Red light therapy is used to treat pain by means of infrared light to penetrate into the body’s tissues. Generally, the light penetrates the skin approximately two to ten millimeters deep, but higher frequencies can move deeper into the body. For those experiencing chronic pain, it is generally recognized as therapeutic when wavelengths between 800 and 1200 nm are used for treatment.
The two most common types of red light therapies are:
Low-intensity light therapy – This type of light therapy uses a Class III laser and is generally considered safer and poses little to no risk for adverse effects
High-intensity light therapy – This type of light therapy uses a Class IV laser and is used by more scientifically-valid studies, but poses more risks to both patient and clinician
Each treatment administered is individualized to each patient and their condition, and it is common for the patient to not see results in the first few treatments. The physician may schedule treatments every few days for several weeks or may even decide that once a week will be plenty of treatment.
To begin treatment, the patient will enter the treatment room and is then given protective eyewear. The skin should be clean and have no lotion or soaps on it, and the area being treated will be exposed. The technician will administer the laser with a hand-held device and the laser will be held on the treatment area from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes.
There are very few risks associated with red light therapy. The most common injury suffered (which should never occur) is when the laser is shone directly into the eyes. This is why protective eyewear is given before the treatment begins. Another risk associated (though it is rare) is when the high-intensity light therapy is continually used in the same location and results in burns or skin irritation.
In some cases, the patient may have a slight increase in pain on the treated area after the first few months. This is usually because of the healing process being stimulated. This should go away after a few days and is not due to the laser itself.