The Benefits of Infrared Light Therapy
Many people are on a constant quest for better health. Whether they’re looking to alleviate pain, prolong their lives, or feel more beautiful, folks are always looking for the next “best” solution, supplement, medication, or diet.
But what if the answer to many of our questions was something as simple as light?
The human body needs light to be healthy. The right types in the right doses.
Our understanding of light’s effects on the body has grown immensely over the past decade. Because public knowledge has yet to catch up with science, most of us are unaware of the importance of “bioactive light” and how it can play a role in all aspects of our health.
There are actually five types of bioactive light that science has proven cause positive changes in our bodies:
Blue light helps to set and regulate our internal clocks. This type of light affects several neurotransmitters and hormones.
UV light allows us to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight.
Far Infrared light heats up our bodies and helps with circulation.
Red and Near Infrared light -- the kind you get through TheraBulb™ lamps -- stimulate cellular energy production.
Because we spend so much time indoors and in front of screens, most modern humans are deficient in all five wavelengths of light. This results in all sorts of maladies, just as an improper diet or malnutrition can wreak havoc on a person’s mind and body.
And while you’ve probably heard people talking about blue light (too much at night is bad for you) and UV light (needed to produce Vitamin D), you might not know much about the other three types of light.
Red and near-infrared light have profound effects on our cellular and hormonal health. Our bodies need ample amounts of those types of light to have optimal health.
How Does Infrared Light Therapy Work?
In the past, humans would absorb large quantities of red and infrared light from the sun and -- believe it or not -- from campfires and hearths. With most people these days avoiding fire rather than gathering around it, one primary source of red and near-infrared light has been long forgotten.
Using convenient bulbs, near-infrared (NIR) light therapy is used to supplement your natural intake of NIR light, as well as direct its benefits to specific parts of the body when needed.
Thousands of studies have been conducted on the benefits of NIR light, and it has been used to address a variety of injuries, chronic conditions, and comorbidity factors. It penetrates more deeply than UV or visible light and is benign to living tissue.
Freitas de Freitas et al. (2016) Proposed Mechanisms of Photobiomodulation or Low Level Light Therapy
Researchers working with NASA have found that NIR light therapy activates color-sensitive chemicals in body tissues, stimulating the process in a cell’s mitochondria. Light wavelengths from 680nm to 880nm have been found to travel through skin and muscle tissue, to prompt tissue and deep wound healing.
Much of the current research indicates that the long wavelength light’s effects on mitochondria are the key to understanding how red and near-infrared light benefit our cells. Near infrared light stimulates cellular energy metabolism and energy production.
Huang, Y-Y, et al. (2009) Biphasic Dose Response in Low Level Light Therapy Dose Response. 2009; 7(4): 358–383.
How Can Infrared Light Therapy Help?
Infrared therapy has been used at home and by medical practitioners in a number of ways.
Infrared light therapy serves as a drug-free method to provide pain relief from conditions such as arthritis, joint stiffness, and muscle aches.
Studies also suggest that infrared light therapy can promote the production of skin collagen to help prevent and reduce wrinkles, speed wound healing, diminish scarring, prevent herpes simplex cold sore breakouts, and more.
Research tells us that NIR light therapy can improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, and boost the immune system -- especially in cases of a preexisting deficiency.
Benefits of Infrared Light Therapy at Home
Why isn’t infrared therapy more widespread? Until recently, cost and convenience were major factors.
Older NIR therapy technology has been used in labs and doctor’s offices for many years now and goes by the name of either “low-level laser therapy” (LLLT) or “cold laser.” These red/NIR light laser devices were incredibly expensive and not the type of treatment someone would set up at home.
As research continued and our understanding of NIR light improved, researchers learned that lasers weren’t a necessary part of treatment. Red and near-infrared therapy LED panels emerged in specialty anti-aging clinics, but the average person would expect to pay up to $300 for a single treatment session.
These barriers no longer exist thanks to advances in technology and the availability of Infrared lamps designed for home use. Convenient therapy sessions at home mean you don’t have to go to a medical facility to see the benefits of NIR light therapy. This is especially helpful for those who can’t travel or who don’t have a large budget for medical expenses.
Since the risks of using infrared lamps are minimal, you can use them without having a doctor or medical expert present. Use is as simple as plugging it in and applying the light to the affected area.
(Before you start the therapy at home, you should consult a doctor to see if it is right for you. A doctor can help access the severity of the condition for which you want to use the therapy and help you determine whether it is right for you or not.)
When it comes time to choose an infrared therapy bulb or lamp, be certain to check the technical specifications. Look for lights that are CE listed and RoHS certified. You should also seek out bulbs which emit in the 390 nm – 1000 nm wavelength range to maximize both the red light and infrared light benefits.
Infrared Light Therapy Benefits for Pain
Near-infrared therapy has proven effective at reducing pain in virtually all areas of the body.
Red/NIR light has proven effective at managing chronic neck pain, knee pain, Fibromyalgia, lower back pain, chronic tooth pain, and tendinitis.
Chow, RT, et al. (2006). The effect of 300 mW, 830 nm laser on chronic neck pain: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study
Huang, Z, et al. (2015). The effectiveness of low-level laser therapy for nonspecific chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Arslan, H. (2017). Effect of Low-level Laser Therapy on Postoperative Pain after Root Canal Retreatment: A Preliminary Placebo-controlled, Triple-blind, Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of Endocrinology, [Epub]
Logdberg-Andersson, M, et al. (2005) LOW LEVEL LASER THERAPY (LLLT) OF TENDINITIS AND MYOFASCIAL PAINS A RANDOMIZED, DOUBLE-BLIND, CONTROLLED STUDY, J-STAGEトップ/LASER THERAPY / 14 巻 (2005) 0_Pilot_Issue_2 号 / 書誌
Studies have shown that infrared light therapy improves blood circulation to the region to which it is applied. This improved blood circulation promotes the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the tissues. This process also helps the functioning of mitochondria, and then aids the storing and transporting of energy to the body’s cells.
Improved blood circulation means the cells rejuvenate, which then repairs and enhances the tissues at a faster rate to help you recover faster from your injury.
Infrared Light for Back Pain
Infrared light therapy can provide relief from back pain. You should apply the light directly to the area of the back that is in pain to take full advantage of the therapy’s benefits.
The infrared light improves circulation and can reduce pain when muscles are fatigued or when there is an accumulation of metabolites in your lower back that activate the pain receptors.
NIR Therapy for Shoulder Pain
If you experience shoulder joint pain or have experienced inflammation in the shoulder region, the application of infrared light therapy can provide relief.
The light can help the cells rejuvenate and work to repair the region at a faster pace while the improved blood circulation in the area will provide pain relief.
NIR Therapy Lamps for Knee Pain
Just like shoulder and back pain, people with knee joint pain can also benefit from infrared light therapy.
While the therapy can provide pain relief and shorten the recovery time, there may be underlying problems the therapy cannot fix. These potentially unknown underlying health problems make it essential to consult a doctor to determine the best solution.
Infrared Light Therapy for Arthritis Pain Relief
Studies have also shown that near-infrared and red light therapy can help people with arthritis (osteoarthritis). The warmth of red light can provide instant soothing, while infrared wavelengths help improve blood circulation and rejuvenate cells.
Benefits of Infrared Light Therapy for Skin
Red light and NIR light stimulate collagen and elastin production, helping to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. NIR therapy can also have a positive effect on the appearance of scars, surface varicose veins, acne, and cellulite. Photobiomodulation is largely recognized as a safe and welcome method of anti-aging and skin rejuvenation.
Jiang, M. et. al. (2017). A prospective study of the safety and efficacy of a combined bipolar radiofrequency, intense pulsed light, and infrared diode laser treatment for global facial photoaging. Lasers in Medicine and Science, 32(5):1051-1061.
Kim, Hee-Kyong. (2017). Effects of radiofrequency, electroacupuncture, and low-level laser therapy on the wrinkles and moisture content of the forehead, eyes, and cheek. Journal I Physical Therapy and Science, 29(2): 290–294.
Recent human studies are proving photobiomodulation can reverse the signs of aging, repair damage from UV rays, and reduce the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and even hard to remove scars.
Reversing UV damage involves the repair of cellular and DNA damage, much like when the skin heals a wound. NIR light does this extremely well through stimulating collagen, fighting inflammation, stimulating cellular energy production, and even promoting DNA repair.
Pinar, Avci. Low-level laser (light) therapy (red and near-infrared light) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. SCMS, 32(1): 41-52.
Near-Infrared and red light therapy is proving to be a great alternative to anti-aging cosmetic surgeries, Botox injections, and more abrasive chemical peels. For combating skin aging, red and near-infrared light is a non-invasive tool that can be used at home.
Using Infrared Therapy Light for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a skin condition that results in the rapid changing of the skin cells. While the process is not visible to the human eye, the ending results are. Individuals with psoriasis develop rough painful areas on their skin that people sometimes refer to as silvery scales. The condition is an autoimmune disease with no known cure, but there are options to ease its symptoms.
The infrared light rays penetrate deep into the skin cells and slow the growth rate in the cells affected by psoriasis. This process reduces the scales, also known as plaques, and provides relief from the pain they cause.
Doctors, without the means to cure psoriasis, have started to recommend infrared light therapy to deal with the symptoms.
Infrared Light Therapy for Lyme Disease
More than 30,000 Americans contract Lyme disease each year, leaving many with lifelong afflictions such as arthritis, fatigue and even neurological damage.
The positive effects of infrared light therapy on these symptoms can provide relief for sufferers of Lyme disease. For instance, direct application of near-infrared light on arthritic, painful joints has been shown to provide soothing relief.
The cellular rejuvenation effects of light therapy have also been known to improve feelings of fatigue and lethargy. Overall improvements in the immune system are also noted. Studies indicate that red/NIR light can support optimal immune function in a wide variety of different scenarios and health conditions.
Lugongolo, MY, et al. (2017). The effects of low level laser therapy on both HIV‐1 infected and uninfected TZM‐bl cells
Skobelkin O.K., et al. preoperative activation of the immune system by low reactive level laser therapy (LLLT) in oncologic patient: A preliminary report.
Pereria, PR, et al., (2014) Effects of low intensity laser in in vitro bacterial culture and in vivo infected wounds
Other Possible Infrared Light Therapy Benefits
Infrared light speeds up the healing process of injured tissues to provide relief from pain and inflammation from other conditions as well. Here are three additional health issues for which infrared light therapy may be beneficial in helping with pain:
Infrared Light and Wound Healing
Near-infrared and red light therapy are excellent for wound healing. Red/infrared light accomplishes this in several ways:
cleaning up dead and damaged cells in skin (phagocytosis)
increasing ATP in skin cells, giving cells more energy to heal themselves
increasing the production of fibroblasts
increasing blood flow, supplying the wound more oxygen and nutrients needed for repair
stimulating the production of collagen and the health of the extracellular matrix
stimulating the formation of new connective tissue and blood capillaries on the surface of the wound.
Barolet, D. et. al. (2016). Accelerating Ablative Fractional Resurfacing Wound Healing Recovery by Photobiomodulation, Current Dermatology Reports, 5(3): 232-38.
One TheraBulb user reported much faster than expected wound recovery after suffering a compound ankle fracture. His feedback on the use of NIR light therapy after surgery can be found in this case study.
Benefits in Cardiovascular Health
There are ongoing trials to determine how infrared light therapy benefits cardiovascular health, but so far, it has shown some promising results. In these experiments, infrared light therapy promoted the production of nitric oxide, which is vital for healthy blood vessels.
Nitric oxide reduces the chance of blood clots, helps to regulate blood pressure, and prevent oxidative stress.
Benefits in Detoxification
Infrared light therapy is commonly used in saunas to aid detoxification. Detoxification helps rid the body of toxins from food, air, and even the body’s metabolism process. These toxins, left untreated, can lead to chronic illnesses and imbalances. Infrared light is used with heat to help release toxins from within the skin.
The toxins are usually present in the fat just beneath the skin and released through perspiration. Research has shown, when compared to a regular sauna, infrared saunas release up to five times more toxins.
The sweat people generate in regular saunas contains around 3% toxin and 97% water, while the sweat they secrete in infrared saunas consists of 15% toxin and 85% water.
Infrared Benefits for Alzheimers
Researchers have found that transcranial near-infrared and red light therapy benefits the brain and cognitive performance in young healthy adults, finding that it improved attention spans and short-term memory retrieval in tested subjects.
Infrared light therapy also improved memory in older adults with significant memory impairment at risk for cognitive decline, providing hope that further studies find that near-infrared and red light therapy may provide a future treatment and preventative measure against Alzheimer’s disease.
Blanco, N. (2017). Improving executive function using transcranial infrared laser stimulation. Journal of Neuropsyhology, 11(1): 14–25.
Vargas, E. (2017). Beneficial neurocognitive effects of transcranial laser in older adults. Lasers in Medical Science, 32(5):1153-1162.
The Final Word
With the wealth of research at our disposal, it’s hard to ignore the benefits of infrared light therapy. The closest thing to a “miracle drug” to be discovered in most of our lifetimes, NIR therapy is now being used to address everything from pain to broken bones to memory loss.
Thanks to advances in technology, NIR therapy can be done inexpensively in one’s own home. Quality NIR lamps and bulbs like those from TheraBulb™ make it simple to harness these benefits yourself.
Are you looking to lose weight? Remove wrinkles? Ease chronic pain? Recover from an injury?
The answer could be as easy as turning on a light.