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  • Writer's pictureCraig Amrine L.Ac.

Red Light Therapy

Updated: Feb 8

In recent years, red light therapy is become increasingly popular. In fact, there are several red light therapy centers springing up across the Phoenix area.

What is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy is a variation on the term "Low-Level Laser" or "Cold Laser" therapy. When you hear "Red Light" therapy, it implies that the device uses LED's ( light emitting diodes) rather than actual lasers. LED's, while they may be a specific color or wavelength, lack the unique properties exclusive to laser light. LED's lack the focused power output that lasers have, but are much cheaper in costs. Due to their lower cost, LED's can be arranged in large panel arrays to cover large parts of the body. Due to their much lower power and cheaper costs, no technical or medical training is needed to run or operate Red Light Therapy devices.

What Does Red Light Therapy Do?

Red-light therapy is claimed to have all the same benefits as cold laser therapy including decreased inflammation and improved healing. When you hear claims of red light therapy having all of these amazing effects by vendors of red light therapy tools or red light therapy centers, they are simply including research conducted with LASERS.

Does Red Light Therapy Work?

The answer is a bit more complex. Current research suggests that when cells are directly exposed to certain colors of light (most common are 635 nm and 810 nm), unique biological reactions occur. It doesn't really matter if the source is a laser or LED. But this scenario only exists in a pitri dish (in-vitro). In the body, (in vivo) however, you have skin, fat, hair, blood, etc. All of these can affect how much energy can get to the damaged areas. Most modern research suggests that red light therapy using LED panels can help produce collagen to improve surface wrinkles and skin complexion, but has not been shown to heal other tissue such as bone fracture, cartilage damage, ligament tears, and nerve damage. There are numerous studies however showing how Laser Therapy can accelerate wound repair. So when we are trying to use light to heal injuries, higher energy laser systems seem to be the best solution.

The Final Conclusion of Red Light Therapy

In summary, red light or near infra-red therapy devices using LED's can in fact induce changes in collagen synthesis for face and complexion improvements, and also have shown anecdotal testimony for improved "energy" but lack any real evidence to accelerate repair of injuries. The current marketing by many of these LED light therapy centers promises that "RED LIGHT THERAPY" can do all of these amazing things towards improved injury recovery and improved health. What they don't tell you is that the majority of these biological effects (see here) were shown in research using laser therapy and NOT LED's and not THEIR system.

The noticeable exception being light therapy on the head to deal with cognitive decline and emotional problems resulting from traumatic brain injuries, stroke, depression, alzheimers, etc. New research is showing that LED panels AND Lasers have BOTH shown marked improvement in brain function after regular treatments on the head.

Patient Undergoing Red Light Therapy


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