What is the science behind infrared and red light therapy?

What is the science behind infrared and red light therapy?

A magic tool that can ease pain, heal wounds, soothe sore muscles, improve skin texture and appearance, lead to a better night sleep and gets rid of toxins! What type of wizardry is this? Well, it's not wizardry, it's science!


Many people have already discovered the red and infrared benefit but may not understand the technology behind it. For others, this technology is a new idea. Either way, this blog is the right place to start to understand why this tool and technology is so advantageous.

The ClinicRed red light therapy uses red and near-infrared technology. This technology embraces the beneficial aspects of the electromagnetic spectrum. What is this spectrum? Even though it's present all the time in many forms, people can only see a tiny portion of it, although some of it might be felt as heat. It cooks food by microwave, it helps create an image of broken bones, it changes the channel by remote, creates burns from prolonged sun exposure, it allows text messages to be send and without electromagnetic spectrum this blog wouldn't have been written or read!

The portion of the electromagnetic spectrum just next to the part that can be seen is called infrared. It is just outside the red on spectrum that people can perceive but the infrared can not be seen. Infrared is divided into near-, mid-, and far-infrared. Near-infrared is closest to the visible light and far-infrared is further away from the visible light. 

Red light emits wavelengths between 620-700 nm. Infrared wavelengths are from 700nm to 1,100nm. When comparing multiple studies, it can be seen that the most beneficial wavelength range is from 630-850nm. This is why ClinicRed uses the Tri-Spectrum technology which delivers 630, 660 and 850nm. This delivers the safest and most effective wavelengths that this technology can deliver.


So what does the length of these waves mean when it comes to health benefits? The longer the wavelength within the red and infrared spectrum, the deeper it will be able to penetrate into cells. Red light has a shorter wavelength so it will only penetrate as deep as into the skin. At first it appears that this isn't a great thing but there are many ways this skin layer can benefit. It helps to promote the elasticity of the skin and help fix that wound that just won't quite heal completely. How does it do that? It helps to boost collagen formation. Collagen is a protein that helps to give the structure to the skin. With less collagen content the skin is more likely to sag and develop wrinkles. Collagen also calls in the good guys when there is damage to the skin – a process called chemotaxis [2]. These good guys are required to recover from damage and injuries. If the collagen isn't there to do its job, then healing time will be slower or it can even just stop. 

A study back in 2014 used red light technology to figure out how effective it would be for cosmetic skin improvement [3]. The treatments went over 15 weeks and led to significantly improved skin complexion and skin texture. They used a profilometer to assessed skin roughness and ultrasound to measure collagen density. Using these two methods of assessment, it was shown the skin to be less rough and have increased collagen density. They got these results with no side effects other than an old scar that experienced some redness but then disappeared within a week. This study used 570-610nm, 611-650nm, 740-780nm and 810-850nm light sources, all of which showed to be beneficial. This shows that the multiple wavelength technology used by ClinicRed is such an important aspect for its effectiveness! Before and after photos showing the results can be found on the study's link. It's like cosmetic surgery without the downtime, pain or cost!

So red light is pretty amazing right? By what about the infrared waves? It has a longer wavelength so it is able to penetrate deeper into the body’s tissue. It can penetrate as deep as into the joints and muscles. Joint pain and muscle pain is something that is very common. In 2017-2018, it was estimated that one in seven people in Australia had arthritis [7]. These rates are fairly similar to other Western countries. As the age range increase, the rates rise. In people over the age of 65, the estimate rate is as high as almost 60% of people, particularly women, have arthritis somewhere in their body. There has been many studies to prove that infrared light can seriously improve the pain levels of people with degenerative arthritis. One study shows as much as 50% improvement in their pain levels [4]. To reduce pain levels by half without pain-killing pharmaceutical drugs is a great effort! 

The way in which infrared light changes and improves bodily tissue at a cellular level has been scientifically proven. In one study, near-infrared was used to pre-condition the muscles of elite athletes before exercise [5]. They were able to show that by using this technology at wavelengths of 850nm there was a reduction of blood and urine markers of muscle damage and fatigue. Another study, using identical twins, showed similar results with reduce muscle damage, pain and muscle shrinkage, as well as to increase muscle mass, recovery, and performance [6]. This just goes to prove that red and infrared technology is something that can benefit everyone, regardless of their age, health level or situation.

Since the 1950's when infrared was first used to help improve health, it has been further improved and heavily studied. The science behind infrared and red light technology is strong, even if sometimes it does feel like it works like magic!

  1. https://science.nasa.gov/ems/01_intro, NASA Science, June, 2021

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2613022/, Chemotaxis, chemokine receptors and human disease, Cytokine Publication, Tian Ji, Xuehua Xu, Dale Hereld, October, 2008

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3926176/, 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, Photomedicine and Laser Surgery Publication, Alexander Wunsch and Karsten Matuschka, February, 2014

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1727843/, Improvement of pain and disability in elderly patients with degenerative osteoarthritis of the knee treated with narrow-band light therapy, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, J Stelian, I Gil, B Habot, M Rosenthal, I Abramovici, N Kutok, A Khahil, January, 1992

  1. https://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/muscular-pre-conditioning-regimen-using-ledt-intense-exercises-could-modulate-, A muscular pre-conditioning regimen using LEDT before intense exercises could modulate metabolic and renal function to achieve better performance, Physiotherapy Theory and Practice publication, Cleber Ferraresi, et. al, June, 2014

  1. https://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/led-therapy-can-be-useful-reduce-muscle-damage-pain-and-atrophy-well-increase-, LED therapy can be useful to reduce muscle damage, pain, and atrophy, as well as to increase muscle mass and recovery, American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Cleber Ferraresi, et. al, April, 2016

  1. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/arthritis-and-osteoporosis/latest-release, Arthritis and Osteoporosis, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018