Red Light Therapy

Red Light Therapy is a relatively new modality with some amazing properties. Its benefits were initially discovered by NASA while they were trying to grow plants in space and its use has grown from there.

A specific type of red light is used for Red Light Therapy. LED bulbs that emit wavelengths at approximately 660 nm are ideal. It has been found that light around 660 nm is most effective for therapeutic purposes as it is most easily absorbed by cells. The red light used is considered incoherent, rather than the amplified coherent light that is used in a laser. This makes a Red Light much safer to use than a laser. Red Light Therapy also differs from infrared light in that it is visible and does not produce heat. An infrared light is only visible when a colored lens is placed over it, and it will get quite warm. This allows Red Light to be more user friendly, and can even be utilized by the horse owner.

When Red Light Therapy is applied the wavelengths come into contact with the skin. This contact slows the wavelengths down and scatters the light particles, now known as photons. The photons decay into electrons via the photoelectric effect described by physicists Max Planck and Albert Einstein and thus create a small measurable negative charge within the body. This also causes the pH to become slightly more alkaline. The body’s cells function best when they are more negatively charged and alkaline on the inside. Therefore the slight charge and alkalinity created by the red light stimulates the cells membrane to draw in nutrients whilst simultaneously expelling wastes. This process excites the mitochondria, which then produce more ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecule of choice for the body. 

We all understand that the nervous system is a main way of communication for the body. There is another system of communication called the intraneural collagen matrix. This system is made up of connective tissue which is spread throughout the body. This connective tissue is mostly made up of a specific type of collagen. Any time this collagen has a type of energy applied to it (temperature, pressure, movement), it distorts and creates an electrical message which can then by transmitted anywhere in the body. This system tends to be one of defense and repair, responding to pain, illness and disease by initiating healing.

The photoelectric effect of Red Light also stimulates the intraneural system, causing the body to release its own natural healing chemicals.
The above two paragraphs briefly summarize two of the effects that applying Red Light has within the body. A few others include facilitation of protein synthesis, increased microcirculation flow, and increased cell growth. In fact, Biologists at the Medical College of Wisconsin have shown that cells exposed to Red Light grow 150 to 200 percent faster than a control group of cells not exposed to Red Light. All of these effects essentially combine to produce healing within the body. Based on this, Red Light Therapy can be used in a fairly general manner. This may include working directly on trauma or wound to reduce pain and decrease the healing time. I have used this method on my red heeler CeCe, who had just been spayed. She really enjoyed having the light used on her incision and it healed very well. I also used this idea on a particularly painful bruise on my knee cap after I fell on the ice. The bruise was initially so sensitive it hurt to even have my pants touch it. After working with the Red Light for a couple of minutes I could actually push on the bruise without experiencing any discomfort. I reapplied the light a few different times when the bruise felt a bit tender again, and I feel that the bruise healed much quicker than it would have if left alone. If I would have been really on top of things, I would have used the Red Light immediately after the fall initially occurred. With that application it would have been possible that the bruise wouldn’t have even developed!

Another way to use Red Light Therapy is to combine it with Traditional Chinese Medicine and use it to stimulate acupoints. Acupoints are areas on the skin which have a lowered electrical resistance and have a measurable slightly positive charge. A positive charge means a more acidic pH and increased pain sensitivity. Many of these points lie on meridians, which are energy pathways through the body. When a Red Light is used on an acupoint it will still create the photoelectric effect, resulting in a more negatively charged and alkaline environment. The difference on an acupoint is that it is likely to have some effect on the entire meridian, corresponding with the long respected principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In this way you can combine points to help a particular issue or imbalance. For example, you can work on the Essential Points to help improve overall health or you can add in specific points that may aid in digestion, help boost the lymphatic system or assist in clearing runny eyes. The advantage to using a red light to stimulate the acupoints is that it is non-invasive (you don’t have to puncture the skin with a needle) and it works much more quickly than stimulating the point with acupressure. For example, depending on the particular light, the point may only need to be stimulated for 6-10 seconds. When working the point with acupressure it may need a minute or two of stimulation. This makes it much easier on the therapist using a Red Light. In short, you can obtain all of the benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine more quickly and without piercing the skin with needles. The only thing to keep in mind is that in a chronic situation the acupoints should not be stimulated more frequently than every 48 hours. Doing so can “shut off” the body’s response to the Red Light, putting an end to the benefits for the time being. In the event that this happens, Red Light would need to be withheld for four days before being reapplied.

Due to the ease of use and many applications of Red Light, Red Light Therapy is very easy to integrate with other therapies. A larger “wound bank” light can be applied over sore muscles to help them heal and reduce the time spent massaging these areas. If the individual is having difficulties with a specific organ imbalance, specific points can be used to support and rebalance, while the other modalities address other issues.

In my mind, one of the greatest advantages or Red Light Therapy is the ability to work on an injury as soon as it has happened. Most other modalities require that the trauma is a minimum of 72 hours old. With Red Light you can immediately start supporting the body as you are not applying any pressure to injured tissues; instead, you are further stimulating the body’s own natural healing processes. The worst thing that can happen is that the body stops responding to the stimulation if it is over applied.

In conclusion, Red Light Therapy is a widely applicable modality that stimulates the body’s natural healing processes. It is simple and easy to use and combines well with other modalities.


Equine Photonic Red Light Therapy, Certification Course Manual 2013, Dianne Jenkins