People may suffer from physical pain in many different forms. It may be due to a sports-related injury or a disease, like arthritis. 

When you experience pain, it is an indication from your body signalling you to stop pursuing certain activities. It may be something as small as lower back pain induced by binge-watching your favourite shows on Netflix, or something more serious such as inflammation in your joints. 

Nevertheless, when acute pain is left untreated, it is likely to lead to chronic pain, with long-term detrimental effects. 

According to research published by the National Center for Health Statistics in November 2020, over 20% of US adults reported suffering from chronic pain in 2019. The statistics were higher in rural areas compared to the residents living in more urbanized locations.

What Are The Different Types of Pain?

Nociceptors are specific nerves in the body that signal the brain, via the spinal cord, when they detect any harm caused to our tissues. This is how we feel pain. 

These are some of the common classifications of pain:

  • Acute Pain – This is a temporary form of pain that may last from anywhere between a couple of minutes to a few months. Acute pain arises due to an injury or an illness. 
  • Chronic Pain – Chronic pain is more severe and may prolong to a few years or even a lifetime. Health conditions such as arthritis and migraines are examples of chronic pain. The pain may be constant or sporadic depending on the health condition. 
  • Nociceptive Pain – External injuries such as fractures are an example of nociceptive pain. It is a sharp and throbbing sensation felt externally, due to damage caused to the skin tissues.
  • Radicular Pain – When the spinal nerve, or the sciatic nerve, gets inflamed, you feel radicular pain. Through the spine, radical pain travels from the back and hips all the way down to your legs and knees. 
  • Neuropathic Pain – This type of pain generates from the nervous system making you susceptible to touch. Warm or cold sensations can be felt while suffering from neuropathic pain. Its severity may cause hindrance in the performance of day-to-day tasks. 

Red Light Therapy For Pain Relief

You might ask – how does red light therapy work for pain relief? 

Red light therapy treatment includes a non-invasive procedure to heal damaged tissues and generate new ones. It uses red and near-infrared lights, at low wavelengths, to penetrate the skin and heal it from within. 

To obtain its benefits, you must expose your skin directly to the red light. Once you do so, the red light can seep into the skin and get absorbed by the photoreceptors. Photoreceptors are sensory cells that absorb light. 

This then boosts the mitochondria of the cell, the powerhouse of the cell, which induces the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – energy-carrying molecules. 

The increase in energy helps to:

  • Trigger stem cells – these are specialized cells that are found in our body, for example, bone cells or blood cells. Exposure to red or infrared light triggers the stem cells and helps the body to heal faster. 
  • Restore damaged cells and influence the production of new cells – this helps injuries to heal faster
  • Boost the production of collagen – collagen is a protein that provides structure to the skin. When injuries heal, they help to mend the skin tissues back together. 
  • Launch nitric oxide – This is a gas that assists damaged skin cells to repair themselves and regenerate healthy cells and tissues.

Seeking Red Light Therapy Treatment

Red light therapy involves exposure to red light through devices, lamps, lasers, or bulbs.

If you decide to seek red light therapy in-office treatments, on average you might need 10, 15-20 minutes long sessions, spread out on a weekly basis. 

This is a slow, but effective nonetheless, procedure. So, do not expect prominent results after the first visit. Although you might notice some slight enhancements, you will have to wait till the end of your treatment to feel and see conspicuous differences. 

When Can You Seek Red Light Therapy For Pain Relief

As explained above, red light therapy helps to heal the muscle tissues and generate new cells to help speed up the healing process. 

However, if the information provided thus far has got you intrigued but you are still unsure about whether it applies to you or not, then read on. 

Here are some of the issues that red light therapy helps with:

  • Neck, Shoulder, and Back Pain – Due to the adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the world went into lockdown. This lead institutions to shift their activities online – online classes for students, and work from home for employees. Having to sit in front of a laptop/computer for hours on end made people susceptible to pain in the neck, shoulders, and back. 

You already know the wonders red light therapy can do for such issues. Now, on top of that, red light therapy pads make it even more convenient to obtain the treatment. 

We recommend the Helios Total pad from Solaslight. They deliver great value for money, making them the best at-home red light therapy device for neck and back pain. 

They also have a device – The Helios Pulse Shoulder – specifically designed to treat shoulder pain.

You will be able to use these devices from the comfort of your home.

  • Chronic and Joint Pain – The availability of at-home red light therapy devices makes it a very accessible treatment for chronic pain and joint pain. Taking the safe and non-invasive aspects of this treatment into account, it is suitable to use it multiple times a day. 
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis – The ability of the red light to reach below the surface of the skin and help the patient from within, makes it ideal for such conditions. 

According to this research conducted on elderly patients with degenerative osteoarthritis, red light therapy proved to improve their condition.  

  • Bursitis – Bursitis is a condition that arises due to inflammation of the bursae. The bursa, or bursae in plural, is a sac filled with fluid. 

Chiropractors, like Dr. Corinne Kennedy, trust red light therapy devices to treat patients with bursitis. 

  • Psoriasis – Psoriasis is a painful skin condition that shows up in patches of red or flaky skin on the body; mainly, the elbows, knees, and scalp. 

The positive impact on mitigating psoriasis with red light therapy treatment has been proved through clinical trials. The test was performed on 20 patients, 3 times a week, in a span of a month. 

  • Foot Ulcers and Peripheral Neuropathy (diabetic) – Both foot ulcers and peripheral neuropathy can arise from diabetes. 

Foot ulcers originate at the bottom of the foot, in the form of painful sores or wounds. Peripheral neuropathy occurs due to nerve damage and usually affects hands and feet. 

Based on a statistical report posted by the American Diabetes Association, 10.5% of American residents reported having diabetes. This puts them at risk of developing foot ulcers and/or peripheral neuropathy. 

A study conducted on 45 patients, affected by foot ulcers, showed improvements after undergoing red light therapy, which is also known as low-level light therapy.

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that affects the nerves in the wrist, leading to numbing and tingling sensations in the hand and fingers. 

Diabetes, excessive fluid retention and injuries are some of the causes that lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.

The effects of carpal tunnel syndrome may last for several months. However, using red light therapy for nerve pain can reduce the healing time.

Red Light Therapy Health Benefits:

Along with the health concerns, red light therapy also caters to many other health-related issues, as mentioned in-depth in this article

Some of the areas that red light therapy aids in is listed below:

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle injury
  • Sports injury
  • Healing wounds
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Tendonitis
  • Bone mass 
  • Joint health
  • Mitigates the effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients
  • Helps to relieve pain for cancer patients
  • Oral mucositis
  • Acne
  • Signs of aging – wrinkles, sagging skin
  • Induces collagen production
  • Reduces the appearance of scars and stretch marks
  • Hair health
  • Improves testosterone levels
  • Depression
  • Sun damage
  • Sleep regulation 

Red Light Therapy Treatment Options

Option 1: In-Office Treatment

Being a first-time user, the idea of obtaining red light therapy treatment from a clinic may be more comfortable for you. In that case, read on to know more about in-office red light therapy procedures.

To allow the light to penetrate your skin, you will be required to expose your skin to the light directly. However, since the devices used at professional institutions are more powerful, you will be provided with gear for protecting your eyes from the light.

On average, at least 10 sessions are recommended. The time taken per session amounts to 15-20 minutes. Initially, you will be required to visit your doctor on a weekly basis until the end of the recommended number of weekly sessions. Follow-up appointments, henceforth, are encouraged. 

Following up with your doctor is important to conserve the results. 

For extreme health conditions such as a serious injury or psoriasis, seeking red light therapy in-office may be appropriate.

Depending on your condition and treatment requirements, along with your choice of expert – dermatologist, esthetician, etc – the cost of treatment may vary largely. On average, you can expect to pay $40-$200 per session.

Option 2: At-Home Red Light Therapy Devices

Investing in an at-home red light therapy device will allow you to use it at your convenience. Not only that, but it is also a safe and painless procedure to address your health concerns. 

A slight warm sensation is normal when using the devices, however, it is not going to burn you or hurt you.

As mentioned above, at-home devices are less powerful than the red light therapy devices used by professionals. Does this mean its efficacy is any less? No.

The at-home devices are designed for day-to-day use, with the safety concerns of non-professionals in mind. This means that these devices are effective and safe to use. 

Excess exposure to radiation and thermal energy is a safety hazard and concern for many. However, with LED lights, it is not a problem as they do not contain enough radiation or thermal energy to harm its user. 

Nevertheless, we recommend reaching for a brand that specifies the technical aspects of its products. The secrecy with products, such as red light therapy devices, is never a good sign.

Similar to in-office red light therapy treatments, you will have to use the red light device for 10-20 minutes. We recommend using it 1-3 times a week, for 10 weeks to see prominent results.

Therefore, we recommend the Apollo V3 by Solaslight.  They use LED wavelengths that have been proven to be safe and effective. This device can be used to target a larger area of the body.

However, if you are facing pain in a particular area of the body and wish to treat the area specifically, then you can check out the Helios Total device. To know more about red light therapy pads, their benefits, and their uses, give this article a read.

Eye safety is a big concern for many. Although these devices are curated in a way as to not cause harm to the eye, Solaslight provides eye protection along with their devices for extra precautionary measures. 

At-Home Red Light Therapy Guidelines

There are a few steps you will need to take before subjecting yourself to the treatment. Don’t worry. It’s nothing complex; just a few simple baby steps:

  1. First and foremost, you will have to set up the device in a place according to your convenience. Keep in mind that you will have to stand, or sit, in front of it for several minutes. 
  1. Turn the room lights off and remove all pieces of clothing and accessories from the area you are targeting.
  1. Wear eye protection.
  1. Turn the device on and move back at least 6 to 8 inches from the device, and maintain the distance throughout. 
  1. Initially, it is recommended to sit for 10 minutes per session, however, you may move to 20 minutes after a few weeks of treatment. Only if needed.

Tips!

  • Maintain consistency – To see results, you will have to be consistent throughout the recommended time period for the treatment. Furthermore, you will still have to continue red light therapy even after your sessions are done, to maintain the results. You may do so every 2 weeks.
  • Choose the right device – If you wish to treat a larger area, get a larger device. If the area of concern is restricted to a small part of your body, you may opt for a smaller device or even red light therapy pads. 
  • Be patient – Moving closer to the device or, using it for a prolonged period of time with not make the red light work faster.
  • Sensitive skin – If you have reactive or sensitive skin, and the use of red light causes redness or irritation, don’t worry. Just step further back.

BONUS TIPS: If you want to use red light therapy to address skin issues, we suggest applying great tea extract-soaked cotton pads to the area prior to the treatment. Why? You will find the answer to your question, in-depth, from this article.

Red Light Therapy vs. Other Methods

MethodDescriptionProsCons
Red Light TherapyA non-invasive, non-surgical treatment method using red and infrared lights at low wavelengths. Treats the issue from within. Can be used for targeted pain relief.Easily available.Expensive. Takes time to see results.
MedicationPrescription or over-the-counter drugs are used to relieve pain. Fast results.Convenient.Cannot be used to target specific areas.Can cause internal health problems/ organ dysfunctionExcessive use may lead to addiction.
Physical TherapyTreatment method, to relieve pain, using massage therapy, heat compression, and exercises. Sometimes, specialized devices.Can be combined with red light therapy.Increases flexibility. Treated by professionals.Can be expensive. Sometimes, temporary relief.
Tens TherapyTranscutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy uses the help of electrical currents to stimulate the nerves. Instant pain relief. Can be used to treat specific areas.Easily available.No serious side effects.It does not treat the issue, rather, it stops the brain from feeling the pain. Temporary relief.
Warm and Cold CompressionWarm compression – Uses heat. Cold compression- Uses cold. Heat promotes healing and colder temperatures improve swelling and pain. Easily available.Convenient.Towels or ice packs can be used. Offers targeted pain relief.Not as effective.
UVB Ultraviolet B, or UVB, light therapy uses electromagnetic radiation.Non-invasive.Can treat psoriasis.Can cause skin irritation – burning, blistering, itching, and redness.
SunNatural source of energy.No devices are required.Convenient.Vitamin DCan lead to skin cancer.Harmful UV rays. Only available at night. Not all countries have sufficient sunlight 365 days a year.
PUVAPhotochemotherapy, or PUVA, uses long-wave ultraviolet (UVA) radiation, along with a topical chemical, psoralen (P).Effective for patients with psoriasis. Can be used on patients who rejected UVB treatment.Long therapy time.Can cause skin cancer, premature ageing, and burns. Patients have to avoid direct sunlight for at least 24 hours after the treatment. 

Takeaways

  • Red light therapy boosts the mitochondria of the cell, the powerhouse of the cell, which induces the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – energy-carrying molecules.
  • This helps to:
  1. Trigger stem cells.
  2. Restore damaged cells.
  3. Induce the production of new cells.
  4. Boost the production of collagen.
  5. Launch nitric oxide.
  • You can seek red light therapy for pain relief if you have the following conditions:
  1. Neck, Shoulder, and Back Pain
  2. Chronic and Joint Pain
  3. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis
  4. Bursitis
  5. Psoriasis
  6. Foot Ulcers and Peripheral Neuropathy (diabetic)
  7. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Health benefits of red light therapy include:
  1. Weight loss
  2. Muscle injury
  3. Sports injury
  4. Healing wounds
  5. Reduce inflammation
  6. Tendonitis
  7. Bone mass 
  8. Joint health
  9. Mitigates the effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients
  10. Helps to relieve pain for cancer patients
  11. Oral mucositis
  12. Acne
  13. Signs of aging – wrinkles, sagging skin
  14. Induces collagen production
  15. Reduces the appearance of scars and stretch marks
  16. Hair health
  17. Improves testosterone levels
  18. Depression
  19. Sun damage
  20. Sleep regulation 
  • Red light therapy treatment options:
  1. In-office
  2. At-home
  • Guideline for proper use at-home:
  1. Set up the device.
  2. Turn of all other room lights.
  3. Remove clothing and accessories.
  4. Wear eye protection.
  5. Turn on the device.
  6. Move back 6”-8” from the device.
  7. Bathe in the light for 10-20 minutes.
  • Other methods of pain relief:
  1. Medications
  2. Physical therapy
  3. TENS therapy
  4. Warm & cold compression
  5. UVB
  6. Sun
  7. PUVA
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