Light is one of the main conditions for the life of the organism. Many biological processes can only take place under the influence of infrared radiation.
Under the influence of infrared radiation, heat is generated in tissues, physical and chemical reactions are accelerated, tissue regeneration processes are stimulated, cell growth is enhanced, biologically active substances are produced, etc. Therefore, for more than half a century, infrared light therapy has been one of the treatments for many diseases.
In this article, we will look at infrared light therapy, its medicinal properties in the context of many diseases, how it works, and its effectiveness, based on scientific research. Thereunder, we’ve also highlighted the best devices that can be easily used at home.
What is infrared light therapy?
Infrared light therapy is one of several innovative treatments for patients with conditions ranging from acute or chronic pain to sleep disorders.
The therapy uses light waves of a certain length, which are delivered to areas of the body and stimulate the body’s recovery.
Unlike ultraviolet light, which has a damaging effect on the tissues and cells of the body, infrared light helps cells to regenerate and repair themselves. Infrared light also improves blood circulation in the body, promoting faster deep tissue healing and pain relief.
Often, red and infrared light are used together. They have their specialized uses, however, most of the therapeutic benefits often arise from the simultaneous use of both.
In fact, this invasive, natural and painless method can provide a wide range of health benefits without damaging the skin.
Acute and chronic pain
Since infrared rays penetrate directly into the body, they can be an excellent method for relieving pain caused by chronic conditions such as arthritis. Regular infrared radiation therapy sessions can relieve muscle and joint pain by stimulating blood flow through the affected areas.
Violations of the cardiovascular system
Infrared heat helps lower blood cholesterol levels, which in turn significantly reduces the risk of heart disease (heart attack) and also lowers high blood pressure. As an additional effect, it can be noted that in the process of vasodilation, the muscles responsible for this process are trained, as a result, the walls of the vessels become more mobile and elastic. Blood microcirculation improves.
Infrared heat increases the body’s resistance to infections and inhibits the multiplication of viruses. Viruses and bacteria become lethargic, weakened, or die completely. The number of white blood cells in the body increases. They fight infection and help prevent colds or flu.
Weakened immune system
The method of warming up with infrared rays can be compared to the body’s response to a fever. Thanks to this reaction, the body acquires the ability to fight bacteria and viruses, slow down the rate of their reproduction and at the same time increase the number of leukocytes that fight infectious diseases
Nervous system disorders
The use of infrared therapy has a calming effect on the nervous system — tension is relieved, a feeling of relaxation and comfort of the body is created. It also has a preventive and therapeutic effect, eliminating insomnia, stress, nervousness.
How does infrared therapy work?
Infrared light penetrates the inner layers of the skin to a depth of 2 to 7 centimeters. Hence, it reaches muscles, nerves, and even bones. Many studies have shown that the frequency of infrared light with wavelengths between 700 and 1000 nanometers is best for treating inflammatory conditions.
Red and infrared light wavelengths
Infrared rays penetrate deeply into the body, muscles, and tissues. As a result, three main effects are achieved — an increase in body temperature, an acceleration of the heartbeat, and the removal of harmful substances from the body.
- The first effect is an increase in core body temperature.
During 15-30 minutes of external exposure, the skin temperature rises to 40 °C (104 °F) and the internal body temperature rises to about 38 °C (100.4 °F). This temperature rise creates a state of artificial heat that stimulates the immune system to produce white blood cells, antibodies, and interferon (an antiviral protein).
- The second effect is that the cardiovascular system begins to work more actively.
Blood spreads faster throughout the body, delivering the necessary nutrients and oxygen to the organs, removing toxins and waste.
- The third effect of infrared radiation is to detoxify the body.
In addition to the effects of accelerating blood circulation, infrared radiation is believed to be able to neutralize toxins in fat cells and tissues. Infrared technology is one of the best forms of detoxification from our body, which, with constant use, cleanses fat cells and makes the body work at its optimal level.
How effective is infrared light therapy? Based on scientific research
Light as a factor in treatment was used by the ancient doctors of Greece and Egypt. In the 20th century, light therapy began to develop as part of mainstream medicine.
Below are some studies that prove the effectiveness of infrared light therapy.
A study  was involving 39 patients with chronic low back pain. They were randomly assigned to infrared (IR) therapy or placebo treatment. As a result, 21 patients received IR therapy, and 18 received a placebo. Infrared therapy was carried out using two small portable devices (at wavelengths from 800 to 1200 nm) in a belt. The patients attended 7 weekly sessions. As a result, the IR treatment group showed a progressive reduction in pain levels of about 50%, which increased towards the end of the seven-week study period, in contrast to the placebo patients.
The following study  confirms the effectiveness of infrared therapy for the treatment of pain.
90 patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee were randomly divided into three groups (group I: IR therapy for 5 minutes, the total radiation dose of 3 J; group II: IR therapy for 3 minutes, total radiation dose — 2 J; group III: placebo laser group + exercise). All patients received a total of 10 treatments. As a result, significant improvements were noted for all parameters such as pain, function, and quality of life after therapy in both active laser groups.
The next study  was involving 113 patients with signs of aging. They were randomly assigned to four treatment groups, treated twice weekly with 611-650 or 570-850 nm light. The radiation intensity and duration of treatment varied across all treatment groups. In total, the patients received 30 procedures. As a result, all patients experienced a significant improvement in complexion and skin feel, a decrease in skin roughness, and an improvement in collagen density.
The result of treatment with red and infrared therapy
Source: US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health
Infrared therapy has been found to significantly reduce pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome, a chronic disease in which people suffer from symmetrical musculoskeletal pain throughout the body.
A study  was involving 13 women with fibromyalgia who received infrared therapy once a day for 15 minutes, two or five days a week. As a result, pain in all patients was significantly reduced by about half after the first session, and the effect became more lasting after about 10 sessions. During this time, the pain decreased from 20% to 78%.
Infrared light therapy is a highly effective remedy for general healing, as well as for the treatment of acute injuries, chronic conditions, and pain. Science confirms that red and near-infrared light has a positive effect on the body at the cellular level, providing relaxing, rejuvenating, and revitalizing therapies.
Best infrared light therapy devices
With technological advances in red and infrared light therapy, you can now find high-quality, performance, and affordable devices that you can use at home.
Lightstim — For pain relief
LightStim is a renowned brand in the world of LED light therapy.
The device emits warm soothing light from 72 LEDs (red and infrared light), which triggers the body’s natural pain relief process.
LightStim for Pain should be used for 5 to 30 minutes depending on the desired result. Also, the device is equipped with a timer with sound effects, which emphasizes its safety.
Hooga 300 — For pain relief, hair loss treatment
The Hooga 300 uses a combination of red and near-infrared wavelengths (60 LEDs in total), which are fully adjustable to achieve a wide range of goals: pain relief, muscle relaxation, hair loss treatment, and circulation improvement. The device is designed to work with the face or the whole body, depending on how it is positioned and how close the user is to it.
The panel is not as compact as the Lightstim, however, it does provide power, which reduces the use time to achieve the desired result. Based on this, the device should be used for 5 to 15 minutes.
Also for ease of use and storage, the Hooga 300 comes with a sturdy mount and overhead cables.
Sparkle Mat — For pain relief, stress reduction, respiratory disease treatment
Sparkle Mat combines several therapeutic therapies that work to relieve pain, improve circulation, relieve stress, improve mood and even reduce asthma and allergy symptoms.
The mat consists of different layers, which include LEDs of different lengths (red and infrared light), and stones (amethyst, tourmaline), which have the highest radiation of therapeutic infrared rays and negative ions. The latter helps to get rid of allergies, asthma and improve overall well-being.
The device comes in three sizes (Portable 20 “x20”, Mini 32 “x20”, Full-sized 72 “x24”), and also has a built-in timer, so you can choose the duration of the session. We recommend starting therapy at 5 minutes, gradually increasing the duration for best results.
Beurer IL50 — For pain and inflammation relief, cold treatment
Beurer IL50 is primarily used to treat muscle and joint pain. However, it can also be used to treat colds and bronchial congestion, as it reduces inflammation, swelling, and clears the mucous membranes of the airways.
The built-in timer automatically turns off the device at the end of the treatment. Also, the device has an automatic thermal switch for overheating protection.
Beurer IL50 should be used for 5 to 15 minutes. However, it’s worth noting that the ceramic glass plate that makes up the device heats up quickly, so use it responsibly. Also, don’t allow children to use the device.
Infrared therapy is a new innovative light method for treating pain, inflammation, and other diseases in various parts of the body.
Devices generate intense light that penetrates the deep layers of the skin, promotes vasodilation, improves blood flow, and eliminates the focus of inflammation. The devices work according to the point principle — a powerful beam of energy is aimed at combating pain sensations, enhances protective functions and resistance to various diseases.
Infrared radiation accelerates physical and chemical processes in the body. Tissue regeneration occurs, cell growth and blood flow are accelerated. The vasodilatation occurs, due to which the blood supply improves and the pressure decreases.
Physical tension is relieved, the psycho-emotional state improves and muscle relaxation occurs. Also, due to infrared light therapy, sleep and mood are improved.
⭕ How deep does infrared radiation penetrate?
Infrared light penetrates the inner layers of the skin to a depth of 2 to 7 centimeters. This means that it penetrates muscles, nerves, and even bones.
⏳ How often can I use infrared light therapy?
Infrared light is perceived as heat and can be used every day without side effects when used correctly. However, it is recommended not to use the devices for more than 30 minutes at a time to avoid burns.
🔎 Can infrared light therapy cause skin cancer?
Infrared LED therapy cannot cause cancer because it does not include the wavelength of ultraviolet rays. It is safe for the skin if used correctly and not overused.
❓ Is infrared light therapy harmful?
Infrared light therapy is painless, safe, and non-invasive. However, you should use safety precautions such as glasses when using the device.
- George D. Gale, Peter J. Rothbart, Ye Li. Infrared therapy for chronic low back pain: A randomized, controlled trial. – Pain Res Manag. 2006 Autumn; 11(3): 193–196. DOI: 10.1155/2006/876920.
- Ali Gur, Abdulkadir Cosut, Aysegul Jale Sarac, Remzi Cevik, Kemal Nas, Asur Uyar. Efficacy of different therapy regimes of low-power laser in painful osteoarthritis of the knee: a double-blind and randomized-controlled trial. – Lasers Surg Med. 2003;33(5):330-8. DOI: 10.1002/lsm.10236.
- Alexander Wunschcorresponding and Karsten Matuschka. A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase. – Photomed Laser Surg. 2014 Feb 1; 32(2): 93–100. DOI: 10.1089/pho.2013.3616
- Shuji Matsumoto, Megumi Shimodozono, Seiji Etoh, Ryuji Miyata, Kazumi Kawahira. Effects of thermal therapy combining sauna therapy and underwater exercise in patients with fibromyalgia. – Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011 Aug;17(3):162-6. DOI: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.08.004. E-pub 2010 Sep 25.