Red light therapy is a non-invasive tool used by many of today’s elite athletes to speed up recovery and improve their overall health. If you are wondering how RLT is applied, or what it may offer, here is an introduction to the healing power of light.
What is red light therapy?
Red light therapy (RLT) has gained popularity in recent times thanks to technological advances with low-level lasers. During RLT sessions, light-emitting diodes are used as a treatment for reducing pain and increasing cell function by nourishing the mitochondria (the “powerhouse” of the cell).
“RLT compliments any clinical strategies that you may find for functional medicine,” says New York City-based sports and orthopedic physical therapist Fabian Garcia, DPT (fabiangarciadpt.com). “Each one of my patients uses RLT soon as they step through the doors for physical therapy.”
How does red light therapy work?
“The human body has 50 trillion bacteria that convert external elements into energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate),” Dr. Garcia says. “The red light at 640 and 820 nanometers directly feeds the mitochondria which generate energy in the body.” At this range, red light penetrates the skin and helps to charge cells, also enhancing the consumption of oxygen.
“We are all servants to our mitochondria,” he adds. “Sunlight, air, protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals and salts all contribute to the health of our mitochondria. When one of those elements is lacking within our daily regimen, RLT fills in those missing or incomplete variables.”
What are the benefits?
Nourishing the mitochondria with the use of RLT helps build proteins such as collagen and elastin. “The light does not repair tissue directly,” Dr. Garcia says. “It feeds the bacteria that generate energy in the body, helping to power the immune system and its collective elements. RLT also feeds the bacteria that fuel organs. At its essence, RLT helps place the human body in a position to heal itself.”
Is RLT safe?
“The red light is never harmful,” he says. “It is noninvasive and appropriate for all ages.” Red light therapy is considered safe because unlike with stronger lasers or intense pulsed light (IPL), there is no damage to tissue. The effectiveness of RLT is still being researched, but recent studies have found the therapy beneficial for wound healing, muscle building, psoriasis, joint health, pain and inflammation. (source of studies: https://www.healthline.com/health/red-light-therapy#evidenced–based-benefits )
How often should RLT be used?
“The red light can be used every day”, says Garcia. “I recommend it every morning for personal use, for 10 minutes to the front of the body where the major organs lie. If additional time is available, use it on your back for an additional 10 minutes.”
What RLT equipment is best?
Garcia says that when it comes to clinical application, Joov is the gold standard. Look out for kits that offer frequencies of either 640 or 820nm. The Biomax from Platinum LED is also useful since it has additional frequencies specifically designed for skin care.
Home solutions are widely available but take note that small portable units will likely offer less LED light coverage. “The secret lies in coverage”, says Garcia.