Red Light Therapy for Inflammation and Pain Relief

Red Light Therapy for Inflammation and Pain Relief

As time goes by, people prefer non-invasive treatment options to traditional methods. Red light therapy (RLT) is a solution that helps with a number of conditions.

It offers quick relief for pain and inflammation among others. The technology is simple as it concentrates natural light on an area of your body, and that light reaches your cells. You need to expose yourself to the light-emitting device regularly for the best results. 

Depending on your condition, you can get up to 30 minutes of exposure on a daily basis. Red light stimulates cell activity, and that helps a great deal in speeding up recovery. Read on to find out more about red light therapy for inflammation. 

An Overview of Inflammation

The  body works in mysterious ways as it tries to keep harm at bay. There are various biological processes to keep our parts functioning. One such process is a defense mechanism that rids us of damaged cells and pathogens. That defense strategy is referred to as inflammation.

There are many options that fight inflammation but we will focus mainly on RLT. Red light therapy for pain relief is effective and non-invasive. It also promotes tissue repair and growth [1].

What is Inflammation?

As mentioned earlier, inflammation is a biological reaction by your immune system that rids the body of irritants or invaders that try to damage your cells. Things that trigger inflammation include injury and infection. Surprisingly, the body at times detects its own cells as the enemy in people with autoimmune disorders.

There are also certain conditions that are associated with long-term inflammation. Metabolic syndrome is one example and consists of type II diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Research shows that inflammation leads to the progression of metabolic syndrome [2].

Inflammation comes in two major forms – acute and chronic [3]. The distinguishing factor is time. Acute inflammation happens immediately and lasts for shorter periods compared to chronic inflammation. We will delve further into the differences below.

Causes of Acute Inflammation

Acute inflammation could be as a result of:

  • Effects of chemicals/radiations
  • Exposure to foreign objects (thorns, bee stings)
  • Pathogens (bacteria, fungi, viruses)

Medical conditions causing inflammation often end in the suffix “-itis.” Examples include:

  • Bronchitis: Bronchi inflammation
  • Dermatitis: Skin inflammation
  • Cystitis: Bladder inflammation
  • Tonsillitis: Tonsil inflammation
  • Meningitis: Meninges (membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord) inflammation
  • Otitis media: Middle ear inflammation

Causes of Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation lasts from months to years, and is caused by the following:

  • When acute inflammation fails to eliminate irritants
  • Long -term exposure to irritants (radiation/chemicals)
  • Autoimmune disorders that mistake healthy tissue for pathogens

Some diseases are linked to chronic inflammation. They include:

  • Asthma
  • Tuberculosis
  • Periodontitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Chronic peptic ulcer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Active hepatitis

Factors that increase one’s risk of inflammation include:

  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Old age
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Sleep complications
  • Low libido
  • Infections

Signs & Symptoms

There are five major signs and symptoms of an acute inflammation:

  • Redness: Caused by increased blood flow to the affected area.
  • Heat: Increased blood flow causes a warm feeling on the affected area.
  • Swelling: Fluids such as pus build up in the inflamed area.
  • Pain: Occurs when the area is touched or continuously.
  • Loss of function: Depending on the affected area, loss of function may occur. Examples are difficulty in movement, loss of smell, and breathing problems.

Please note that some of the signs and symptoms listed may not always show. Sometimes one could just feel generally ill, tired, or feverish. 

Acute or Chronic?

Acute inflammation is caused by tissue damage and pathogens. Meanwhile, chronic inflammation is caused by pathogens and foreign bodies that remain in the system. Another distinguishing factor is an auto-immune response that attacks body tissues [4].

In terms of duration, acute inflammation generally lasts a few days to weeks. Chronic inflammation lasts for months or years. Acute inflammation appears rapidly while chronic inflammation takes quite some time.

Acute inflammation can progress to chronic inflammation if left unresolved. As for chronic inflammation, it leads to tissue death plus scarring and thickening.

Curing Inflammation with Drugs, Health Risks & Side Effects

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are commonly used to manage inflammation. While they do not remove the underlying causes, they help in pain relief. NSAIDs also help reduce swelling and manage other symptoms.

NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are available for purchase over the counter. However, the long term use of NSAIDs will require a doctor’s approval as they may cause adverse effects. 

Prolonged NSAID use could lead to an increased risk of acute renal failure, stroke, and peptic ulcers. Continued use also predisposes one to chronic illnesses such as heart failure and hypertension [5].

Corticosteroids

Cortisol is an example of corticosteroids. Hydrocortisone, its medication form, is used in managing various inflammatory conditions. Some of the conditions corticosteroids help manage include arthritis, allergic reactions, and systemic lupus among others.

They are available as pills, creams, injections, inhalers, or ointments. Their application should be as per your doctor’s prescription. Prolonged use comes with unwanted effects like high blood pressure, vision issues and osteoporosis (porous bones).

Recent Medical Researches Reveal the Effectiveness of Red Light Therapy for Inflammation Treatment

There are quite a number of studies that show how effective RLT is when it comes to chronic inflammation treatment. One such study focused on asthma (chronic airway inflammation). After administering RLT, there was reduced mucus production, bronchoconstriction, and thickening of the airways. [6].

Another study sought to gauge how well red light therapy for inflammation works. They found out that beyond this, RLT also effectively stimulated the healing process and provided pain relief. This led to the conclusion that RLT reduces lung, brain, and joint inflammation [7]. 

Natural Light Therapy & Inflammation Treatment

Red light therapy provides a safe alternative inflammation treatment. Unlike drugs that come with unwanted side effects, RLT is non-invasive and delivers results in record time.

The natural light wavelengths produced by a red light therapy device stimulate cell activity. Additionally, they reduce oxidative stress, giving your body an energy boost to power healing [8]. 

Post-Surgery Inflammation and Pain Relief

In 2018, researchers conducted a randomized study on hip arthroplasty surgery patients. After the surgery, one group received red light therapy for pain relief. The others were a placebo for comparison purposes.

The results showed decreased post-surgery inflammation and pain for those receiving RLT. Thus, conclusively confirming RLT as a post surgery inflammation and pain relief option [9].

Light Therapy for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition affecting soft tissues and muscles in the human body. Symptoms range from fatigue, sleep, problems, specific pain points to chronic muscle pains. At advanced stages numbness, stiffness and migraines are reported. All of which lead to reduced quality of life. 

Red light therapy for fibromyalgia offers a great solution for this debilitating condition. It lowers pain considerably while easing your muscles. The mechanism behind it is quite simple. Low light wavelengths from your RLT device activate endorphin production. Endorphins interact with your brain receptors to reduce your perception of pain. 

Muscles, Soreness, and Workouts

Quite a number of studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of RLT on inflammation caused by workouts. One such study on subjects ages 18-35 years found that RLT specifically decreased pain associated with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) [10].

A 2010 study found that using RLT before workouts significantly reduces inflammation and pain. The group involved in the study consisted of 9 healthy male volleyball players. Those exposed to RLT before workouts recovered faster as evidenced by their blood lactate levels, creatine kinase activity, and C-reactive protein levels [11].

Reduced Oral Inflammation

Red light therapy helps reduce inflammation caused by dental and orthodontic treatments. It provides an easy-to-use, medication-free way of doing it. 

World-Known Athletes Recommend Red Light Therapy for Inflammation

The past few years have seen an increase in the number of athletes using inflammation therapy. Even world-renowned coaches now incorporate RLT in their daily team workout routines. Others have even used it in conjunction with infrared light therapy for pain.

Tyson Chandler of the Phoenix Suns says, “It does two things for me; It gives me a little more energy, has my muscles feeling fresh and then after the activity it helps me recover for the following day.”

Pro bowler Patrick Peterson says, “My energy level is up, my mental game is much clearer, and the way I sleep & feel is totally different since I implemented Red Light Therapy”

Conclusion

Red light therapy is part of the best treatment for inflammation. It is safe, non-invasive, and usable right at the comfort of your home. RLT has the scientific backing of researchers and is praised by many athletes.

RLT produces natural light devoid of any harmful components. Thus, there is no risk whatsoever when using it for pain and inflammation relief. 


References:

  1. Wickenheisser VA et al. Laser Light Therapy in Inflammatory, Musculoskeletal, and Autoimmune Disease 2020 July 13 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7357616/
  2. Reddy P et al. Metabolic syndrome is an inflammatory disorder: A conspiracy between adipose tissue and phagocytes 2019 September – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S000989811931928X
  3. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). What is an inflammation? 2010 November 23 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279298/
  4. Pahwa R et al. Chronic Inflammation 2020 January – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/
  5. Marcum ZA, Hanlon JT. Recognizing the Risks of Chronic Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Use in Older Adults 2011 August 19 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3158445/
  6. Rigonato-Oliveira NC et al. Effect of Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) in Pulmonary Inflammation in Asthma Induced by House Dust Mite (HDM): Dosimetry Study 2019 March 21 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31015955/
  7. Hamblin MR. Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation 2017 May 19 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28748217/
  8. Hamblin MR. Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation 2017 May 19 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5523874/
  9. Langella LG et al. Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) on acute pain and inflammation in patients who underwent total hip arthroplasty-a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial 2018 June 16 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29909435/
  10. Douris P et al. Effect of phototherapy on delayed onset muscle soreness 2006 June – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16875447/
  11. Pinto Leal Junior EC et al. Effects of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in the development of exercise-induced skeletal muscle fatigue and changes in biochemical markers related to postexercise recovery 2010 August – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20436237/

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