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Red Light Therapy for Skin, Energy, and Pain Relief

Super Models, Pro Sports Teams and Top Athletes all share a secret weapon: PhotoBioModulation (aka Red Light Therapy)


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The answer is that for the past 5 years there have averaged more than 200 articles a year on red therapy

If we look at the publication trends on red light therapy, there's a steep rise in publication around the year 2000 and shortly after that (figs 1-3).

Fig 2: Number of published articles annually recovered from a Pubmed search with the search terms red+light+therapy (2017).

Assessing reviews and the research publications on red light treatment, raised the following red flags:

The frequent use of (discreetly placed) disclaimers, such as the exact mechanism is unknown, remains controversial or the exact manner isn't yet known, following a paragraph of enthusiastic description of a phenomenon (in all reviews and in primary sources, such as 24).

Example: the citation of Dolmans et al (16) work for the claim that red light has anti-cancer consequences. The cited paper refers to photodynamic therapy, which is a treatment that employs a photosensitizing agent (a drug) and a specific source of light. The light functions to promote active oxygen species generation. .

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Most research is concerned with recording claims concerning the effectiveness of red light for the conditions, such as wound healing cancer therapy and immune system. I analyzed two of the recent scientific reviews on the topic that were comparatively well published: Chung and collaborators article on analysis of biomedical engineering (14), and Hahm and collaborators post on Photonics & Lasers in Medicine (22). .

Initially, which had citations, had too many cases of context content of misquotations and out. The next review focuses on the capacity of red light to regulate the peripheral local and regional mediators of pain inciting agents (22). About 30% of the text is a description of the physiology of pain and inflammation.

In the end, all we know is that there are positive results of light application on conditions. .

Health care authorities approval or, worse, insurance company approval of some treatments basis is not the best criterion for soundness. However, the fact that none of these found sufficient basis to approve this therapy (2, 3, 1) and that even the Cochrane foundation meta-analysis (43) found inconclusive data to support its claims is something to consider. .

Research about a treatment which has even or empirically anecdotally shown benefit's objective is to understand how and why the outcomes that are observed are produced by it. Of the research offering results that were contentious are based on observations made on people.

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In these instances, results show it is a remedy with modest effects that are possible. .

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It has also shown some promising adjuvant treatment efficiency for maxillofacial post-surgical recovery (13, 17).

The authors stress that even though the mechanisms are unknown, all results are related to heat application, possibly to the anti-inflammatory impact. The effect is often considered modest.

Thats a basic claim, presented anywhere from peer-reviewed studies, through popularization articles and even advertisement pieces: red light treatment boosts metabolism (with the inference that it should then be useful for weight loss). That claim is based on a research about the impact of red light over isolated mitochondria (20) and one (equally in vitro) study suggesting that the relevant chromophore for the absorption of red light photons is cytochrome c oxidase (26).

The second one is so obscure that I couldnt find the original paper to examine.

Mitochondria are the organelles. That's the pathway. Cytochrome c oxidase is the final enzyme in the oxidative phosphorylation chain. Higher activity in vivo is a by-proxy sign of increased energy metabolism. .

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However, whatever occurs in the organelle that is isolated cannot be generalized to tissues or into organisms. But that is only one of the issues with this argument. There's absolutely no proof that Cytochrome c oxidase is the appropriate chromophore for anything associated with red light therapy.

Is red light therapy capable of raising metabolism We cant say it is not. Hot packs within a body part increase blood circulation and we could say it raises metabolism generally (including possibly increasing inflammation and infection). But to claim that red light treatment increases metabolism because of in vitro experiments on isolated mitochondria and cells (and even bacteria, as suggested by Karu 1987) is a tiny stretch. .

The answer to whether red light treatment has wound healing properties is again, maybe: all studies suggesting a healing effect were performed in animal models or in vitro cell studies (32, 6, 37).

The healing of tissue that is damaged requires the migration of fibroblasts, which are the cells responsible for patching up tissue.

What research into healing and red light therapy indicates, is that it may influence fibroblast migration and collagen synthesis in vitro and in animal models. Thus, we dont know what the mechanism of action is. Note, however, this is different from collagen production which websites claim red light therapy can induce. .

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Should you use it If it's a device you'll use at home After all, research shows it may help. But if you are going to cover a non-FDA approved treatment at a clinic that your insurance will not cover, you might think about the standard treatment options that are proven to succeed first. .

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Direct evidence for an immune-stimulating impact of red light treatment was obtained in animal models and the focus of study has been an acute inflammatory reaction instead of real immune function changes (23). Youd better not think about this option until there's evidence for its impact on humans.

Red light treatment is a moderately beneficial adjuvant therapy for cancer treatment side effects as it's relatively helpful in wound healing. This is because some of the painful side effects of cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy, are epithelial wounds, which is where red light treatment shows some promising applications (45, 25 and 35). .

If you are undergoing chemotherapy and external wound healing is an issue, you may attempt using red light therapy when you've got a cheap device which may be used at home and your doctor is fine with this. Remember: it isn't an FDA approved research and treatment remains controversial. .

And here we land in the use of red light that's most likely responsible for the trend that grew around it in the past few years. So: is it or is it not a skin rejuvenating agent

Yes, it appears to have a beneficial impact. But then, a lot of things appear to be effective: the first study I examined compared infrared light treatment with two different light frequencies and spectra, concluding both worked (42).

The second study compared radiofrequency (RF), electroacupuncture (EA), and low-level laser therapy (LLLT), concluding all of them were beneficial (28). If anything works, why would you choose the consensual of the treatment Choices

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The least we can say here is that more research is needed until we could say anything about the advantages of infrared light for skin rejuvenation.

The latest meta-analysis of studies concerning LLLT for hair loss states that information is inconclusive because there was a lack of visual evidence, sample sizes were low, and there were large variations in study duration and efficacy measurements (21). Another recent review (44) found methodological issues too but concluded it is a safe method and effective in some instances. .

Hair loss treatment is long term, often frustrating. Maybe you are better off using the approved treatment options which are still much less expensive than LLLT implemented at a specialized clinic. The study compares LLLT treatment with minoxidil, for example, which is an over-the-counter topical medication with a proved beneficial impact for baldness. .

That is the one case in which research gives a clear cut answer.

Id say go for it. Whatever provides you with a little relief to the constant pain this condition causes is well worth using, even if its only effective in the short term and the effects are small. You can discover red light lamps and devices for that purpose for less than $100.00.

The connection between light and melancholy was evidenced when a condition called seasonal affective disorder was identified in 1984 (36). A proportion of the human population exhibits a seasonal pattern of depression or anxiety that, it is believed, is linked to daylight variations. From start, light treatment was considered a path to be pursued. .

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Research shows that exposure to morning light generates benefits to patients and that light therapy is effective (39). Another study demonstrated that bright light treatment may be beneficial to depression in general, no matter whether it's seasonal or not (33).

Since in the 1980s it was considered that it was the blue part in daylight which was effective in treating seasonal affective disorders, this hypothesis was tested and rejected: apparently, any light is beneficial (5).

So, is red light therapy effective for depression Maybe (Cassano et al 2016). But so is any light, as solid research shows.

My advice: dont self-medicate, especially with unproven procedures. Speak to a psychiatrist. A morning walk outside may be more beneficial if they and you decide light is intriguing.

This seems to be a very exciting non-result for red light: 2.2 million entries from a google search and not a single published scientific article.

The research was performed with 38 men suffering from decreased libido, who had been subject to bright light therapy (not red light therapy).

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An increase in testosterone from approximately 2.1 ng/ml to 3.6 ng/ml was observed in two weeks.

If you are suffering from a lack of sexual desire and you're reluctant concerning hormone replacement, science suggests, again, that perhaps a daily walk in the park may be helpful.

1 thing that can be said about LLLT or light therapy is that it is safe. It wont make it even worse, although it may not help with your condition. There is no indication that you might suffer any side effects from it.

Red light therapy has been used for decades, and for decades it's been proved useful. The question is what it is useful for. It seems the claims it has mysterious molecular properties and that its panaceaic effects are a consequence of those are unfounded. The panaceaic effects, themselves, appear to be overstated. .

Red light therapy is helpful with inflammation and pain, as it has been used from the start. More than that, there is not just no consistent evidence, but no real mechanism to support the claims.

Does that mean we shouldnt use it : it means it is an interesting device for pain, joint, and musculoskeletal inflammation and a few other inflammatory conditions. It is safe, cheap and devoid of side effects, compared to other therapeutic strategies.

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