By Jack Franks
Just a quick search of ‘infrared light therapy’ on Instagram tells you all you need to know.
Thousands of red-tinted posts greet you, all prompting the long list of benefits to be gained from a simple method that can be done from the comfort of your own home.
But is the hype really warranted, and what device should you invest in for your future health?
What is red light therapy?
Red light therapy, also known as low-level laser therapy, is a non-invasive treatment that uses red and near-infrared light to stimulate cellular activity in the body. It has been used for various medical and cosmetic purposes, such as reducing inflammation, promoting wound healing, and improving skin quality.
Red light is thought to work by producing a biochemical effect in cells that strengthen the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell — it’s where the cell’s energy is created. The energy-carrying molecule found in the cells of all living things is called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
By increasing the function of the mitochondria using RLT, a cell can make more ATP. With more energy, cells can function more efficiently, rejuvenate themselves, and repair damage.
A short history of red light therapy
Light therapy is nothing new, yet, in a modern world in constant pursuit of new methods and ways to improve physical and mental performance, elevate skincare and manage hair loss, its easily accessible nature has skyrocketed in popularity.
Light therapy has historically been used in medical physiotherapy, with its roots in ancient Egypt, India, and Greece.
“Light therapy or phototherapy has been used for medical purposes for years; in the early 20th century, researchers began to study the therapeutic effects of artificial light”, states Philip Baines, founder of Active Care Chiropractic, who offers red light therapy treatment for their patients to treat various symptoms of pain and injuries.
“The first major use of light therapy was to treat skin diseases such as: psoriasis, eczema and acne, which were seen to respond well after exposure to ultraviolet light.
“Light therapy has also been used to treat the seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that people suffer from in the winter months due to the reduced exposure to sunlight.
“Most recently, light therapy has been used to treat a range of medical conditions, including sleep disorders, mood disorders and chronic pain. The research on light therapy is ongoing and continues to explore its ability to treat a variety of medical conditions.”
The benefits of red light therapy
So does red light therapy work?
Infrared light therapy is a way to promote healing that’s natural and doesn’t require surgery. Essentially, It’s become pretty popular recently because it’s effective
and doesn’t have many risks or side effects.
Research conducted has also uncovered a roster of benefits to be potentially gained from red light therapy:
Infrared therapy can help alleviate pain by increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation in the affected area. This can be especially helpful for people with conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, or chronic back pain.
Infrared therapy can also help promote relaxation by reducing stress levels and tension in the body. This can be especially beneficial for people who experience high levels of stress or anxiety.
Improved Skin Health
Infrared therapy can help improve skin health by increasing blood flow, promoting collagen production, and reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Enhanced Athletic Performance
Infrared therapy can also help improve athletic performance by reducing muscle soreness and promoting faster recovery after exercise.
Baines, who has a track record of treating elite sports people, including Olympic athletes, thinks “males who regularly train and exercise will benefit from red light therapy in many ways.
One of the main benefits of red light therapy is its ability to promote muscle recovery and reduce inflammation resulting from sports injuries. This is because red light therapy treatment helps stimulate the cellular repair process, speeding up the healing process of damaged tissues and reducing pain and soreness after exercise.
“Olympic athletes will also benefit from red light therapy treatment as it boosts workout effectiveness and improves muscle performance. When used pre-exercise, red light therapy increases blood flow and helps prepare the body for an intense workout, thus optimising their performance.”
Is red light therapy safe?
According to Lalitha Bhowani-McSorley, owner and lead Physical Therapist at Brentwood Pysiotherapy in Calgary, “red light therapy is generally considered safe, with few side effects.
“However, it is important to use caution and consult with a healthcare professional before using it, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medications that could interact with the treatment. Some potential risks include eye damage if the therapy is used on the face without eye protection, and skin irritation if the therapy is used for too long or at too high of an intensity.”
In a snapshot, red light therapy is safe to use but in moderation. After all, it’s a clinically studied, FDA-approved treatment. Medical blogger, Richard Troy, does, however, state that “you shouldn’t use it if you are taking photosensitizing medications, and some forms of LLLT use alternating flashing red-blue light which could cause serious adverse events if you are epileptic.
“It is best to wear eye protection, and those with a history of skin cancer should be cautious: although the devices don’t emit UV light, we don’t have long-term data to assess long-term safety.”
The best products on the market
Ranging in different shapes, sizes and styles, the infrared light device market is fast becoming saturated, but which device is best for you? Muscle and Health look at the leading lights currently available in the field.
Best all-rounder: Vital Pro
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Use for: Skin health, recovery, pain & inflammation, sleep, mental health, circulation.
Pitch: The Vital Pro is a targeted red and near-infrared LED light therapy device that improves skin, cellular health & much more. Experience light therapy’s benefits in the comfort of your home with easy-to-use, safe & effective 10-minute treatments.
Honorable mention: Hooga Health HGPRO750
Best for muscle recovery and fatigue: Jazz Band Live
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Use for: Recovery from injury, surgery, general muscle fatigue, common sports injuries, muscle stiffness, inflammation, aches and pains.
Pitch: With Jazz Band’s Intelligent Light Therapy and four modalities, including red light therapy, near-infrared light therapy, magnetic signals and micro-vibrations, you can get back to more of what you love. Reduce inflammation and pain while accelerating recovery without drugs or invasive procedures.
Honorable mention: FlexBeam
Best for hair loss and growth: RegrowMD Laser 272
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Use for: Hair growth, thinning hair, full scalp treatment
Pitch: RegrowMD Laser 272 Medical Device works by delivering laser light to the scalp, energizing and activating hair follicles to stimulate hair growth. Our innovative BioLight Comfort Design incorporates 272 laser diodes evenly spaced within a flexible, lightweight inner liner. This exclusive feature allows for focused laser light delivery through openings in the liner, providing a direct flow of light energy to optimally reach your hair follicles and regrow your hair.
Honorable mention: REVIAN RED Hair Growth System
Best for improving energy levels: HGPRO ULTRA
Type: Standing (full body)
Use for: Enhancing energy and mood, stimulating collagen and elastin production
Pitch: The HGPRO ULTRA is a high-powered, full body red and near-infrared light therapy device designed to provide you with affordable, effective light therapy in the comfort of your home. This versatile, full-body device can be useful for speeding up recovery time, reducing wrinkles, enhancing energy and mood, stimulating collagen and elastin production, and much more! It features 1080 dual-chip LEDs emitting red and near-infrared light at clinically proven wavelengths of light, and it features a digital display with a timer, pulse function, and adjustable brightness.
Honorable mention: MitoPRO 1500
The future of health treatment?
According to data and statistics, the Light Therapy Market size was worth USD 997 million in 2022. And the industry is projected to grow at more than 6% CAGR from 2023 to 2032.
“As research on red light therapy is ongoing, the future looks promising as it’s a great option as a non-invasive and drug-free treatment”, says Baines.
“As red light therapy is already being used for a variety of purposes including, pain relief, wound healing and skin rejuvenation, we can predict that there will be more targeted applications for specific medical conditions in the future.
“While the future for red light therapy is not yet clear, it will likely be used for recovery for athletes and fitness enthusiasts and could benefit sports medicine and rehabilitation.”
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