There is an endless supply of trendy health treatments floating around. If you've spent any time on the internet you have likely seen diets, pain treatments, workout programs, and a number of other advertisements. One treatment that is growing in popularity is red light therapy. If you have ever heard of red light therapy, you’ve probably seen some bold claims about what exactly it can do for you. You may have even thought those claims were too good to be true. We can’t speak to what you have seen on the internet, but the truth is that red light therapy really does have incredible benefits. Don’t believe us? In this post, we take a look at what red light therapy is, what it isn’t, and what exactly it can do for you.
What is Red Light Therapy?
Jobs, school, busy schedules, and changing seasons prevent many of us from getting outside every day, even if we want to. That’s where red light therapy comes into play: it’s a natural, noninvasive health intervention you can use in your home to get a full day’s worth of natural light, even if you can’t get out in the sun.
Red light therapy is a treatment that uses low-level near-infrared light to repair skin damage, muscle tissues, and promote cell growth. Infrared light is an energy source that can’t be seen with the naked eye, but you can feel it as heat (think the warmth of the sun or fire). Red Light Therapy is “near-infrared” which means you can see it in the form of red light as it uses this energy and heat to penetrate your cells. That energy promotes growth and repair in your body at the cellular level which can help with all sorts of problems.
What are the benefits of red light therapy?
Red light therapy can seem like a new, trendy treatment because it is growing in popularity, but researchers have studied red light therapy for a long time. Essentially, red light therapy is a way to increase your exposure to a naturally beneficial energy source that helps your body repair itself. The list of specific benefits is fairly long, but to summarize, you can group the benefits into two main categories: cosmetic and pain relief.
According to studies, the cosmetic benefits of red light therapy include: helping promote hair growth in people with androgenic alopecia, repair skin damage from sun exposure and wrinkles, and repair damaged tissue to lessen the visibility of scars. However, the benefits don’t just stop at skin repair. Red light therapy can help you lose weight too. When light penetrates fat cells, it causes them to release the stored fat to feed the extra energy production in the cells. Any leftover fat that is not converted to energy can be removed by your activated lymphatic system that helps detoxify your body.
In addition to cosmetic benefits, some small studies also suggest that red light therapy can provide pain relief in people with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, painful Achilles’ tendon issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, and dental pain. All of these benefits are possible because red light therapy can help reduce inflammation in your joints and muscle tissue which relieves the pain you can experience in those joints.
There is also some evidence–limited for now, but promising–that red light therapy can assist in the treatment of depression, provide a boost to your immune system, and offer improvements to patients with mild forms of dementia. The list of benefits is growing, and the more researchers study red light therapy, the more promising the results.
Better Cognitive Function (aka Brain Health)
The most important muscle of all—your brain—also performs better when your body is exposed to healthy, natural light. In one of the first human studies to test cognitive performance and red light therapy, researchers found the light treatments improved reactions times, increased memory, and boosted positive moods.  Light therapy has even been found to help treat Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia symptoms in some very encouraging preliminary research. 
Healthier Looking Skin
Collagen is essential to your physical function. Red and near infrared light has been found to naturally increase collagen production, which is critical for skin health too.  Thanks to the collagen increasing properties of light therapy, treatments have been found to reduce fine lines and wrinkles as well as other signs of aging, leading to all-around clearer, younger-looking skin.  Researchers have found specifically that light therapy is beneficial in helping children recover from scars and helping middle-aged women look younger. [5,6]
How exactly does red light therapy work?
Basically, red light therapy works by exposing your skin to red light being emitted from a lamp or other light device. The light penetrates the layers of your skin, and the mitochondria–the part of your cells that produced energy–soak up the red light and convert it to energy which promotes cellular repair. Low levels of heat are emitted by red lights, but you don’t need to worry about burning yourself, or overexposure. Think of red light therapy as getting the benefits of sunlight without the risk of sunburn.
As your cells produce more energy and repair themselves, your body benefits through pain relief, cosmetic damage repair, and a reduction in inflammation that would otherwise hinder your body’s ability to repair itself. Your body is built to fix many of its own problems, and red light therapy is another way to give it a boost to do its job more effectively.
Where can I get red light therapy?
By now you may have searched for red light therapy on Google and found out that there are many options for receiving red light therapy. There are endless options for at-home treatment ranging in prices. However, it is highly recommended that you go to an office, like Thrive Family Health Center, for treatment. While that may sound like a simple advertisement, it is actually for your safety. The risks associated with the treatment itself are minimal. However, potentially negative side effects are more common when the treatment is attempted at home.
Professionals are able to administer the proper amount of red light therapy, use the proper safety equipment, and can eliminate the side effects (skin damage, cell damage, and eye damage) that could result from a misuse of the treatment.
Red light therapy is a natural way to eliminate skin damage, reduce inflammation in your body, and treat a variety of common ailments. It is a treatment that carries minimal risk, is backed by research, and can improve your quality of life dramatically. Give it a try!