Science of Red & Near Infrared Light Therapy

Light therapy, or photobiomodulation is nothing new, but what is new is our ability to understand the science behind what is happening when our biology is exposed to specific wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. When we look at the theory of quantum mechanics, light energy is composed of photons or packets of electromagnetic energy. The energy of these photons depends on the wavelength, and each wavelength carries energy.

Photons that are delivered into living tissue are either absorbed or scattered via diffused reflection. The energy released from light photons is referred to as electroluminescence. Most of the energy that is absorbed by the tissue is what is responsible for the effects. There are literally dozens of reactions taking place when we shine specific wavelengths of light on our skin. One of the key mechanisms is the production of more ATP via the stimulation of the Mitochondria. By providing the right quantity of a specific wavelength of light, the Mitochondria is stimulated to create more ATP – adenosine triphosphate – which is basically cellular energy. ATP is responsible for driving many of the processes in living cells, such as muscle contractions, nerve impulse propagation and chemical synthesis.


Of all the wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum, not all are beneficial to our health. For example UV – or ultraviolet light – helps with the absorption of vitamin D; however, to much and it will burn our skin. It’s also been linked to skin cancers and other skin related maladies. What’s interesting is that there are 2 specific bands of light that have been found to have amazing effects on our biology – Red & Near Infrared waves. These wavelengths have been studied and penetrate up to 2 inches into the body where they are absorbed by our cells. Light Therapy has been used for a variety of treatments associated with things like arthritis, reduced wrinkles, chronic pain, wound healing, hair growth, improved athletic performance and better sleep.

History of Red & Near Infrared Light Therapy

Light has been a source of energy for millennia, and something that even the ancient civilizations utilized for health and wellness, without really understanding the mechanisms that were taking place.

In the 1800’s, phototherapy was born, and used a treatment regimen for tuberculosis. Many of the patients treated were encouraged to spend as much time outside as possible. Many were from environments that lacked natural sunlight, and by exposing their skin to sun, increased their vitamin D, which also helped in the treating of the disease.

It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that Light Therapy became globally known when Dr. Niels Finsen won the Nobel Prize in Medicine & Physiology for his creation a light therapy device that created more than 800 patients at his Institute for Phototherapy in Copenhagen.

Throughout the 1900’s, various other medical professionals utilize light therapy in a variety of ways that continued to strength the science that is Photobiomodulation. In the 1950’s, with the dawn of the industrial revolution, much focus was on the pharmaceutical industry, and many unexplainable sciences were termed, fake or snake oil. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that we really understood the mechanisms associated with light therapy, and were able to explain the science, and this is when Light Therapy has made its shining return.

With technology advancing as quickly as science, we’re now able to harness specific wavelengths of light at specific dosages that allow us to study and treat a variety of ailments with light therapy. Researchers and medical professionals around the world are continuing to study and showcase amazing results associated with light therapy, and the future is bright with promise.

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