Light therapy is a type of treatment that uses light to improve various health conditions. It has been used to treat chronic pain since at least the early 2000s and has become more popular in recent years due to its effectiveness and relatively low cost.
In this article we'll discuss what light therapy is, how it works for treating chronic pain, and the most common types of light therapy that you might consider trying.
What is light therapy?
Light therapy is a non-invasive treatment for pain that uses light to reduce inflammation. Using LEDs (like those in Phera red light therapy torch device), the light triggers biochemical changes within cells and stimulates cellular activity in order to achieve therapeutic benefits.
This kind of therapy can help with chronic pain, nerve pain, and inflammation. Light therapy has been shown to help with migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, and arthritis.
Is light therapy backed by science?
Light therapy is not a new form of treatment, noninvasive, and relatively safe when used correctly. It's been used for decades to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and other conditions, and the results are backed by science.
It's a fact that light therapy was approved by the FDA for pain control in 2002, but it is used far more widely in Europe and Australia than in other countries. In recent years there’s been progress in understanding how light works at the molecular and cellular level. Recent research explains how a single brief exposure to light can have effects lasting for hours, days, or even weeks.
What kinds of pain does light therapy treat?
In fact, light therapy could be used on any body part to treat any type of chronic pain. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
Muscular back pain
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
Light therapy can be used as a pain management tool. A recent NPR article explains how they work:
“The LEDs work by stimulating cells in your eyes called photoreceptors. When that happens, chemicals are released that send signals to your brain's nerve endings. The result is less pain or better sleep."
Mayo Clinic also has some great information about how light therapy works and who it might benefit, "Pain Management: Light Therapy May Help Those With Chronic Pain."
Types of light therapy
There are three main types of light therapy:
Blue light therapy, or photobiomodulation, which uses blue wavelengths of light to reduce inflammation and promote healing. It may help prevent or reduce acne breakouts by curbing the sebaceous glands’ production of oil.
Red light therapy, also known as low-level laser acupuncture or soft laser therapy, uses red wavelengths to stimulate blood circulation and increases the rate at which cells regenerate. Applying red light can help diminish the appearance of scars, age spots, and inflammation by stimulating collagen production.
Infrared (IR) radiation is similar in wavelength to sunlight and is invisible to the naked eye. Infrared heat may penetrate the skin on a deeper level, increase cell permeability, increase skin elasticity, speed up healing, reduce pain and swelling, and decrease wrinkles and lines.