and repair damage. This biological action spurs the healing of skin and muscle tissue.

However, Low-Level Light Therapy is not a fast cure-all for any condition. Some patients experience relief after just 1-2 sessions, but the greatest results will come over time as the cells in your body rejuvenate and optimize their functioning. It can take a few weeks to a few months for this to happen.

How Can Red Light Therapy Reduce Pain?

When the tissue in your body is injured, a signal travels along the nerves to your brain, which then interprets this stimulus as pain. This results in the familiar sensation of sharp or dull aches, burning, etc. that characterizes pain. Red light therapy is a safe, natural way to speed up the healing process for burns, surgery incisions, scars and wounds. Of course, once you start healing, pain is reduced.

Unproven Claims about Red Light Therapy

Several studies suggest that RLT can provide the health benefits described above, but there isn’t enough evidence available to determine whether the treatment can help treat other medical conditions, such as severely compromised immune function and cancer. However, there are some insurance companies that cover its use in the prevention of oral mucositis during chemotherapy and radiation treatments used to treat cancer.

Will Insurance Pay for Red Light Therapy?

Currently, medical insurance companies consider light therapy an experimental treatment, meaning many of them won’t provide insurance coverage. However, there are medical insurance companies that will provide coverage for Red Light Therapy if it’s determined that the treatment is medically necessary.

Meanwhile, all of Bright Health products are FSA/HSA compliant and approved, meaning you should have the ability to use your health accounts to purchase our products, including the Bright Health Foot Relief device.

Fast relief for Tired, Aching and Sore Feet

The Bright Health Foot Relief device provides pain relief from neuropathy, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis and other chronic pain causing conditions. The therapeutic device works by using 124 medical-grade Infrared and Red Light LEDs. The Light Therapy increases blood circulation and relaxes muscles, which in turn, alleviates pain and stiffness.

Can red light therapy rebuild cartilage?

Red Light Therapy is an effective treatment in those suffering from different forms of arthritis as it can be used to stimulate collagen production to rebuild cartilage between joints and decrease inflammation by drawing more nutrients and oxygen to cells.


Red Light Therapy is an effective treatment in those suffering from different forms of arthritis as it can be used to stimulate collagen production to rebuild cartilage between joints and decrease inflammation by drawing more nutrients and oxygen to cells.

How long does red light therapy take to work for pain relief?

After just twenty minutes of red light therapy, pain can drastically decrease or disappear for up to several hours.

Which is better red light therapy or infrared?

If you want to treat skin conditions on the surface, Red light LED is focused and effective. If there is toxicity in the body or stronger metabolic effects are desired, an Infrared session may be the better choice.