What Does Red Light Therapy Do For Your Body? Your Guide To What Everyone Ought To Know

what does red light therapy do for your body

This post contains affiliate links which means we receive a small commission if you decide to make a purchase. Click here to learn more about our affiliate policy.

What does red light therapy do for your body? In this guide, you're going to find out what red light therapy is and what it can do for your body, sleep, pain, hair and overall health.

Let's get started...

What is Red Light Therapy?

First, let's understand what light is. Light is one type of electromagnetic radiation that  can be different wavelengths. Light can be visible to the eye and invisible to the eye as well, like infrared. 

In fact, any beam of light is assigned values of frequency, wavelength and energy associated with it.

For example, the color blue on the spectrum is a short wavelength and high frequency.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is red, near infrared/ Red and infrared and have long wavelengths and low frequencies.

You may also hear the term LED or light-emitting diode. A red LED light is a device that shows the light when the electric current is passed through. For example, a bulb is an LED.

The History of Red Light Therapy

Studies have shown that it's the color red's low-level wavelength that performs better when applied in different research studies done so far.

Interestingly, light therapy (also known as phototherapy, low level light or low level laser therapy) was originally used by a NASA scientist to grow plants for experimental purposes.

In addition, they also wanted to see if it would help address common physical problems astronauts have in space.

While running the experiments with plants, they also discovered that the experiments also showed that the scientist's skin lesions healed faster. That led to more applications to treat common conditions of astronauts such as the loss of bone and muscle. 

Later on, the Navy SEALS used red light therapy to heal wounds faster.

Along with this, NASA also conducted experiments in 2011 that showed they could successfully reduce the painful side effects from radiation and chemotherapy in cancer patients.

As research continues, you can see how exciting to see how valuable red light therapy can be for a multitude of conditions.

From the same article referenced: "With over 4000 basic science research and clinical studies according to pubmed.gov, and low complication rate, LLLT should be considered as a first-line treatment option for conditions such as acute neck or back pain, tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, mild carpal tunnel syndrome, and ligamentous sprains"

Why Does Red Light Work?

Red light's wavelengths, especially infrared, are able to penetrate the dermis to a deeper level than other color wavelengths. 

In other words, near infrared and infrared light can penetrate even further down through the skin to your muscles, bones, joints and nerves.

Scientists and researchers believe red light produces a biochemical effect in your cells that stimulates and strengthens the ATP (adenosine triphosphate) that resides in the mitochondria of cells.

Why is this important? ATP is the energy-storing and generating part of cells that appear in all living things. 

It gets better...

Once ATP is strengthened, it helps the cells to be more efficient, rejuvenate themselves and repair damage within the body. 

For example, one exciting development from studying red and infrared light showed that the stimulation of the ATP in cells stimulates the creation of collagen protein. Not only did that study show an increase in collagen density, the red light therapy treatments also helped reduce fine lines, wrinkles and skin roughness.

Another important theory why infrared light works so well is it increases the nitric oxide in your cells. Nitric oxide is important because it keeps the blood flowing within your arteries throughout your body.

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

What's even more important is red light does this without any subsequent damage to skin, tissues or organs. 

Is red light the same as infrared light?

Actually, infrared light is the same as red light, but at a different frequency. Regular red light is visible to the eye, but infrared is at a frequency that makes it invisible.

However, 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 with red light therapy devices for pain, you can enjoy the benefits of infrared therapy without the harmful side effects of UV rays from the sun.

Second, did you know 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 light (700-810 nm), infrared (810-3000 nm) and far-infrared (3000-100,000 nm).

infrared wavelengths for chronic pain

What's exciting about infrared is that it's able to penetrate deeper into the skin than a visible red light wavelength--2 to 7 centimeters deeper than red light as a matter of fact.

That means it can reach bones, muscles and nerves (infrared light therapy has shown promise in reducing pain from neuropathy too, a welcome relief for millions of sufferers.)

It should be noted that there are no known side effects of red light therapy. Neither do you need to make a special trip to a doctor's office, have surgery, endure additional pain or take more medications.

Studies on red light therapy

If there’s any doubt about infrared light and back pain, this study shows otherwise. The study included 40 patients who suffered from low back pain for at least six years. After 6 weeks of treatments, the participants had reduced chronic back pain by 50%!

Wouldn't that make a difference in your life if back pain holds you back?

Knee pain also shows improvement. 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 by participants in these studies.

Actually, regular users of LED light therapy enjoy the treatments and find them relaxing, which can reduce stress.

How Red Light Therapy Benefits Your Body

Other than being a 'fountain of youth' for anti aging skin care for your face and for pain reduction, the power of red light and infrared have also shown promise in these areas:

  • Supports the creation of collagen and fibroblasts that aid in anti aging skin care, cartilage health and digestive health
  • May prevent outbreaks of viruses (cold sores and others) by boosting the immune system (check out sauna bathing)
  • Increases energy by activating ATP, which is from the energy center from your cells
  • Boosts the immune system by activating the lymphatic system (which aids in ridding waste out of the body)
  • Encourages more efficient blood flow which delivers more oxygen and nutrients throughout the body
  • Helps slow-healing wounds like diabetic foot ulcers
  • Helps to regrow hair and slow down hair loss by energizing follicles
  • Reduces inflammation to help alleviate joint pain (arthritis) along with muscle recovery and growth and bone strength
  • Stimulates melatonin for better quality sleep
  • Aids in weight loss by reducing the size of fat cells

Want to know the best part?

All of this is possible without any side effects when used as directed!

Not only that, but you can also have red light therapy sessions from the comfort of your home at a reasonable cost. Keep in mind too that each time you use your red light therapy device or sauna, you reduce the overall cost of the device.

Let's take a more in-depth look at the major areas of improvement red light therapy might provide...

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 using infrared or red light therapy.

Also, when looking at successful studies, 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:

  • Wear eye protection during treatment.
  • 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 with any medical treatment, we encourage you to discuss red light therapy for chronic pain and your personal situation with your doctor.

red light therapy for anti aging skincare

Anti Aging Skin Care and Red Light Therapy

As we mentioned, red light and infrared show great promise in treating many different skin conditions.

These conditions include:

  • Encourages new collagen production that reduces wrinkles, fine lines and pore size on your face
  • Softens lines around lips and can help plump them too
  • Helps lighten stretch marks
  • Rejuvenates skin and corrects skin texture and skin tone
  • Increases blood flow, cellular function and turnover (the go-to treatment for many celebrities!) 
  • Rejuvenates the look of skin for a glowing, dewy look
  • Improves the appearance of scars
  • Can assist in healing sun damage
  • Encourage faster wound healing (like diabetic foot ulcers)
  • Psoriasis and eczema relief
  • Lessens the visibility of cellulite

Check out our review of the top rated red light devices for the face for our top picks.

Pain Relief and Red Light Therapy Treatment

As we mentioned previously, red light, near infrared light and infrared light are believed to generate more nitric oxide and stimulate the energy center (ATP) within your cells.

The result is that you'll receive more oxygen and blood flow to your body, which, in turn, can help reduce inflammation and pain, improve muscle recovery and do a better job healing injuries.

Using this type of treatment approach for pain can be done in salons, gyms and doctors' offices. 

However, you can also easily use these treatments at home as your prime treatment or in addition to other treatments you are also doing (as we mentioned, make sure you check with your health care provider before starting red light therapy treatment).

You have many choices available today on which red LED light devices would be your preference. For example, you can do red light sessions at home using:

  • Lamps
  • Panels
  • Wraps for targeted parts of the body
  • Heating pads
  • Portable infrared saunas

It's also well-known that stress can play a big factor in making pain worse and users of red light report they find the sessions relaxing and reduce their stress levels.

Doesn't it make sense to check out the power of red LED light therapy if you suffer from chronic or debilitating pain?

Make sure you also check our guide to the best rated red light therapy device and heating pads for pill-free pain relief

Hair Grow/Loss and Red Light Therapy

Hair loss is one of the most common effects of aging. It actually impacts over half the world’s population and 75% of women over 65 suffer from alopecia or hair loss.  There is a way to fight back through red LED laser light.


To begin, we have to remember that your scalp is skin. One thing that happens as you age is your body starts to slow down collagen production.

Actually, during and after menopause, the new production of collagen drops even more, creating even more of a deficit.


Furthermore, collagen protein is known as the 'glue' or 'scaffolding' that supports the structure of the skin. 

What does a collagen deficit mean for hair loss?

Researchers suspect less collagen means a weaker skin structure that contains your hair roots.

How does red light therapy help avoid hair loss and actually grow new hair?

Red light has been shown to promote hair growth/avoid hair loss by:

  • Helping  generate pro-collagen (the precursor to collagen protein)
  • Stimulating cells' energy center so they work harder and more efficiently
  • Reducing oxidative stress that can damage hair follicles
  • Increasing blood circulation and nitric oxide and sending it to follicles

As a matter of fact, a 2014 study determined that women statistically improved the number of hairs grown by using red light at the 655nm frequency.

Finally, using a red light hair growth device can be done easily from the convenience of your home. Although there is an upfront cost to these devices, the more you use them, the less each treatment costs.

How about sharing it between you and your partner? Even better!

We have also reviewed the best red light therapy devices for hair, so check that article too.

red light therapy and sleep

Sleep and Red Light Therapy

As light therapy has become more mainstream, many doctors are now recommending it to help get a patient's circadian rhythm back in balance so they can have a more restful sleep.

Importantly, different light frequencies absorbed by your eyes produce different results.

For example, it's well documented that blue light sources produce a shorter wavelength can negatively impact your body's melatonin production.  Blue light tricks the brain into thinking it's still daylight time.

Obviously, you'll want to stay away from the phone, laptop and TV if you want to get a good night's sleep as they all emit blue light waves.

Actually, the wavelengths from a red light source have been shown in studies to be the best color to use for sleep onset and staying asleep during the night.

Although more studies are needed, here are the reasons why red light treatments might be the best light choice for falling asleep and staying asleep:

  • Studies show that red light might encourage melatonin production which will encourage sleep onset
  • Red light can help stimulate the liver and increase estrogen levels, helping to alleviate the symptoms of menopause
  • it can help reduce levels of depression and anxiety and stress

Of course, if used as directed, there are no side effects from regular red light therapy treatments. 

It's appears red light is the obvious and natural choice to help improve your sleep quality used by itself or in conjunction with other treatments your doctor prescribes.

FINAL VERDICT

Well, there you have it...a comprehensive list and guide on what red light therapy does for your body.

As devices have become more available, red light therapy has started to become the treatment of choice for conditions like chronic pain, hair loss, sleep and anti-aging skin care.

And the best news?

There are no known side effects of red light or infrared light therapy treatments!

We hope our guide provided what you need to consider red light therapy devices for home use so you can enjoy the body, health and spirit benefits, too!