It seems that red light therapy’s growing popularity has caused an ‘explosion’ of beauty magazines, internet health related websites and other publications to feature articles highlighting the usage and benefits of this ‘healing’ light. With an abundance of material to read on the topic, many of these articles will undoubtedly reflect various opinions and perspectives on why you should use red light therapy, what parts of the body it can help, who recommends the use of LLLT, as well as a synopsis on red light devices available on the market today. Although, all these articles can provide you with a wealth of information on LLLT, there is not always truth in everything you read. That is why it is important to explore the source(s) these articles are based on. Learning more about the clinical studies and research is always an advantage because it empowers you to become an educated consumer/patient who relies on fact-based information. Clearly, with all the research conducted since the early 1800’s, it is the scientific information that has enabled red light therapy to become such a useful tool for improving many health-related illnesses and conditions.
Clinical Study: The use of red light therapy for skin
Source: Wunsch, Alexander, and Karsten Matuschka. “A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase.” NCBI, Photomed Laser Surg, 1 Feb. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3926176/.
Background: With LLLT treatments circulation is increased and fibroblastic activity, collagen production and healing are promoted. LLLT produced positive results in the increase of collagen density, improved skin tone, texture and feeling of the complexion- along with reduced roughness of the skin, wrinkles and fine lines. Red light therapy is an effective treatment for a number of skin conditions such as Rosacea and acne.
Objective: A controlled trial to determine the efficacy of red and near-infrared light treatment in patient satisfaction, reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, skin roughness, and collagen density increase
Method: 136 volunteers participated in this randomized and controlled study. Subjects were assigned into four treatment groups that were treated twice a week with either 611–650 or 570–850 nm polychromatic light (normalized to ∼9 J/cm2 in the range of 611–650 nm) and were then compared with controls (n=23). Irradiances and treatment durations varied in treatment groups. The data collected at baseline and after 30 sessions included blinded evaluations of clinical photography, ultrasonographic collagen density measurements, computerized digital profilometry, and an assessment of patient satisfaction.
Conclusion: The treated subjects experienced significantly improved skin complexion and skin texture. Use of light sources demonstrated efficacy and safety for skin rejuvenation and intradermal collagen increase.
Clinical Study: Effects of low-power light therapy on wound healing
Source: Maria Emília de Abreu Chaves, et al. “Effects of Low-Power Light Therapy on Wound Healing: LASER x LED* .” NCBI, An Bras Dermatol, 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4148276/.
Background: Light-emitting diode (LED) technology has the capability to deliver light deep into tissues of the body, at higher range wavelengths in the higher range (600-1000nm) which are optimal for healing wounds, reducing pain and repairing tissues.
Objective: To determine the biological effects that support the use of LED on wound healing. Additional objective: To further identify LED’s parameters for the treatment of wounds.
Method: Sixty-eight studies on the biological effects on cutaneous wounds were analyzed, including 48 on LASER light, 14 related to LED light and 6 for both types of light. The use of different wavelengths (532-1064 nm) was verified, with the most utilized spectral range being between 632.8 and 830 nm. The biological effects promoted were reduction of inflammatory cells, increased proliferation of fibroblasts, stimulation of collagen synthesis, angiogenesis inducement and granulation tissue formation. It was noted in a study that the dose of 4 J/cm2 was more effective than 8 J/cm.
Conclusion: The reviewed studies show that phototherapy, either by LASER or LED, is an effective therapeutic modality to promote healing of skin wounds. The biological effects promoted by these therapeutic resources are similar and are related to the decrease in inflammatory cells, increased fibroblast proliferation, angiogenesis stimulation, formation of granulation tissue and increased collagen synthesis.
Clinical Study: Low level laser therapy for treating rheumatoid arthritis
Source: L, Brosseau, et al. “Low Level Laser Therapy (Classes I, II and III) for Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis.” NCBI, Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 19 Oct. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16235295.
Background: LLLT has been clinically used for patients who suffer from arthritis as a short-term treatment for relief of pain and morning stiffness. Now an FDA approved treatment, physicians use it to help patients suffering from chronic joint pain. Red light therapy’s ability to stimulate collagen production, rejuvenate cells, increase blood flow and rebuild cartilage make it a favorable healing and preventative tool against the root causes of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and various other inflammatory joint issues.
Objective: To assess the effectiveness of LLLT in the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Method: A total of 222 patients were included in the five placebo-controlled trials, with 130 randomized to laser therapy. Relative to a separate control group, LLLT reduced pain by 1.10 points (95% CI: 1.82, 0.39) on visual analogue scale relative to placebo, reduced morning stiffness duration by 27.5 minutes (95%CI: 2.9 to 52 minutes) and increased tip to palm flexibility by 1.3 cm (95% CI: 0.8 to 1.7).
Conclusion: LLLT could be considered for short-term treatment for relief of pain and morning stiffness for RA patients, particularly since it has few side-effects. Despite some positive findings, this meta-analysis lacked data on how LLLT effectiveness is affected by four important factors: wavelength, treatment duration of LLLT, dosage and site of application over nerves instead of joints. There is clearly a need to investigate the effects of these factors on LLLT effectiveness for RA in randomized controlled clinical trials.
Clinical Study: Improvement in Depression Scores after 1 Hour of Light Therapy Treatment in Patients with Seasonal Affective Disorder
Source: Reeves, Gloria M., et al. “Improvement in Depression Scores After 1 Hour of Light Therapy Treatment in Patients With Seasonal Affective Disorder.” NCBI, J Nerv Ment Dis, Jan. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5336550/
Background: In clinical studies, continual exposure to red light therapy has proven beneficial for individuals suffering from depression or fatigue. Research shows that upon the onset of red light wavelengths penetrating facial skin, neurons begin the process of increasing neurotransmitter production, which elevates mood. Treatment in patients who were mildly depressed, fatigued or suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) reported feeling happier, more energized, and positive
Objective: To investigate possible rapid effects of light therapy on depressed mood in patients with seasonal affective disorder.
Method: Each participant received 2 hours of light on this first session. The 2 hours of light included 1 hour of bright white light and 1 hour of dim red placebo light administered in randomized crossover order. The study used a standard light therapy unit Brite LITE 6 light box (Apollo, Salt Lake City, UT; dimensions, 7.1 × 11 × 17.4 inches/18 × 28 × 44 cm) that emits 10,000 of lux light to the eye when the user is within 24 inches of the box.
Conclusion: Patients received 1 hour of bright light and 1 hour of placebo red light in randomized order. For both the first and second light sessions, the improvement of depression scores was greater for bright light than placebo but these differences were only significant for the second hour; in the second session, bright light outperformed the placebo in terms of improvement in both BDI-II and POMS-D.
Without question, the use of red light therapy has evolved through scientific research, clinical studies and the practices of medical professionals around the globe. Although there is still more research needed, LLLT has shown significant potential in improving our overall health and well-being in a number of ways. The studies listed on this page serve as ‘evidence’ that the mechanisms of red light therapy have enormous healing capabilities; which can positively affect both the immune and endocrine systems. Certainly, this is a ‘limited’ list, as there are numerous studies which focus on the subject of red light therapy. If you would like to learn more, PubMed is a renowned source for documented studies conducted on LLLT.
For additional references on studies you can go here:
(1, 4) Chung, Hoon, et al. “The Nuts and Bolts of Low-Level Laser (Light) Therapy.” NCBI, Ann Biomed Eng. Author Manuscript; Available in PMC 2013 Feb 1.PMC, 2 Nov. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3288797/.
(2) P, Avci, et al. “Low-Level Laser (Light) Therapy (LLLT) in Skin: Stimulating, Healing, Restoring.” NCBI, Semin Cutan Med Surg, 23 Mar. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24049929?dopt=Abstract.
(3) Professor Lajos Gáspár. “Professor Endre Mester, the Father of Photobiomodulation.” Lazerdentristry.org, J Laser Dent, 2009, www.laserdentistry.org/uploads/files/members/jld/JLD_17.3/JLD_17_3_07-Gaspar-LaserDentistry.pdf.
(5) Hamblin, Michael R. “ MECHANISMS OF LOW LEVEL LIGHT THERAPY .” Photobiology.info, Department of Dermatology, photobiology.info/Hamblin.html.
(6) C, Stockburger, et al. “Improvement of Mitochondrial Function and Dynamics by the Metabolic Enhancer Piracetam.” NCBI, Biochem Soc Trans, Oct. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24059528.
(7) C, Ferraresi, et al. “Low-Level Laser (Light) Therapy Increases Mitochondrial Membrane Potential and ATP Synthesis in C2C12 Myotubes with a Peak Response at 3-6 h.” NCBI, Photochem Photobiol, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25443662.
(8) Maria Emília de Abreu Chaves, et al. “Effects of Low-Power Light Therapy on Wound Healing: LASER x LED* .” NCBI, An Bras Dermatol, 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4148276/.
(9) Guo, S., and L. A. DiPietro. “Factors Affecting Wound Healing.” NCBI, J Dent Res, Mar. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2903966/.
(10) Wunsch, Alexander, and Karsten Matuschka. “A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase.” NCBI, Photomed Laser Surg, 1 Feb. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3926176/.
(11) P, Avci, et al. “Low-Level Laser (Light) Therapy (LLLT) for Treatment of Hair Loss.” NCBI, Lasers Surg Med, Feb. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23970445.
(12) L, Brosseau, et al. “Low Level Laser Therapy (Classes I, II and III) for Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis.” NCBI, Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 19 Oct. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16235295.
(13) Assis, Lívia, et al. “Low-Level Laser Therapy (808 Nm) Contributes to Muscle Regeneration and Prevents Fibrosis in Rat Tibialis Anterior Muscle after Cryolesion.” NCBI, Lasers Med Sci, 17 Aug. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3521873/ .
(14) Roy, Steve. “NASA Light Technology Successfully Reduces Cancer Patients Painful Side Effects from Radiation and Chemotherapy.” Nasa.gov, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Ala. , www.nasa.gov/topics/nasalife/features/heals.html.
(15) Reeves, Gloria M., et al. “Improvement in Depression Scores After 1 Hour of Light Therapy Treatment in Patients With Seasonal Affective Disorder.” NCBI, J Nerv Ment Dis, Jan. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5336550/.