When hearing about receiving health benefits from “wavelengths” and “frequencies,” many of us will tune out and turn a blind eye to what we may think of as “faulty science” or “pseudoscience.” Luckily, the science concerning red light therapy benefits is real and promising (although it does, in fact, have to do with wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum).
This is a straightforward article about red light therapy benefits. It will present and explain the real science surrounding photobiomodulation (PBM).
Stay until the end—you’ll be convinced of its benefits!
First, What is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy uses LED cold lasers to emit natural near-infrared and natural red light wavelengths onto the human body. The use of red light as a form of therapy is often referred to as photobiomodulation (PBM).
You can purchase devices that emit this natural red light. Generally, to use them, you position the exposed skin of the area you want to treat a few inches from the device for a number of minutes. The duration of time and distance from the device depends on the particular device. Best results are obtained when used regularly.
“With the increasing scientific literature surrounding the benefit of such PBM wavelengths, it comes as no surprise that more and more companies are building devices that emit red light for the sake of human health in the areas of longevity, inflammation, mental health, and more.
Let’s dive deeper into the many red light therapy benefits.
Red Light Therapy Benefits
Strength and Recovery (Advantageous in Sports Performance)
A review published in the Journal of Biophotonics reveals that, among the many red light therapy benefits, athletes can enjoy a boost in muscle mass gain after training when utilizing red light therapy.
The review examines multiplied studies that used single laser probes, near-infrared light, and other forms of light therapy. They found plenty of evidence supporting the idea that photobiomodulation “can increase muscle mass gained after training, and decrease inflammation and oxidative stress.”
These observations bring us right along to another red light therapy benefit worth mentioning: its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Inflammation (Anti-Inflammatory Benefits)
Many are becoming aware that inflammation is a major indicator of the formation of chronic disease. Acute inflammation is important for tissue repair and immunity, yes, but many people suffer from chronic inflammation which can, again, lead to disease.
One of the highly sought-after red light therapy benefits is its anti-inflammatory effects.
In 2017, Michael R. Hamblin, Principal Investigator at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, published a study in AIMS Press showing that PBM can decrease inflammation throughout the body. “One of the most reproducible effects of PBM is an overall reduction in inflammation,” Hamblin writes. “PBM can reduce inflammation in the brain, abdominal fat, wounds, lungs, spinal cord.”
This research is an important stepping stone in proving that red light therapy can reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Skin Health and Anti-Aging
Another upside to using red light therapy is the potential for healthier, younger-looking skin. A controlled trial published in Photomedicine and Laser Therapy shows that PBM is effective in both skin rejuvenation and increasing intradermal collagen production. Collagen is a protein that helps maintain the integrity of skin and cartilage, which decreases as we age.
The researchers found that the participants treated with PBM had “significantly improved skin complexion and skin feeling” as well as a notably higher collagen density. There were significant improvements in the intervention groups compared to the control.
Many of today’s self-proclaimed “biohackers” are harnessing the power of one of the major red light therapy benefits: an increase in cognition. Increasing cognition is a high priority in an increasingly fast-paced world. Here’s what PBM can do.
For this next study, published in BBA Clinical, researchers placed the red light directly on participants’ heads. They found that not only can PBM be used for cognitive enhancement in normal, healthy people, but is highly effective in treating brain disorders.
The researchers write that “many investigators believe that PBM for brain disorders will become one of the most important medical applications of light therapy in the coming years and decades… “
Depression and Anxiety
Clinical depression and anxiety are undoubtedly two devastating conditions plaguing the world. Scientists are now seriously studying red light therapy as a prospective treatment for these disorders.
Here’s what a 2009 study tells us about the prospect of PBM treating anxiety and depression:
In this study, the participants were given 4-minute treatments in different areas of the forehead. Placebos were “given the treatment” with the light off. Between 6 and 7 out of 10 participants went into remission after the treatment.
The researchers conclude that although their study is relatively small, the results are meaningful when discussing the prospect of treating anxiety/depression with PBM. Other reviews have been published analyzing similar studies which have rendered similar results.
Improved thyroid function is one of the lesser talked about red light therapy benefits, yet
low-level laser therapy (LLLT), a type of red light therapy, is proving beneficial in the treatment of thyroid dysfunction.
A study assessing the effectiveness of LLLT on chronic autoimmune thyroiditis (a type of hypothyroidism) found that the therapy promotes the improvement of thyroid function, as patients experienced a decreased need for thyroid medications and an increase in normal thyroid activity.
The study is relatively small with only 15 participants, although still promising. More research is definitely needed to indicate whether or not LLLT is efficient enough to replace other, more conventional therapies.
Afterword on Red Light Therapy Benefits
When on the market for a light therapy device, make sure the product in question has clinically-proven wavelengths, a high, third-party tested total delivered power, large treatment area size, and is cleared by the FDA.
After seeing the science stacked up side-by-side, red light therapy benefits are undoubtedly real and should be treated as serious contenders for upping our health and wellness routines.
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