Arthritis is commonly associated with the elderly but it is, in fact, the leading cause of disability among people of different ages and genders. The main symptom of arthritis is inflammation of body joints. Light therapy has been touted as an effective treatment for arthritis. But, does it work?
History of Red/Infrared Light Therapy for Arthritis
Since the late 1980s, physicians have used red and infrared light to treat arthritis. At the start of the millennium, there was enough empirical evidence showing that light therapy could be used to effectively treat all types of arthritis.To date, numerous studies have been conducted to determine the types of joints that are prone to arthritis and that can be effectively treated using light therapy.
Presently, light therapy is widely accepted as an effective treatment for arthritic pain and as a preventative measure against joint inflammation diseases.
Causes of Arthritis
Arthritis usually occurs as a result of prolonged inflammation of one or more joints. It is also possible for a joint to suddenly become inflamed as a result of an injury to any part of the body. When the body is unable to rejuvenate stressed joints, arthritis may develop.
Other common causes of arthritis include:
- The body’s inability to convert carbohydrates or glucose into energy. Deficiency in glucose metabolism has been associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Clinical hypothyroidism, which often occurs at the onset of arthritis.
- Hormonal dynamics:
• Women are three times more prone to rheumatoid arthritis than men and this condition is more difficult to cure in women too.
• Pregnancy has been shown to alleviate symptoms of arthritis in some women.
• The presence or absence of adrenal hormones has been associated with arthritis.
- Nutrient deficiencies and in particular calcium deficiency has been linked to all types of arthritis.
- Liver health has a strong correlation with increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
Admittedly, different types of arthritis are caused by different factors and there is a lack of unanimity over the main cause of this disease. However, it is agreeable that a reduction in energy production has a major effect on the body’s overall functioning, resulting in inflammation of joints.
Infrared/red light therapy activates the production of ATP, a natural energy element produced by cellular metabolism. Conventional treatment of arthritis involves the artificial administration of ATP in the early stages of arthritis.
What is Light Therapy for Arthritis?
Light therapy generally helps to alleviate all types of pain and fastens the healing process on any part of the body.
Arthritis is primarily characterized by intense pain, which worsens as the condition progresses. Red or infrared light, directed toward the affected joint, can help ease the pain, with patients seeing results almost immediately.
Clinical studies show that light therapy can reduce pain on all parts of the body including knees, fingers, wrist, hands, elbows, back, shoulders, jaws, and legs.
Knees are the most commonly affected joints. People with knee arthritis are more prone to disability but studies show that light therapy can effectively eliminate pain and heal inflamed knee joints entirely.
Due to their small size, fingers, hands, wrists, and toes are the easiest to treat and often require minimal doses of red light to eliminate pain.
There are two common types of arthritis—rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Treatment of osteoarthritis typically entails direct exposure of the affected area to light while rheumatoid treatment involves either directing light to the inflamed joints or to the blood in the affected area.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. This means that while the joints are outwardly inflamed, the main problem is the immune cells, thus the need to expose these blood cells to light. Studies have shown that red and infrared light is effective in treating autoimmune diseases such as hypothyroidism.
How Red and Infrared Wavelengths of Light Work
When exposed to an affected area, red and infrared light in the 600nm and 1000nm wavelength range is absorbed by the body's cells and this boosts production of ATP through a process known as photobiomodulation.Researchers have proven that red and infrared light boosts energy production. It has also been shown that this type of light can easily penetrate and get absorbed into the body.
While cellular functions in the body are not fully understood yet, it is clear that exposure to light therapy boosts the performance of cells, including those found in joints.
Making the Most of Light Therapy for Arthritis
When using LED devices for arthritis, it is important to consider the device’s wavelengths and strength of the light.
It is advisable to choose a device with wavelengths in the range of 800 and 900nmm, not more and not less, to ensure deep tissue penetration. Ideally, 820nm offers optimal light penetration to the affected joints.
When it comes to the strength of light, the ideal power density is 50mW/cm² projected across an area of a few cm².
Bottom line: Look out for an LED device with wavelengths in the 800-850nm range and with a power intensity of not less than 50mW/cm².
Best Way to Use an LED Light Device for Arthritis
For best results with your light device, direct it close to the affected joint. For smaller areas such as hands and toes, pain relief can be experienced immediately.
For severe arthritis, especially affecting larger joint areas, long-term use is required for significant results.
Studies show that rheumatoid arthritis is best treated by directing the light device over a vein.
The same treatment method would be effective for other types of arthritis such as psoriatic arthritis. For osteoarthritis, focusing the device directly on the arthritic joint would help to alleviate pain.
How to Choose a Device for Arthritis Light Therapy
For many arthritic patients, debilitating pain can make heading out to the clinic really difficult. Clinics usually use laser devices and while these are effective, they are typically too expensive to purchase for home use.
Buying an LED device is a more convenient and affordable option. It has been scientifically proven that LEDs are just as effective as laser devices for the treatment of arthritis.
Red light has wavelengths in the range of 600-700nm while infrared light wavelengths range between 700-100nmn. Researchers have found that wavelengths higher than 800nm penetrate deeper into the bone, making infrared light devices the best option for the treatment of arthritis.
Red light devices are particularly useful for the treatment of hand and feet arthritis but inflammation of larger joints such as knees and shoulders needs to be treated using infrared light devices.
Our recommended Light Therapy Devices for Arthritis:
Light therapy has been scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for all types of arthritis. Light therapy, especially with the use of infrared light, helps to boost energy production, which aids in alleviating inflammation in joints. Arthritic patients are advised to use LED devices in the 820nm range for best results in healing arthritic pain. Ideally, you should focus your device on the affected area for about 2 to 20 minutes for smaller joints and larger joints respectively.