New and advanced treatments are being developed for those who suffer from chronic conditions such as seasonal affective disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. Red light therapy (RLT) is one of these new methods. But does it work?
This article will detail the pros and cons of RLT for you to decide if it is the right treatment for your needs.
What Is Red Light Therapy?
RLT uses either low-level red or near-infrared wavelengths of light to treat various chronic conditions. RLT is also referred to as low-level laser therapy, low-power laser therapy, and photobiomodulation.
The type of light used in this treatment is undetectable by human eyes. However, the light or lasers give off a painless heat. The RLT devices used in doctor’s offices or in dentistry filter out harmful ultra-violet rays, so this therapy is thought to have minimal side-effects.
RLT occurs when patients apply red or near-infrared wavelengths of light to their skin through the means of a lamp, artificial light, or a specialized laser. This is typically done in doctor’s offices or by dentists, though some salons provide red therapy light services. Additionally, RLT devices are available for individual purchase and can potentially be used at home.
This type of therapy can assist with many different chronic conditions, including:
- Joint pain
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD)
- Dermatological issues.
Currently, researchers are not quite sure how or why RLT provides relief to some patients. The idea behind RLT is that the wavelengths of light target the body’s cells that control energy restoration and muscle recovery.
RLT is thought to encourage the mitochondria to repair itself in cases of damage. Additionally, RLT focuses on restoration of a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP molecules provide energy to one’s muscles, which affects overall functioning. If these cells are able to grow stronger with RLT, researchers think that it will generate a systematic healing for the patient.
There are still a lot of unknowns about this type of treatment. Yet, many patients turn to it with the hope of relief from their health conditions when other treatments prove to be unhelpful.
The Benefits of Red Light Therapy
Even though we don’t know exactly how or why red light therapy works, researchers have conducted clinical trials that definitively show symptomatic improvement as a result of this treatment. Here are the biggest pros to understand about red light therapy:
1. It Can Help Chronic Conditions
One of the most important health benefits to RLT is the hope of relief from chronic conditions. RLT is used for both physical and emotional disorders.
Chronic conditions can cause inflammation and pain, especially in cases of rheumatoid arthritis. RLT works to encourage tissue repair, and it’s proven to have anti-inflammatory effects. If the tissue can restore itself to a healthier state, patients might experience a significant decrease in chronic joint pain and swelling.
With mood disorders like SAD, red light therapy works to provide artificial light during times where seasonal changes cause consistent darkness. In fact, researchers have tried different kinds of light therapies (such as green and white) to trigger an antidepressant reaction in afflicted patients.
While red light might not be as effective as green light, for example, the goal of the therapy remains to encourage the patient’s body to recover, reenergize, and restore.
2. RLT Can Decrease Skin Blemishes and Signs of Aging
An original use for RLT was to assist patients with skin conditions and blemishes. Red light therapy can substantially help with improving skin that has been damaged or shows signs of aging.
The wavelengths of light are helpful for skin care in many ways. This therapy can reduce wrinkles, improve skin health, and generate collagen repair within patients’ bodies. This works the same way as it does with chronic conditions in that the light encourages tissue repair.
For patients with dermatological concerns or would simply like to try a new method of skin care, RLT might be the new and best treatment option.
3. Few Known Side Effects or Risks
Since RLT devices are meant to filter out harmful UV rays that you would be exposed to in a tanning bed, for instance, the risks are relatively low. It is important to follow all medical advice when seeking out this treatment.
Your doctor will be able to create guidelines for you to use when using RLT in order to avoid possible side effects.
The Downsides of Red Light Therapy
Though there are little known side effects or risks associated with RLT, you must consider the following cons to this developing therapy.
1. RLT Is Not a Cure
It is incredibly important to know that RLT is not a cure for chronic conditions or even dermatological issues. Rather, RLT works to provide temporary relief. If you decide to try red light therapy, know that it will be an ongoing process, and one that comes with long-term risks.
2. There Are Still Some Health Risks
When applied appropriately, the benefits of red light therapy might outweigh the risks. However, with any type of photomedicine and laser surgery, patients should be aware of the possible health risks, including:
- Damage to the skin
- Permanent eye damage
- Unknown long-term side effects to the skin and body
Since we still have a lot to learn about red light therapy, we cannot fully understand all of the potential side effects and risks. Currently, there are no prescribed guidelines for red light therapy that can help a patient know how much or how little to use.
Always be cautious of where you choose to get red light therapy. Though salons and private vendors offer treatments that can be less expensive, these providers often use RLT devices that do not filter out harmful UV rays. Overexposure to ultra-violet light can cause serious health concerns, including skin cancer.
3. Cost and Availability
Red light therapy treatments can be quite costly and hard to find. Insurance companies do not presently cover this type of therapy, which leaves patients to pay out of pocket.
Furthermore, if you want to purchase your own RLT device, it’s going to come with a hefty price tag that goes upwards of four-thousand dollars.
Would you try red light therapy?
Tell us why or why not in the comments below
Do you have questions about red light therapy?
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