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How We Use Red Light Therapy In Clinical Practice (& How you can use it at home...)

| by Dr. Mitchell Rasmussen, DC, CFMP, FRC-ms |


When it comes to the science and mechanisms of light therapy, we can let our friends at Fringe handle that. Their page dedicated to the benefits of red light therapy has everything you'll want to know to get started.


The highlights? (lol, I had to). Light therapy is a type of good stress (hormesis) that builds anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacity. Science-backed benefits include:

  • Pain Relief

  • Enhanced circulation

  • Improved sleep and energy

  • Quicker wound healing

  • Enhanced metabolism

  • Improved mood and brain performance


Red Light Therapy Benefits and Uses in Clinical Practice

Let's Talk about how WE use Red Light Therapy in our clinical practice.


First things first: The device. With a major influx of these type of medical devices on the market, we were selective in choosing a panel that has clinically studied power. The Red Light Therapy Panel by Fringe checks the boxes. It uses 192W medical grade LEDs with 660nm (red) : 850 nm (near-infrared) wavelengths in a 1:1 ratio. It is powerful for clinical use AND feasible for patients to own at home (more on that below..).


These light wavelengths can penetrate a few centimeters into our tissue. When this happens, the tissue exposed to the light will have improved mitochondrial (read: ENERGY) function, inflammation is better processed and resolved, pain goes down, and our cells are given a chance to heal.


Reading that, one might venture to guess that these are all things we want when dealing with pretty much any tissue. There is a BROAD application of red light from wound healing (scrapes, lacerations, bruises) to skin health (acne, hyperpigmentation, oxidative damage) to muscle/tissue repair (sprains, strains, soreness) to organ health!


I'll give you a few specific examples to really illuminate innovative clinical application--


LIVER/GALBLADDER.

Red Light Therapy for Fatty Liver and Gallstones

We know that when the liver loses its ability to produce energy, we may run into middle of the night waking, we may develop fatty liver, and we WILL become more burdened by the toxin load coming from our way of life.


We work a lot on nutritional and lifestyle modification when it comes to improving the ability of your liver. The additional application of red light to this area during that intervention gives us a further layer of potential healing.


The liver is superficial in the abdomen. Cutaneous red light therapy will penetrate this tissue and impart metabolic/anti-inflammatory benefit. Preliminary research shows this to be the case.


Same goes for the gallbladder. When it fails to operate efficiently, bile can become sludgy and gallstones can develop. When a stone gets stuck in a duct, removal is standard of care.


Clinically, we see associated patterns of gallbladder insufficiency. These patients will have chronic vitamin D deficiency, be very light skinned, probably report gassiness, and have pain with palpation of the tissue.


Due to various influences in physiology, the gallbladder loses its ability to properly function. (Side note: Of course we want to explore drivers here including low stomach acid, thyroid problems, or loss of vagal nerve tone...) A MAIN clinical goal is to find some relief as soon as possible with as little risk taken as possible. Red light therapy has a major role here as a non-pharmaceutical, non-surgical, low-risk therapy.


In using the liver/galbladder as a reference point, we could make inferences of similar benefit for other organ systems. This includes applications for kidney stones, uterine cramps, ovarian insufficiency and large/small intestine pain or bloating.

 

METABOLIC ISSUES.


When it comes to metabolic issues, we can utilize light therapy as a sneaky little "percentage point improver" while we keep working on the root cause. Just as chronic problems tend to develop over many years and with numerous unique instigators and reinforcers, healing occurs not from one magic bullet but from doing 'enough' stuff to start to rewire biology.


Red light and near infrared light have been shown to improve mitochondrial efficiency. This means greater energy production and ultimately a stronger metabolism. Further, there have been specific studies using red light in combination with exercise to show greater percentage of fat loss than exercise alone.


When looking to improve metabolic disease, addressing body composition using diet and exercise is paramount. Red light alone cannot replace those habits; but it surely makes for an easy addition with little effort required.


At-Home Red Light Therapy Panel Medical Grade

 

WOUND HEALING.


The increase in ATP production at the mitochondrial level as a result of red light therapy and near infrared light therapy means fewer cellular free radicals are produced and our cells are exposed to less oxidative stress overall. With more ATP and less oxidation, skin cells can more quickly regenerate and repair.


Again, we see a natural process that can be fast-tracked with the application of light therapy!


Clinically, we have used red light therapy sessions to improve post-surgical wound healing, acne scarring and postpartum perineal recovery. There are known trials showing an improvement in the appearance and healing of scars (exciting for C-Section moms!), rosacea, psoriasis, and even viral skin concerns like herpes.


Red Light Therapy has documented benefit to speed post-surgical wound healing and improve the appearance of scars

ACUTE INJURIES.


From a pain and injury perspective, we've recorded some fascinating benefits using light therapy. Our anecdotal evidence pool continues to grow as we utilize this modality more judiciously.


With acute injuries like ankle sprains, calf or hamstring strains, and rotator cuff tears, we are seeing improvements in post-visit pain, reduced swelling, and less need for OTC pain relievers after a 20 minute session of red/near infrared light therapy.


We've also noted significant quality of life improvements in patients with injuries more chronic in nature, like bicep tendon irritation, a painful big toe bunion, and unresolved low back pain.


This all makes sense. We know that red light and near infrared light allow better oxygenation and blood flow into an area of injury. This means you can start to chemically process local swelling and restore range of motion sooner in treatment of an area. The sooner this is made possible, the sooner the tissue can handle load. >> THE SOONER YOU CAN GET BACK TO DOING THE THINGS YOU LOVE.


Tissue exposed to red light will have improved mitochondrial (read: ENERGY) function, inflammation is better processed and resolved, pain goes down, and our cells are given a chance to heal.

Fringe Light Panel Review


Big clinical takeaways of Red Light Therapy and Near Infrared Light Therapy:


It feels good. The actual light therapy is pleasant PLUS it is an active step. When the light is on, you are doing something beneficial for your body. There is an intrinsic healing effect to just DOING things to heal. Think of it like an internal 'good job sticker' by simply showing up for yourself.


Just like quality sleep, a nutritious diet, stress management, and daily movement, LIGHT is a fundamental aspect of well-being.


 
Product Review Fringe Light Panel

HOW TO TRY RED LIGHT THERAPY FOR YOURSELF -


You can experience red light and near infrared light therapy for yourself as a short add-on treatment in our Cherry Creek clinic.


However, perhaps the best news? This is easily something you can incorporate at home. The Fringe Light Therapy Panel is small, portable, convenient, and economical for personal use. SHOP NOW >>


General Guidelines: Set up the panel 6 inches from the treatment area. For most areas, we recommend starting with 20-minute sessions, 3-5 times per week. If you are healthy enough for 20 minutes of sun exposure, you are likely healthy enough for light therapy*. However, for a more personalized treatment recommendation, please speak with your provider one on one.


*Medical Disclaimer: Fringe recommends consulting your healthcare provider prior to use if you believe that you are sensitive to light, are using any medications that may increase sensitivity to light, if you are pregnant, have any suspicious or cancerous lesions, or have recently had a steroid injection or use topical steroids.



Denver Colorado Clinic Fringe Light Therapy Benefits
 

CLICK HERE to shop Fringe - also available in our Cherry Creek Clinic.


If you're curious about building a personalized treatment protocol for controlling and managing your well-being, contact us to book a consultation! (This can be remote).



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Denver Functional Medicine Clinic



Want to work with a functional medicine doctor to run labs and assess nutrient status? Struggling with hormone imbalance, IBS, weight gain, mood changes? Let's look at BIOCHEMISTRY. Read more about Functional Medicine at The Facility here.



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Red Light Therapy Benefits & Clinical Application




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