Near infrared light therapy is an every-day term for the science of photobiomodulation. It uses invisible, near infrared wavelengths between 700 and 1200 nm to deliver energy to the cells, stimulating healing and relieving pain. Infrared light therapy has been proven effective by hundreds of studies all over the globe, is 100% natural and has no known adverse side effects.
What is Near Infrared Light Therapy?
Near infrared light therapy is essentially the same as red light therapy, except infrared energy is invisible, and it penetrates the body deeper than red, reaching deep into soft tissues, muscles, joints, and bone.
Near infrared light therapy is where light therapy gets serious. The combination of red light therapy with near infrared energy is being researched for amazing things such as the reversal of traumatic brain injury, stopping and healing the debilitating effects of stroke and heart attack, and the regeneration of damaged nerves and severed spinal cords. I saw the slides of the stroke, nerve and spinal cord regeneration examples with my own eyes at the 2009 LLLT conference in Rochester, NY.
While all of that is unfortunately still years away from common practice, the power of near infrared light therapy has already been FDA approved and is available in-home for the relief of chronic pain. As with red light therapy, near infrared light therapy does not mask the symptoms of pain, it encourages the healing of the actual cause of the pain and so, in many cases, after a course of treatment with infrared light, the pain is gone for good.
The Wavelengths of Near Infrared Light Therapy
Infrared light immediately follows red light on the electromagnetic spectrum. Infrared (IR) light energy is broken down into three groups:
- Near Infrared, also called infrared A (IR-A). Near IR spans wavelengths 760 to 1,400 nm. Most home therapy devices use these wavelengths.
- Mid Infrared, also called infrared B (IR-B) – These wavelengths are used in many household electronic devices such as remote controls.
- Far Infrared, or IR-C– also known as long wave infrared , thermal infrared (thermal-IR). This is the largest part of the IR spectrum, used in infrared saunas.
Effective wavelengths of near infrared light therapy include 700 nm to 1400 nm. The whole range of wavelengths have the same healing and therapeutic effect, the big difference is this: the longer the wavelength, the deeper it penetrates into the body. So, for example, for applications effecting the surface of the skin, red light therapy (620nm-700nm) would be adequate. For the healing of deep wounds or the relief of deep muscle and joint pain, the longer wavelengths of near infrared are more beneficial. 850nm and 980 nm are common.
How Does it Work?
Near infrared light therapy works exactly the same way red light therapy works. Visible red and invisible near infrared energy are absorbed by photoreceptors in each cell. Once absorbed, the light energy kicks off a whole series of metabolic events, stimulating the body’s natural processes on a cellular level. There is an increase in blood flow, allowing the parts of the body to receive the oxygen and nutrients they need in order to function more effectively. Regeneration is stimulated. Inflammation and pain are reduced. For more details, and a list of possible ways you can put red or red infrared light therapy to work for you, please visit the Wound Care & Pain Relief Page.
What Kind of Light Do You Need?
As with red light therapy, the light source does not matter. Effective near infrared light therapy can come from a low level laser, high power LED, and array of low power LEDs, incandescent, fluorescent or other light source, as long as the proper wavelengths are emitted.
Although red infrared light therapy is safe, one should follow the same precautions as for red light therapy before beginning treatment.