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Infrared Therapy 101: Health Benefits and Risks

While infrared light research isn’t new, the concept of light therapy is starting to become more commonplace as an option for dealing with pain, inflammation, and skin health.

Dating back to 1800, infrared was first discovered by German musician and astronomer, Sir Frederick William Herschel, who measured the difference in temperature between the colors in the visible spectrum.

His research found an increase in temperature from blue to red and an even warmer temperature measurement beyond the red end of the visible spectrum. And with that, infrared light was discovered!

These days though, it’s less thermometer research and more top-notch skincare treatments and wound healing devices.


What is infrared laser therapy?


Infrared laser therapy is becoming a popular treatment method for pain management. It involves the use of a light-emitting diode or low-level laser to apply certain wavelengths of infrared to target troubled areas.

Infrared is non-thermal, low-intensity, and the wavelengths are between 780nm and 1mm.

This is above red visible light as infrared wavelengths are at the start of the non-visible side of the spectrum.    


What is infrared light?


Infrared light involves wavelengths that aren’t visible to the human eye. They usually sit around 700 to 1,000 nanometers. In terms of depth, the wavelengths are able to penetrate the inner layers of the skin - around 2 to 7 cm deep.

Although we can’t see infrared wavelengths, humans can sometimes feel heat relating to the infrared. We can also see infrared energy when using night-vision goggles or infrared cameras, as the waves emitting from warm objects (like humans) are picked up as orange or red-like colors.

An image showing infrared energy when using night-vision goggles or infrared cameras, as the waves emitting from warm objects (like humans) are picked up as orange or red-like colors.


How does infrared therapy work?


Once the infrared penetrates beneath the skin, and is absorbed by the photoreceptors in cells, the light energy then starts a series of metabolic events. This triggers natural processes within the cells.

One of these processes is the increased adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. This is the primary energy source for cellular activities, so it can boost cellular processes when this is enhanced.

Another process is the stimulation of cellular respiration and oxidative phosphorylation. This means that cells can become better at utilizing oxygen to produce energy (ATP) through aerobic respiration.

Blood flow increases too which could lead to vasodilatio - where the blood vessels widen, allowing for more oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to cells and help remove waste products and toxins from tissues.  



How long does infrared therapy take to work?


Naturally, many people ask this question before beginning the treatment, but the answer depends on your consistency and the extent of the issue.

At Kineon, our MOVE+ Pro helps you to repair wounds and tissue through infrared that penetrates the skin, relaxing muscles and improving blood flow.

In a single 5 minute session, the device reduces inflammation and pain. Our customers have reported an 80% reduction in pain within 1-4 weeks.

To get the most out of infrared, we recommend using the therapy tool for 5 - 15 minutes per day for optimal results.


How many sessions do you need?


In terms of how many infrared sessions you need, some people may choose to treat the specific issue over several weeks and then only use it if the condition flares up again. Others, usually with chronic pain, will use infrared consistently.

You can use the device as and when you need. Consistency is key for getting the best results, so doing a short treatment every day will be much more effective than doing longer sessions sporadically.


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What are the health benefits of infrared light therapy?




Infrared light therapy has anti-inflammatory effects due to the modulation of cellular processes and immune responses. One of these aspects is the reduction in the production of pro-inflammatory molecules like cytokines and prostaglandins.

When these are reduced, so is the inflammatory response in tissues.

Another part of infrared therapy is its ability to improve lymphatic system function. This helps to drain excess fluids and waste products from the damaged tissues which then further limits the swelling in that area.


Pain relief

One study found red and infrared light therapy cut osteoarthritis-related pain by more than 50%. It’s not just people with osteoarthritis that feel the benefit though, as infrared light has the potential to help anyone with injured tissues, nerve pain, or chronic pain.

In fact, there are many processes in our cells which kickstart when infrared light is applied to the body and several aid pain. One is the improved blood flow as this helps transport oxygen and nutrients to the pained area. In turn, this accelerates healing, reduces muscle tension, and alleviates pain.

It can also act as a muscle relaxant and actually has a temporary reduction of nerve sensitivity, making nerves less responsive to painful stimuli.


Improved Wellbeing

It’s not just physical benefits; infrared light therapy has an abundance of benefits to overall wellbeing.

As endorphins are released when light is applied, the body’s natural ‘feel good’ chemicals lead to improved mood and reduced stress levels.

The reduction and management of pain naturally aids mood too as improved mobility can equal better sleep and quality of life.

Skin health

The beauty of infrared light therapy is that whilst it’s healing your bones, it can make you look more youthful too! A major win-win for the skincare enthusiasts.

It does this by stimulating the production of collagen which is needed for our skin to be supple. The enhanced blood circulation further revitalizes the skin as it allows for further delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells. This brings a healthier and more radiant appearance.

Risks of infrared light therapy

Infrared therapy has very few side effects when used properly. Each separate device will come with a manual and guidance, along with information around any risks. However, some of the reported general risks of infrared light therapy include:

  • Burns
  • Skin irritation
  • Eye damage
  • Dehydration
  • Electric shock
  • Headache
  • Defective arterial blood flow

Mild redness or warmth in the treatment area can sometimes occur but this should fade shortly after. Improperly delivered high doses may rarely cause skin burns, blistering or peeling. Some report temporary muscle spasms. In your device manual there is information around treatment times and settings.

Photosensitive individuals and those on certain medications that increase light sensitivity may experience rashes or itching. If you are photosensitive or on relevant medication, consult with your doctor ahead of starting any light therapy treatments as it may not be right for you.

Otherwise, infrared light is considered very low risk compared to medications, surgery, and other medical treatments for plantar fasciitis. It does not cause long term skin damage or increase cancer risk and there isn’t a risk of overreliance like with medications.

Still, it is important to remain vigilant and stop treatments if any worrisome reactions develop. Consulting your doctor helps identify any unique risks in your situation.

Importance of following safety guidelines

The MOVE+ Pro device, from Kineon, comes with all of the guidance you need to know. It’s fairly simple to set up and follow, but remember to always follow the instructions. Other safety measures should be implemented:

  • Follow all device settings and treatment duration recommendations. Avoid exceeding the recommended dosage.
  • Protect eyes from direct light exposure by wearing protective goggles.
  • Check for skin damage or open wounds before applying near-infrared light to bare skin. Damaged skin is prone to burns.
  • Discontinue use if you experience any pain, discomfort or concerning side effects.
  • Consult your doctor before use if you have any medical conditions or are on photosensitive medications.
  • Purchase near-infrared devices approved by regulatory bodies like the FDA to ensure safety.
  • Compare and vet product claims thoroughly since this is an emerging therapy field.

If you’re going to be trying different devices, ensure the company and device follows FDA guidelines. Following FDA guidelines provides assurance that marketed infrared or light therapy devices meet high safety and quality standards.

This is a US-based classification which provides guidance on appropriate labeling, testing, and compliance monitoring for these devices. For home use infrared units, the FDA requires electrical, thermal, mechanical, and optical safety testing as well as clinical performance data.

Skin Sensitivity

Some people may experience skin sensitivity with all forms of light therapy. This could present as temporary redness, swelling, or itching.

This is usually mild and should go away quickly. If this issue persists or becomes severe, consult with a medical professional.

Cardiovascular Conditions

People who already have heart conditions, or similar underlying symptoms, shouldn’t use light therapy devices. Pregnant women are also advised against infrared therapy.

If you have any concerns as to whether this treatment is suited to you, contact your healthcare advisor in the first instance.

Eye Damage

If you will be using an infrared therapy device close to your eyes, ensure you wear protection to prevent eye damage. This could be goggles or even sunglasses.

If you experience any discomfort, make sure to stop the treatment and go see a medical professional.

Infrared therapy FAQ


Does infrared therapy really work?


Infrared light therapy targets pain by sending infrared waves straight to the source, and it has the power to penetrate deep beneath the skin.

When it reaches the deep tissues, infrared stimulates the production of nitric oxide which helps to dilate blood vessels. When vessels are dilated, circulation is likely to increase so more oxygen and nutrients can be delivered to the troubled area. These nutrients aid the healing process and reduce inflammation.

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is boosted too. This means the repair and regeneration of damaged tissues quickens.

And while your tissues are being repaired and swelling decreased, your muscles may feel more relaxed as well. Infrared wavelengths influence the activity of muscle cells which can have a relaxing effect, helping to lose any tension.

It’s safe and painless and it’s already widely used by medical professionals, but is now also available directly to consumers in the form of home devices.


What are the side effects of infrared light therapy?


Risks are rare with infrared light therapy, but as always, it’s good to take precautions.

Some side effects could include eye strain, irritability, headaches, or similar. It’s always advised to cover your eyes if using the device in close proximity.


Is there any downside to red light therapy?


There aren’t many downsides to red light therapy thankfully, making it a great pain management tool for many.

However, one downside is that it’s not always covered by insurance. If you’re going to a clinic for regular sessions, this could get expensive. Instead, look at buying a portable device you can use at home. This will be a one-off cost and you’ll be able to take control of your treatment.

You should also note the correct uses and guidance in the device manual as this could lead to some downsides and risks if not utilized correctly.


Does infrared light therapy hurt?


Infrared light therapy doesn’t hurt as it’s completely safe and non-invasive. While humans often refer to infrared wavelengths as low levels of heat, it doesn’t burn the skin or expose you to damaging UV rays.


For more articles on infrared light therapy, read:

About Kineon

Bringing the latest advancements in enhanced red light therapy for home use. Our mission is to get you back on your feet and moving pain-free.

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