What Is the Best Red Light Therapy for Pain?

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Billions of people worldwide affected by acute or chronic pain. Medical science is constantly searching for new solutions that will bring them relief. These solutions include surgical procedures, medication as well as other forms of treatment.

One of these solutions that has emerged as one of the most effective, is photobiomodulation.

Before you start your treatments though, it is important to know what exactly you are targeting and how.

Factors for Red Light Therapy Effectiveness

The question of the best red light therapy for pain has a complex answer. The reason for that is twofold. Firstly, it is because not all types, causes and locations of pain are the same,

Secondly, red light therapy for pain works through several different mechanisms.

All of these factors need to be taken into account. That’s how you’ll assess the exact type of treatment that will bring you optimal relief.

Does Red Light Therapy Work for Pain Relief?

The simple answer is – yes.

Research shows that photobiomodulation is an effective treatment for pain. According to a study published in 2018, the pain relief effects of red light therapy achieve its full effect as quickly as two hours after application. 

After seven consecutive days of treatment, there is no tolerance build up – the treatment remains as effective as it was at the beginning. Tolerance is a common problem with pain relief drugs.

Another upside is that red light therapy, also known as low level laser therapy (LLLT) or cold laser therapy has no known side effects. It is completely non-invasive, with no tissue damage or heat involved.

How Does Red Light LED Therapy Affect the Body?

With red light therapy, tissue is irradiated with light from the red and near-infrared spectrum. Early on, lasers were used, but nowadays, red light therapy devices use LED diodes. 

This light penetrates the skin and reaches inside the tissue to affect chromophores. Chromophores are certain molecules in the cells – such as cytochrome-c-oxidase, a protein in the mitochondrial membrane which plays an important role in cellular energy production.

Red light therapy also affects the immune system cells, boosts the release of dopamine and serotonin, improves blood circulation, and plays an important part in the cell death mechanism.

All of these mechanisms result in tissue regeneration, healing, decreased inflammation and pain reduction.

Can Red Light Reach Your Pain Point?

Red light therapy has been around since the 1990s when NASA started using it for plant growth experiments and soon discovered it worked just as well on people. However, technology has come a long way in the past thirty years.

Nowadays, photobiomodulation devices are designed to help you get the best treatment no matter where your pain is located. Light of near-infrared frequency penetrates deeper, while red light penetrates shallower levels of tissue and skin.

What Kinds of Red Light Therapy Devices Are There?

Depending on their intended use, there are several types of red light therapy devices on the market.

Cosmetic red light devices, such as masks and facial massagers are mostly used to treat blemishes, acne or wrinkles, as well as to boost collagen production. They are usually weaker because the skin of the face is more sensitive.

Red light therapy panel devices are usually more powerful and take up a lot of space. For both of those reasons, you can usually find them at clinics and doctors’ offices.

Wearable red light therapy devices are relatively small, easy to handle, and you are able to place them oo your skin, or whichever body part you want to treat. This makes them ideal for difficult to reach spots, like joints.

Despite being portable and generally geared for home use, their power is still adequate, which means that you are able to get optimal results.

For red light therapy to provide you with the most relief, it’s important that it is pressed against the body part that you want to treat. The flexible design of home-use devices allows that.

Can Red Light Penetrate the Pain Source Adequately?

When fitted to the body, red light can penetrate the skin and tissue to reach the spot where it is most needed. The frequencies of the light that these devices emit are calibrated so that it is able to reach deep enough to work.

Because red light works through several mechanisms, it is effective no matter what the source and cause of the pain are.

Treating Localized and Acute Pain With Red Light Therapy

For localized and acute pain, for instance from injuries or inflammation, red light therapy works best when applied directly to the affected area.

When the red light penetrates the skin, it boosts blood flow in the area and activates the immune system cells. This helps to decrease inflammation and swelling, which helps reduce pain. Red light also boosts the release of serotonin and dopamine. 

Both of these chemicals have pain dampening effects. They affect the process of feeling pain, or, more accurately, the transmittal of the pain signal through the nervous system. As a consequence, the intensity of the pain you feel is lower.

Treating Chronic and Whole Body Pain

When the cause of the pain is more general, for instance auto-immune diseases such as fibromyalgia or lupus, or just general post-workout soreness all over the body, the mechanism at work is different.

In these instances, what works best is a general boost that low level laser therapy provides. Red light therapy supports cell proliferation, as well as the proliferation of the mitochondria inside the cell. It also helps reduce the number of harmful reactive oxygen species in the mitochondria.

The mitochondria play two major roles in the functioning of the cell. They produce ATP – an energy storing molecule, and release oxygen.

When it comes to pain relief, a higher ATP production means that the body has more energy to use for healing. With oxygenation, the effect on tissue is very direct. Research shows that increasing oxygen levels in tissue decreases pain and muscle fatigue.

This is because deoxygenated tissue can’t release metabolic by-products such as lactic acid fast enough.

What Is the Best Red Light Therapy Device for Pain?

Portable and wearable red light LED therapy devices have changed the game when it comes to pain treatment at home.

The reason? Convenience wins every single time.

Big devices such as the ones with beds or panels are not suitable for home use, and if you have to make an appointment and leave the comfort of your home every time you want to use it, it’s highly unlikely you will use it every day.

A home device such as FlexBeam can offer targeted pain therapy as well as a more general boost, thanks to its flexible design and powerful diodes.

The light of the FlexBeam is in the 625-635nm range of red light and 810-850nm infrared light, which is the best range to support healing and pain reduction.

Its energy density reaches up to 72 J/cm2. That means that you can use the FlexBeam for relatively short treatments which won’t take up too much of your time and disrupt your day.

With its powerful characteristics, FlexBeam guarantees optimal results in a convenient device that you will use consistently and with zero hassle. It is certainly one of the key devices to consider when searching for the best red light therapy device.