Photobiomodulation (PBM), also known as Red Light Therapy (RLT), and Infrared Therapy are two forms of light therapy that have been gaining popularity in recent years for their potential benefits in promoting wellness and recovery. While both therapies involve the use of light energy to stimulate cellular function and repair, there are some key differences between them. Here, we'll explore those differences and why PBM/RLT may be a more effective option for those looking to improve their health and well-being.
First, let's define the terms. PBM/RLT involves the use of low-level light energy in the visible and near-infrared spectrum to stimulate cellular function and repair. Infrared Therapy, on the other hand, involves the use of heat energy in the far-infrared spectrum to promote circulation and tissue healing.
While both therapies have been shown to have potential benefits, there are several reasons why PBM/RLT may be a more effective and time-efficient option:
More Time-Efficient Treatment PBM/RLT typically requires shorter treatment times than Infrared Therapy to achieve similar results. For example, a 2013 study published in the journal Photomedicine and Laser Surgery found that 10 minutes of PBM/RLT was just as effective as 30 minutes of Infrared Therapy in reducing pain and inflammation in patients with temporomandibular joint disorder (1). This means that those looking to incorporate light therapy into their daily routine or recovery plan may be able to do so more easily with PBM/RLT, as it requires less time commitment.
Greater Penetration of Light Energy PBM/RLT has been shown to have a greater ability to penetrate the skin and underlying tissues than Infrared Therapy, which may make it more effective in promoting cellular function and repair. This can lead to greater benefits for tissue healing, skin health, and overall wellness. A 2016 study published in the journal Lasers in Surgery and Medicine found that PBM/RLT was able to penetrate up to 10 mm into tissue, compared to just 2-3 mm for Infrared Therapy (2).
Targeted Effects on Specific Cells and Tissues PBM/RLT has more targeted effects on specific cells and tissues in the body, making it potentially more effective in addressing specific health concerns. For example, Red Light Therapy has been shown to increase collagen production and improve skin health, making it a popular choice for those looking to reduce signs of aging or improve the appearance of scars. A 2014 study published in the journal Photomedicine and Laser Surgery found that PBM/RLT was able to significantly improve skin complexion, texture, and wrinkles in study participants (3).
Scientifically Proven Benefits PBM/RLT has been extensively studied and shown to have a wide range of potential benefits for health and wellness. In addition to its effects on tissue healing and skin health, PBM/RLT has been shown to improve muscle recovery and performance, reduce inflammation, and even improve mood and cognitive function. A 2018 review of the scientific literature published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology found that PBM/RLT had a "promising therapeutic potential" for a wide range of health conditions (4).
In conclusion, both Photobiomodulation/Red Light Therapy and Infrared Therapy are forms of light therapy that have potential benefits for promoting wellness and recovery. However, PBM/RLT may be a more time-efficient, targeted, and scientifically proven option for those looking to incorporate light therapy into their daily routine or address specific health concerns. By stimulating cellular function and repair through low-level light energy, PBM/RLT has been shown to have a wide range of potential benefits for health and wellness. If you're interested in trying PBM/RLT, there are several options available, including at-home devices.
In summary, both PBM/RLT and Infrared Therapy are forms of light therapy with potential benefits for promoting wellness and recovery. However, PBM/RLT may be a more time-efficient and targeted option, with greater penetration of light energy and scientifically proven benefits. By incorporating PBM/RLT into your daily routine or recovery plan, you may be able to enhance your overall health and well-being.
This blog is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease, illness or health issue.
Alayat MS, Atya AM, Ali MM. Long-term effect of high-intensity laser therapy in the treatment of patients with chronic low back pain: a randomized blinded placebo-controlled trial. Lasers Med Sci. 2014 Jul;29(4):1065-73. doi: 10.1007/s10103-013-1468-9. Epub 2013 Nov 23. PMID: 24271091.
Avci P, Gupta A, Sadasivam M, Vecchio D, Pam Z, Pam N, Hamblin MR. Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2013 Mar;32(1):41-52. PMID: 24049929.
Wunsch A, Matuschka K. 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;32(2):93-100. doi: 10.1089/pho.2013.3616. PMID: 24424782.
Hamblin MR. Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation. AIMS Biophys. 2017;4(3):337-361. Published 2017 May 4. doi:10.3934/biophy.2017.3.337