Red Light Therapy (RLT) is a treatment modality that uses near or near-infrared light to accelerate the healing process by stimulating biochemical activity in the cell. It is a highly effective, safe, and less costly way of delivering treatment. Phototherapy is widely used by healthcare practitioners to treat a variety of problems, including musculoskeletal pain, wound healing, and injury recovery.

Red Light Therapy (RLT) is the latest ‘buzzword’ in the world of medicine. Its other names include LED Light Therapy, Photobiomodulation (PBM), Low-level Light Therapy (LLLT), biostimulation, and photonic stimulation. There is so much to unpack about how it works, what the research says, and why it’s so interesting.

The Origin Of Red Light Therapy

Although the treatment of various diseases using Light Therapy is relatively new, the technology behind it has been around for decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, NASA experimented with Red Light Therapy to successfully achieve enhanced plant growth.[1] Photobiomodulation has reached a kind of breakthrough in medicine due to the development of safe, affordable, and easy-to-use LED devices.

What Is Red Light Therapy?

Clinicians administer treatment using devices or pads that emit red light of low-level wavelengths. The light is delivered through two superior mediums: Lasers and LEDs, and is absorbed by chromophores, the most important being cytochrome c oxidase. The process initiates biochemical responses from the cell, particularly mitochondria, increasing ATP (adenose triphosphate) production, which leads to a temporary increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS). Enhanced ATP results in cellular rejuvenation, improving the healing process and tissue repair, followed by reduced pain and inflammation.[2] [3]

Benefits of Red Light Therapy

As photobiomodulation stimulates biochemical activity and increases the production of ATP and nitric oxide (NO), it helps the cells repair themselves. Here are some of the benefits of Red Light Therapy.

Wound Healing

Wavelengths of red light can stimulate important cells, such as fibroblasts, keratinocytes, mast cells, macrophages, and neutrophils, that play a key role in tissue regeneration.[4] Both laser and LED light are shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects that promote the healing of wounds.[5] 

Pain Reduction

Low-Level Red Light can penetrate the skin and reach deep into the tissues by increasing the proliferation of macrophage cells in the zone of the injury, reducing pain and improving locomotor activity.[6]  Research has shown that photobiomodulation can be effective against musculoskeletal pain such as back pain, pain from arthritis, neck pain and orthodontic pain. [7] [8]

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

One of the most useful effects of Red Light Therapy is its anti-inflammatory benefits. It can reduce oxidative stress in the cells, decreasing inflammatory markers and resulting in reduced pain and swelling.[9] This property of phototherapy is beneficial in the treatment of a variety of health conditions, including muscle pain and injury, arthritis, and traumatic brain injury.[10]

Muscle Recovery

Red Light Therapy can be used to prevent and repair muscle damage as it enhances ATP, decreases oxidative stress, and has anti-inflammatory properties.[11] The treatment can be used by athletes to decrease recovery time after going through muscle injury and to prevent muscle damage. It can also be effective in treating sore and tight muscles.[12]

Is Red Light Therapy Safe?

Painkillers and opioids have side effects and can cause dependence, due to which many people are now opting for alternative methods of treatment. Photobiomodulation is a painless, non-invasive method of treatment that doesn’t require you to ingest anything and has no known side effects. The light wavelength is minimal and cannot carry out cellular ionization, so it is safe to use. It is cleared by the FDA to treat musculoskeletal pain, increase circulation and a number of other indications.

What Healthcare Providers Use RLT?

Red Light Therapy systems have found their way into various clinical settings due to their practical applications, safety, and affordability.

Podiatrists: For various side effects of arthritis and neuropathy.

Physical Therapists and Chiropractors: To assist in Musculoskeletal conditions by stimulating cellular regeneration.

Athletes and Athletic Trainers: To heal muscle spasms and injury, speed up recovery, and enhance performance.

Research has shown many practical applications of RLT in treating various health conditions and pain. There are over 7500 entries on Phototherapy, Red Light therapy, and Photobiomodulation on one of the largest online resources for medical literature, PubMed. The number of research in this area is growing, and phototherapy is already being incorporated as a major treatment modality in healthcare.

Want to get the benefits of Red Light Therapy? Check out Our FDA-cleared handheld Laser Light Devices  and LED pads. You can customize the settings the way you like to achieve the desired results. Professionals in wellness centers, clinics, and chiropractors, can reap the benefits of these as one device or pad can be used to treat several conditions and several areas of the body. For more information, contact us, and we would be happy to help.


[1] LED Lights Used in Plant Growth Experiments for Deep Space Missions. NASA.

[2] de Freitas LF, Hamblin MR. Proposed Mechanisms of Photobiomodulation or Low-Level Light Therapy. IEEE J Sel Top Quantum Electron. 2016 May-Jun;22(3):7000417. doi: 10.1109/JSTQE.2016.2561201. PMID: 28070154; PMCID: PMC5215870.

[3] Tafur J, Mills PJ. Low-intensity light therapy: exploring the role of redox mechanisms. Photomed Laser Surg. 2008 Aug;26(4):323-8. doi: 10.1089/pho.2007.2184. PMID: 18665762; PMCID: PMC2996814.

[4] Calderhead R.G. (2007). The photobiological basics behind light-emitting diode (LED) phototherapy. Laser Ther. 16, 97–108

[5] Chaves ME, Araújo AR, Piancastelli AC, Pinotti M. Effects of low-power light therapy on wound healing: LASER x LED. An Bras Dermatol. 2014 Jul-Aug;89(4):616-23. doi: 10.1590/abd1806-4841.20142519. PMID: 25054749; PMCID: PMC4148276.

[6] Hu D, Zhu S, Potas JR. Red LED photobiomodulation reduces pain hypersensitivity and improves sensorimotor function following mild T10 hemicontusion spinal cord injury. J Neuroinflammation. 2016 Aug 26;13(1):200. doi: 10.1186/s12974-016-0679-3. PMID: 27561854; PMCID: PMC5000419.

[7] Gale GD, Rothbart PJ, Li Y. Infrared therapy for chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial. Pain Res Manag. 2006 Autumn;11(3):193-6. doi: 10.1155/2006/876920. PMID: 16960636; PMCID: PMC2539004.

[8] Gur A, Cosut A, Sarac AJ, Cevik R, Nas K, Uyar A. Efficacy of different therapy regimes of low-power laser in painful osteoarthritis of the knee: A double-blind and randomized-controlled trial. Lasers Surg Med.

[9] Hamblin MR. Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation. AIMS Biophys. 2017;4(3):337-361. doi: 10.3934/biophy.2017.3.337. Epub 2017 May 19. PMID: 28748217; PMCID: PMC5523874.

[10] Martins DF, Turnes BL, Cidral-Filho FJ, Bobinski F, Rosas RF, Danielski LG, Petronilho F, Santos AR. Light-emitting diode therapy reduces persistent inflammatory pain: Role of interleukin 10 and antioxidant enzymes. Neuroscience. 2016 Jun 2;324:485-95. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2016.03.035. Epub 2016 Mar 18. PMID: 27001179.

[11] Ferraresi C, Huang YY, Hamblin MR. Photobiomodulation in human muscle tissue: an advantage in sports performance? J Biophotonics. 2016 Dec;9(11-12):1273-1299. doi: 10.1002/jbio.201600176. Epub 2016 Nov 22. PMID: 27874264; PMCID: PMC5167494.

[12] Douris P, Southard V, Ferrigi R, Grauer J, Katz D, Nascimento C, Podbielski P. Effect of phototherapy on delayed onset muscle soreness. Photomed Laser Surg. 2006 Jun;24(3):377-82. doi: 10.1089/pho.2006.24.377. PMID: 16875447.

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