Red Light Therapy For Back Pain

Jun 4, 2020 | Laurie Velger

Medically reviewed by Karen Wolters, RN and Joanna Fearnley, LPN

Girl using red light therapy for back pain

Many are turning to red light therapy for back pain. According to a 2015 study, “One out of three Americans is affected by chronic pain annually.”[1]  So for those searching for back pain relief, NIR (near-infrared) Red Light Therapy, a type of phototherapy treatment, is providing much needed help. Red light therapy is non-invasive, has no known adverse side effects, and is an effective all-natural alternative to both pharmaceutical drugs (which may be costly and addictive) and surgery (which may also be costly as well as painful, and require weeks of recuperation).

Stimulating the Body’s Natural Healing with Red Light Therapy for Back Pain

Whether you’re sitting or laying down, the red light therapy pads work their magic, while operating at body temperature and kicking your body’s natural healing processes into high gear. When you use red light therapy for back pain, a photochemical reaction is induced in the cells, a process referred to as “photobiomodulation” or “PBM”.  Cascades of therapeutic chemical processes that support the body’s own innate healing capabilities are being released. “Radiation of tissue with light causes an increase in mitochondrial products such as ATP, NADH, protein, and RNA.”[2]  ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) provides cellular energy and also fights oxidative stress. Nitric oxide is also released, which plays an important role in phototherapy back pain relief.


Benefits of Using Red Light Therapy to Combat Back Pain

Using red light therapy to promote healing of painful areas of your body is will alleviate pain by assisting and enhancing the body’s natural healing mechanisms. Some of the benefits of using red light therapy for back pain include:

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Clinical Strength Red Light Therapy

When using clinical strength LEDs, the mitochondria within the cells of your body will be stimulated to perform at a higher level. Light photons from the red light LEDs enter the body’s tissues and are absorbed in the mitochondria of the cells, which keep the cell full of energy. Photonic energy is converted inside cells into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides energy for many cellular processes. Cells that have an abundance of energy will perform their essential functions much better, meaning that healthy cells will hasten the healing of injured tissue.


Reduced Inflammation

Another benefit to using red light therapy for back pain is that it reduces inflammation of your body’s tissue, which is the immune system’s response to injury or infection. While the body requires inflammation to heal, red light reduces acute and chronic inflammation by stimulating cellular repair, which calms the inflammatory immune response and allows the body to heal more quickly.

Acute inflammation is a short-term emergency response is characterised by redness, swelling, heat, and pain.


Stem Cell Activation

When you have injured your back, there are certain factors that can amplify the necessary inflammatory response, to the point where the body begins to attack itself. This will result in tissue damage and even stronger inflammatory responses. This viscous cycle can be halted with the help of red light therapy, as they activate inactive stem cells in the body, which travel to the affected area and morph into any cell that the body needs. This promotes healing at the areas that need it.

Enhanced Blood Flow

Acute and chronic pain conditions can be exacerbated by poor blood circulation. Red light relieves pain by stimulating capillary formation and increasing blood flow in the treated area. In turn, increased blood flow delivers nutrients and oxygen to cells while removing waste.


Best Red Light Therapy For Back Pain – Simple, Easy, and Effective

This very simple, very easy to administer phototherapy may seem too good to be true. But thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies over more than forty years prove over and over again that red light therapy works very effectively to improve circulation and reduce the pain caused by a multitude of health conditions. After twenty minutes of red light therapy, back pain drastically decreases or disappears for up to several hours.

FDA-Cleared Red Light Therapy For Back Pain

A doctor or physical therapist can provide red light therapy treatment for back pain, which consists of numerous weekly sessions until the discomfort subsides. You can also treat back pain at home with high-quality LED light therapy devices that provide the the perfect amount of power necessary to help ease back pain. We recommend large LED pads when using red light therapy for back pain.

LED Red Light Therapy - How it works


The infographic above developed by HealthLight illustrates how red light therapy is used for back pain.

How Does Light Therapy for Back Pain Work?

Red light therapy for back pain works by placing a flexible neoprene pad with near-infrared light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is placed on the body wherever increased circulation and pain relief are needed. The black band at the top of the graphic containing two rows of large red dots represents the red light therapy device.  The rows of red dots are the diodes which emit photons (particles of light) of very specific wavelengths and intensity. However, what appears to be empty space between each set of red diodes is not actually empty – there are diodes there as well that are emitting NIR light that is invisible to the human eye.

The layer immediately below the black pad represents the epidermis (the outer layer of cells that compose the skin.)  A few photons will be absorbed into the epidermis, but most will pass through to tissues below. The downward-pointing red arrows indicate the penetrating action of the light.  Photons of red light will be absorbed primarily in the deeper layers of the skin and soft tissues. But NIR light will reach farther into the tissues, which is perfect when trying red light therapy for back pain.

Along the way, many photons of both red and NIR light will trigger the release of nitric oxide from the blood vessel lining (endothelium) and red blood cells, delivering more oxygenated blood to the nerves, increasing circulation which helps reduce inflammation which reduces pain. Nitric oxide is the body’s natural vasodilator.  Vasodilation “increases the availability of oxygen to treated cells, and also allows for greater traffic of immune cells into tissue.  These two effects contribute to accelerated healing.”[3] This is the precise reason why more are using red light therapy for back pain.  

As Len Saputo, MD further explains: “Whenever an infra-red light ray hits a blood vessel wall, it causes an instant release of a compound called nitric oxide. And nitric oxide causes instantaneous pop-open of a blood vessel. So, suddenly, you have a change in circulation that is dramatic… It also causes a reduction in inflammation that happens very quickly.  It increases lymphatic drainage; it increases the activity of white cells so they clean up debris faster; and it has an amazing effect on nerves.  It causes nerve fibers that are pain fibers to calm down and not cause so much pain in your back. There’s hardly a kind of pain that doesn’t respond to infrared light therapy.”[4]


red light therapy for back pain

When Will I See Results?

Depending on how bad your back injury is, red light therapy for back pain will take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to feel the effects. Consistency is key here, and it’s important to apply the pad regularly for best results.

It’s important to note that you should slowly ease back into normal physical activity, even if you back pain has totally subsided. Ask a doctor for advice to avoid being reinjured. After returning to regular activities, it may be advantageous to stretch and warm up your back muscles for three to five minutes before commencing physical activity to help reduce the risk of injury. Treat your muscles with red light therapy for 10 to 20 minutes after exercise to hasten healing.

Using Infrared Light Therapy for Back Pain at Home

If you are suffering from acute or chronic pain, consider giving red light therapy devices a chance to make a difference in your life.  Having HealthLight’s Express At-Home LED Red Light Therapy equipment immediately available in the comfort of your home will bring you and your family years of improved circulation and pain relief. Or, if you are a healthcare practitioner who wants to try using red light therapy for back pain in your clinics, consider adding HealthLight’s Clinical Line of LED Red Light Therapy pads and controllers to your clinic’s treatment menu. Practitioners may also sell the Express system to their patients. HealthLight offers a variety of affordable, easy-to-use systems to meet all needs and help people everywhere achieve a better quality of life.


[1] Cotler, Howard B. et al.  The Use of Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) For Musculoskeletal Pain. MOJ Orthop Rheumatol. 2015 ; 2(5): . doi:10.15406/mojor.2015.02.00068, p. 1.

[2] Chung, Hoon, et al. The Nuts and Bolts of Low-level Laser (Light) Therapy. Ann Biomed Eng. 2012 February; 40(2): 516–533. doi:10.1007/s10439-011-0454-7, p. 5 of NIH Public Access version.

[3] Chung, Hoon, et al. The Nuts and Bolts of Low-level Laser (Light) Therapy. Ann Biomed Eng. 2012 February; 40(2): 516–533. doi:10.1007/s10439-011-0454-7, p. 6 of NIH Public Access version.

[4] Saputo, L. Infrared Light Therapy by Len Saputo, MD,, 12 July 2017.

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