For at least a decade, doctors, physiotherapists, and chiropractors have used infrared light therapy to heal injured muscles and treat conditions like Parkinson disease, depression, and even cancer. Now, the benefits are not just for the lettered. You can buy at-home infrared light devices to help manage everything from injuries to blood pressure, hair loss to wrinkles. Question is, while infrared light devices promise to be a medical panacea, they cost thousands of dollars. Are they worth it?
The devices vary in size, shape, and function, but all use infrared LED lights, either invisible near infrared (NIR) or visible red infrared (RI). No one is entirely sure what these lights do in the human body, but scientists believe they penetrate our cells, activating the mitochondria, our cells’ power plant. Energizing these mitochondrion make cells healthier, encouraging repair processes.
NASA started studying artificial light therapy in the 1980s and the research has increased in recent years with improvements in LED light technology. Anecdotal and scientifically gathered data links NIR and RI to all kinds of health and healing benefits, but the research is limited in scale, says Brent Bauer, research director for the Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
“We’re still waiting for reliable, large-scale studies to validate some of these claims,” he says. “Until we have some good-quality studies that evaluate both the efficacy and safety of these new devices, caution is prudent.”
He does acknowledge NIR and RI light are different than the kind of skin-damaging energy used in tanning beds or solar UV rays. Used moderately, there are few side effects or risks associated with infrared light devices.
Weighed against the growing list of benefits, it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the options available. Here are the top options to consider.