Red Light Therapy for Joint Pain

Joint pain is extremely common in adults. According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), 23% of all adults have some form of arthritis. That's about 54 million people in the United States — and there are many more cases that have gone undiagnosed [1].

What's even more alarming is that of that 54 million people, nearly half of them have restricted joint mobility, significantly affecting one's quality of life.

While there is no cure for arthritis, prescription medication isn't the only to manage joint pain. Red light therapy has shown promising results as a non-invasive, drug-free treatment in reducing the pain and inflammation of arthritis symptoms and other joint-related injuries.

In this article, we'll uncover how red light therapy works for reducing pain and how you can take advantage of red light therapy treatments in the comfort of your own home.

What Is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy uses LED (light-emitting diode) technology to emit red and near-infrared wavelengths of light that have proven therapeutic benefits at a cellular level.

Sometimes called the "power generators," the cell's mitochondria are sensitive to these particular light wavelengths. Similar to how plants trap light energy with their leaves from the sun to create food, the mitochondria absorb red and near-infrared wavelengths to generate energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is used to help the cell perform its function from muscle contractions, blood circulation, and overall cell movement.

Red light therapy, or low-level laser therapy, has been studied for its wide range of uses, from enhancing skin texture, increasing hair growth, combatting seasonal depressive disorder, and improving muscle recovery.

Low-level laser light therapy works at a cellular level to invigorate the body's natural rejuvenating mechanisms, making it a well-tolerated and safe treatment with many benefits.

What Causes Joint Pain?

Understanding the common causes of joint pain will help us understand how light therapy, specifically red and infrared light therapy, can support tissue repair and improve inflammatory diseases.

Many conditions can result in aching and painful joints, including acute injuries (sprains or strains), gout, bursitis, viral infections, and joint overuse (occupation or sports activity). The most common instances of recurring joint pain are caused by arthritis.

Arthritis refers to inflammation, chronic pain, and stiffness surrounding the joints. It's a degenerative autoimmune condition with no known cure.

Current treatments involve mitigating pain to improve function in the joints and reducing the frequency of flare-ups.

The two main types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).

Osteoarthritis is most common in women over the age of 40, and it tends to affect the wrists, hands, hips, and knees. Joint pain caused by osteoarthritis results from the cartilage between the connecting bones wearing away, deforming the joint, and reducing function overtime.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a result of the immune system attacking the membrane that lines the joints. Inflammation is part of the immune response. But in the case of arthritis, there's a false alarm calling for repair where there are none needed. RA flare-ups lead to pain, swelling, and joint degradation over time.

In children, cases of juvenile arthritis (JIA) are more common. We're still unsure why JIA occurs in some children, but it's been linked with autoimmune disorders and other genetic factors. JIA can last for months and even years — often, the symptoms disappear altogether.

Red Light Therapy As An Effective & Non-Invasive Treatment

Stiff and painful joints restrict your movement to the point where you no longer enjoy your favorite activities and, in severe cases, lose your autonomy. While there is medication available to manage chronic joint pain, over-the-counter drugs, and even prescription drugs can come with a host of undesirable side-effects.

Red light therapy or low-level laser therapy is a pain-free, safe, and effective treatment for addressing a host of musculoskeletal pain. You can find red light therapy devices at your physiotherapist's office supplemented with manual manipulation techniques, prescribed exercises, and other therapies to mitigate pain and increase joint function.

There is no known cure for arthritis, but red light therapy can be a powerful complement treatment that can help make your arthritis symptoms or joint injury much more manageable.

How Does Low-Level Laser Therapy Support Joint Pain?

More and more people are reaching for natural and moderate treatments as an alternative to pharmaceuticals.

Red light therapy devices use LEDs (light-emitting diodes) to emit low levels of photons (light energy) that penetrate deep into the skin to trigger chemical reactions at a cellular level to encourage the body's own healing processes.

We'll discuss three of the clinically observed ways that low-level light therapy supports joint health.

Increases Mitochondrial Function

According to a study, patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis have increased oxidative stress, leading to mitochondrial dysfunctions that may develop an inflammatory response that triggers arthritis symptoms [23].

Red light wavelengths (660 nm) are readily absorbed by the skin cells to promote collagen production and reduce stubborn skin conditions. Near-infrared light wavelengths (850 nm) are invisible to the human eye, but it penetrates deeper into the skin to stimulate the mitochondria and increase its energy output [4]. 

The energy produced in the mitochondria acts like an energy currency in the body to power biochemical reactions — it's essential for every cell function. 

Reduces Cytokines (Inflammatory Markers)

Joint pain is primarily a result of inflammation.

Researchers found that exposed areas to infrared light at therapeutic doses saw a dramatic decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines NF-alpha, IL-6, and IFN-gamma after four daily doses [5].

These cytokines are small proteins that regulate the activity of the immune system cells and blood cells. When they're called, they begin the process of inflammation — redness, swelling, hotness. While inflammation is part of the body's healing and defense mechanisms to eliminate harmful treats or heal wounds, prolonged inflammation can lead to tissue damage and chronic pain.

Increases Antioxidant Activity

Photobiomodulation or red light therapy at a wavelength of 660 nm had been observed to reduce oxidative stress [6].

Oxidative stress comes from a build-up of reactive oxygen species (ROS), also known as free-radicals in the cells, and that body's inability to combat and detoxify these free-radicals. 

A build-up of these free radicals can lead to DNA and RNA damage and protein destruction, leading to cell death.

Antioxidants are compounds that stop the process of oxidation. The light wavelength of 825 nm (near-infrared light) produced an onset of cellular antioxidant mechanisms [7].

This study demonstrated that antioxidant supplements had positive outcomes towards arthritis activity, which helps manage pain and swelling in the joints [8]. One of the reasons for this is that antioxidants control the effects of oxidative stress. Rather than taking supplements that are not as bioavailable (your body can't use them right away), red light therapy offers stimulation of antioxidant mechanisms of action within the body.

How To Use Low-Level Laser Therapy For Joint Pain

The best way to take advantage of low-level light therapy is with consistent use. Recently, red light therapy was restricted to clinical use, making it expensive and limited treatment.

Now, there's a wide range of red light therapy devices for home-use that allow you to leverage the benefits of light therapy at the comfort of your home at a fraction of the cost of visiting a clinic.

Managing pain from arthritis and other joint-related injuries using low-level light therapy is best applied alongside other lifestyle changes, including reducing stress levels, exercise, a non-inflammatory diet, and regular physiotherapy.

When shopping for a red light therapy device, it's important that you choose a device that includes near-infrared wavelengths alongside red light. Remember, red light alone won't penetrate deep enough through the skin to reach muscles and connective tissue.

Since low-level laser light devices have a wide range of uses, shop for a device that specifically outlines your intended use with clear instructions for at-home use for the best results.

KOZE X Series

Our KOZE X Series red light panels are used both in homes and professional clinics to support a wide range of lifestyles and conditions.

The X series is our largest and most powerful red and near-infrared light therapy unit. It houses 1500 watts of power and over 300 LEDs that emit both red and near-infrared wavelengths that you can turn on separately or use synchronically.

For those wanting a smaller device they can take on-the-go or for targeted muscle or joint application, our KOZE Mini is a rechargeable hand-held device that packs a lot of energy in a small, convenient package.

For the best results, you want to treat your inflamed joint, uncovered by clothing, 10–20 minutes per day at a distance of 6–12 inches of the light source. 

This device doesn't emit heat, so it's perfectly safe for use in your own home. We do, however, recommend you wear some eye protection as the bright lights can irritate sensitive eyes. 

With continued use, you should start to feel the benefits of red light therapy towards your joint condition. 

Koze devices are the only class 2 medical devices registered with the FDA, backed with a 3-year warranty coverage with a 60-day trial period. Our products are designed to perform and last. We're confident in the quality and effectiveness of our products. 

The Takeaway: Red Light Therapy For Arthritis

No one should have to live with pain. Red and near-infrared light technology packaged in at-home devices allow many people to take advantage of this pain-free and non-invasive treatment.

Red and infrared wavelengths have been extensively studied for their uses in skincare, psychology, and physical therapy. If you're looking for a natural way to reduce inflammation and discomfort from joint-related conditions or improve your overall health, red light therapy devices have been proven to support musculoskeletal pain relief and healing.

For more information about the benefits of low-level laser light therapy and at-home devices to support your health and wellness, you can find more articles like this that explore what the current research has to say about the advantages and potential risks involved.