Red Light Therapy For Chronic Pain

infrared light therapy for chronic pain

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Your quality of life counts. Achieving pain relief can be a frustrating journey filled with unwanted side effects. In this article, we will expose you to the latest pain research that indicates you can lessen pain lower back pain and arthritis pain and even improve wound healing—we'll be talking about red light therapy for chronic pain.

You’ll learn the secrets of red light therapy (also known as LED light, infrared light, laser therapy, low-level laser therapy) for chronic pain including:

  • What is red light
  • How it works
  • Side effects of infrared light therapy
  • Types of devices to use at home

If you want to learn about this exciting anti-inflammatory pain-relief red light therapy device  that you can use at home, without any kind of drugs or surgery.

With that, let’s get started!

Make sure you also check out our guide to the best red light therapy devices for chronic pain.

What is red light therapy?

Natural light therapy is an exciting, modern way to help manage chronic pain. 

Whether it’s knee, neck, shoulder, back, hand or other chronic pain, there is evidence that red light therapy can be effective—without known side effects, drugs, surgery, more pain or downtime.

Every light has a wavelength that's associated with it. Some wavelengths of light are visible, and others aren't. Red light is no exception. 

The wavelength of red light has shown that it's able to penetrate the dermis which is the outer layer of skin.

Not only that, but invisible red light called infrared can also penetrate deeper into the muscles and bones.

It's important to realize, however, that red light therapy for chronic pain is still in the experimental phase.

Furthermore, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a memo that said they didn't see that red light wasn't better than other existing treatments.

As a result, government medical systems and private insurers won't cover the cost of equipment or treatments.

Nevertheless, there is growing interest in the power of infrared light because of the results people do experience.

Blue light therapy can help with boost attention, reaction times and mood. Keep in mind electronic devices emit blue light and can interfere with your sleep cycle. In other words, keep away from blue light before bedtime.

Why exactly does red light therapy work?

As we reviewed, red light is able to penetrate into the dermis and infrared can go further into the muscle and bone.

In other words, the red light can get past the top layer of skin and even deeper with infrared light.

It's the infrared light that's especially helpful to address chronic pain.

Infrared light can bypass the fat layer, into the muscles and bones where healing may take place.

red and infrared light penetration

One theory why infrared light is effective for pain relief is that it increases the nitric oxide in your cells. Nitric oxide is important because it keeps the blood flowing within your arteries.

The additional blood flow speeds up healing, reduces inflammation and can deliver nutrients and oxygen deep within your body.

Another way red light therapy works is the red wavelength, in general, is thought to stimulate the mitochondria in cells.

Specifically, inside the mitochondria is a molecule called adenosine triphosphate or ATP. ATP is where the energy of each cell is stored.

The theory is red light stimulates the ATP within your cells. The stimulation of ATP improves the cells' efficiency, rejuvenates them and can help repair damage.

Interestingly, red light therapy can also be effective with pain in your beloved pets.  

For example, this home-use device allows you to switch between deeper healing and skin healing for animals.

We explain more on how red light can help with anti-aging and skin care in this article, Does Red Light Therapy Really Work To Remove Wrinkles?

Is red light the same as infrared light?

Infrared light is the same as red light, but at a different frequency.

Actually, you’re already familiar with infrared in your every-day life.

First, you may not realize that approximately 50% of the sun’s heat comes from infrared wavelengths in the form of electromagnetic radiation.

The cool thing is you can enjoy the benefits of infrared therapy without the harmful side effects of UV rays from the sun.

Second, fiber optic cables and your television remote also run off of infrared wavelengths.

Also, infrared is also used in night vision technology and military applications.

There are three major ranges of infrared light: near-infrared (700-810 nm), infrared (810-3000 nm) and far-infrared (3000-100,000 nm).

infrared wavelengths for chronic pain

The invisible infrared wavelength can penetrate deeper into the skin then a visible red light wavelength. 

The different between red light and infrared light lies in the fact that the frequency of infrared can go into your skin deeper--2 to 7 centimeters as a matter of fact.

That means it can reach bones, muscles and nerves (which is why infrared light therapy has shown promise in lessening the pain from neuropathy too).

It should be noted that's with no known side effects, special trips, surgery, additional pain or medications.

Interestingly, red light has shown to be effective for traumatic brain injury victims.

Furthermore, if there’s any doubt about infrared light and back pain, this study shows otherwise.

The study included forty patients who suffered from low back pain for at least six years. After 6 weeks, the participants had reduced chronic back pain by 50%.

A study done in a group of elderly patients showed statistically significant improvement in knee pain as a result of infrared therapy.

Finally, a 2019 study showed that red light can help reduce the pain and clicking associated with the jaw disorder, Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD).

As you can see, there are many benefits of red light therapy for chronic pain. More importantly, there were no significant side effects associated with these studies.

Side effects of infrared light therapy

One of the reasons infrared light therapy for pain is exciting is there aren’t any known or significant side effects from infrared light therapy.

Red light therapy is especially attractive when compared against opioids and over-the-counter pain relievers known as NSAIDS.

As you know, opioids can be dangerously addictive for some people and NSAIDS can also cause other health problems.

There's a couple of things you'll want to keep in mind:

  • You’ll definitely want to wear eye protection during treatment.
  • In addition, don't overdo the time in the light to avoid burns (many devices have auto shut-off mechanisms to avoid that from happening).

Also, although some infrared light devices have been approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), the therapy itself is not FDA approved.

Like any medical treatment, we encourage you to discuss red light therapy for chronic pain with your doctor. 

Types of infrared devices

You can easily get infrared devices for home use to help treat chronic pain.

For example, infrared devices come in the following forms:

Not only are infrared devices readily available, but you can also get the type of device that's best for you and your needs.

Finally, red light therapy will help you relax and feel good--nice benefits in addition to pain reduction!


Infrared light therapy has emerged as a way to help reduce chronic pain without serious side effects or high cost.

Not only does red light therapy help chronic pain, but it has other benefits.

For example, red light can also help speed up wound healing, address aging skin concerns and help regrow hair.

Red light works in thought to work in two major ways: increases nitric oxide and ATP energy within your cells.

Both help increase blood flow, rejuvenate cells so they can work harder and more efficiently for healing.

Not only can it be effective to reduce pain, but there are also no known serious side effects of red light therapy.

If this is something you're interested in, we suggest you consult with your healthcare provider. 

To close, it's easy and affordable to get red light therapy for chronic pain from the privacy and convenience of your home.