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Infrared light therapy is also known as photobiomodulation (PBM), low-level light therapy (LLLT), biostimulation, or photonic stimulation. Red light therapy has been around the block. In 1903 physician Niels Ryberg Finsen won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his successful treatment of smallpox and lupus with red light. Infrared light therapy has been used in clinical settings since the 1980s in Japan, China, Canada, Northern Ireland, Vietnam, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.
Infrared light therapy is FDA approved for chronic joint pain, wound healing, wrinkle reduction, hair loss, and acne treatment. ILT can even be used for other issues like psoriasis, improved circulation, and better immune function.
Because of the recent explosion of the popularity of red light therapy, it seems as if it’s a new concept. However, that is not the case. Photobiomodulation—the official name for the type of light therapy that uses red and near-infrared light—has been studied in clinical trials around the world since the 1980s. It all started with NASA, who developed the technology to use in plant growth experiments on space shuttle missions .
The experiments were a success and showed that red LED wavelengths had the power to stimulate plant growth. So how did that translate to the use of red light therapy for humans? A scientist who was working on the NASA plant experiment found that exposure to the red light caused his skin lesions to heal more quickly. With unexpected results like this, NASA decided to start using red light therapy to study the effects on the metabolism of human cells as well as the loss of bone muscle. This is a common issue for astronauts who spend time in space. The success of these studies opened up the doors for additional research to understand and expand upon the potential red light therapy benefits .
Throughout all the peer-reviewed clinical research, red light is observed to be safe and effective at promoting a wide range of health benefits with very few side effects or adverse reactions. You can do a simple PubMed search for “red light therapy” or “photobiomodulation” and find a great deal of research on this approach to therapy.
Over the years, red light therapy has been called by many names: photobiomodulation, low-level laser therapy (LLLT), soft laser therapy and cold laser therapy are all examples. They all mean essentially the same thing which is this: this modality of treatment uses low-level lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to stimulate cellular activity in the body.
Red light therapy is a general term that encompasses a wide range of devices that use a variety of different wavelengths and dosages to achieve all kinds of results – from healing wounds more quickly to reducing the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy .
Red light therapy is distinctive to other light-based therapies because it promotes beneficial healing without inflicting damage on the body. IPL (intense pulsed light) or laser improves the appearance of the skin by causing controlled injury to the outer layer to stimulate collagen regeneration.Red light and NIR wavelengths penetrate below the skin’s surface, stimulating deep healing and cellular regeneration without harming the outer epidermis. Regular red light therapy sessions with PlatinumLED’s top-quality devices revitalize the cells from the inside out. There is zero pain, heat, or sensation during the treatment itself. Also, red light therapy carries no known serious side effects.
The most significant benefit of red light therapy is the effect it has on the body’s cells. When our cells are provided with support to operate at or close to their optimum efficiency, the benefits for health and well being are countless. One of the most critical outcomes of red light therapy on cellular function is the stimulation of collagen production.Collagen is the most common protein found in the body, constituting 70% of the proteins found in the skin (our largest organ) and 30% of the proteins found in the body. Collagen strengthens hair, is responsible for the health of connective tissue, and provides our skin with firmness and elasticity. As we age, collagen production decelerates, resulting in thinner, looser skin. The result is a more wrinkled appearance.As we age, our body body produces lower levels of collagen, this factor is correlated with the appearance of aging signs in our skin. Researchers have shown that a reduced content of collagen contributes to wrinkles by weakening the bond between dermis and epidermis of extrinsically age skin. In older skin, collagen looks irregular and disorganized .Since red light therapy restores cellular function, collagen production is also increased. As a consequence, individuals who regularly use red light therapy report that not only do they feel better and heal faster, but their appearance is more youthful and refreshed.
When the light penetrates through the epidermal and dermal skin layers, it increases circulation to help form new capillaries. It also increases collagen production and fibroblasts. While topically applied collagen is useless. Red therapy light improves collagen levels naturally by triggering the body to produce more of its own. Since collagen comprises about 70% of the protein in our skin, it’s a big deal!
Increased collagen doesn’t just give the skin a wrinkle free glow, but its ability to improve joint health makes it great for arthritis sufferers. It can be helpful for those with a variety of painful musculoskeletal issues. The increased circulation and anti-inflammatory effects that red therapy light provides also help reduce pain and heal the body.Additionally, red light therapy is thought to improve acne because it impacts sebum production, which contributes to acne.
All living things need to make cellular energy called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is a small molecule with a huge job: to provide usable energy for our cells. Some people even refer to ATP as the “energy currency of life.” There are many steps involved with creating cellular energy, for our purposes we’ll focus on the last step, oxidative phosphorylation. That’s where infrared light therapy helps the most. [2,3]
During the creation of ATP synthase, nitric oxide competes with oxygen and binds to CCO. This, in turn, stops the eventual production of ATP and thereby increases oxidative stress, which can lead to cellular death. Stressed cells produce nitric oxide, which binds to cytochrome c oxidase and halts the production of ATP synthase. Poor cell health is partially to blame for wrinkles, blemishes, and other skin ailments happen.
Remember, nitric oxide competes with oxygen and binds with cytochrome c oxidase, which stops the eventual production of ATP. Well, you could consider red and near infrared light to be heroes and nitric oxide the villain.Red and near infrared light (with the right wavelengths and intensity) breaks the bond between nitric oxide and cytochrome c oxidase. This allows oxygen to bind to NADH, which restores the normal pathway for hydrogen ions to produce ATP synthase. By breaking that bond and restoring the production of ATP, normal cellular metabolism can resume. To put it simply, red and near infrared light allows for the eventual production of ATP and once again, our cells are healthy.