An image of a knee in a bedroom background that indicates arthritis and red light therapy as healing.

Arthritis and Red Light Therapy

Arthritis can have a significant impact on quality of life and its prevalence is much more prominent than people may think.

Roughly 53 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with arthritis, so if you’ve just recently been faced with a diagnosis know that you’re not alone.

This common condition causes pain and inflammation in a joint, with no current cure. You shouldn’t be disheartened though as treatments can reduce the symptoms.

Symptoms of arthritis can be eased through the likes of exercise, physiotherapy, or medicines. A non-invasive, accessible, and more convenient alternative treatment is red light therapy.

Arthritis and red light therapy go hand in hand as this form of treatment can help you overcome the symptoms that are most prevalent with the condition.

 

How Does Red Light Therapy Help Arthritis?

 
An image of Move +Pro red light therapy device by Kineon used to alleviate knee pain and/or arthritis.
 

Red light therapy uses specific wavelengths of light to penetrate deep beneath the skin to stimulate various biological processes within the cells.

The wavelengths are part of the visible light spectrum and range between 620 nm to 750 nm. This area of the spectrum boasts longer wavelengths and lower energy compared to other light therapy variants, meaning the light can specifically target where the arthritis is found.

In a clinical trial looking at the effects of low-power light therapy on pain and disability in elderly people with degenerative osteoarthritis of the knee, pain reduction in the red and infrared groups after treatment was found to be more than 50% in all scoring methods.

Significant functional improvement was seen in red- and infrared-treated groups, showing that light therapy can relieve pain and disability in degenerative osteoarthritis of the knee.

Red light therapy has been found to assist with pain relief in numerous studies published worldwide, with its influence gradually becoming more known outside of the medical community.

With arthritis, a condition that doesn’t have a cure, any treatment should focus on lowering inflammation as this is what contributes to the pain. Red light therapy is incredible at doing this, making it a non-invasive and useful treatment for people living with arthritis.

 

Lowers Inflammation in the Joints


Inflammation is a major issue for arthritis and is what causes swelling of the impacted area. It’s the main driver for pain too, limiting mobility as a consequence.

Red light therapy has anti-inflammatory effects due to the modulation of cellular processes and immune responses. Once the light is absorbed by the cells, inflammation can be reduced.

This form of therapy can directly focus on the joint and inflammation and speed up the healing process, faster than the body’s natural response.

In turn, moving as you normally would do will feel easier as pain and swelling can be lowered.

 


Reduces Pain Quickly


Arthritis can inflict chronic pain which can feel debilitating and prevent you from doing what you love - whether that’s painting, exercising, or any other hobby.

With treatment to lower the pain and other symptoms, many people go on to live full active lives.

Red light therapy can provide that much-needed pain relief as the light technology targets the troubled areas at the source. It stimulates your cells’ natural healing processes to reduce pain and aid with any recovery (particularly when it comes to inflammation) over an extended period of time.


Relieve Stiffness


With arthritis, whether it's rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, one of the challenges is the stiffness in the joints. Sometimes referred to as a feeling of being ‘locked,’ the impact on the joints can result in mobility being compromised.

One cause of this is inflammation in the synovium which is the lining of the joint. When stiffness occurs, simply begin red light therapy treatment to help lower swelling in the area and enhance motion.

Kineon’s MOVE+ Pro is a completely wireless and portable red light therapy device that has been specifically designed to help you target pain quickly and easily. It’s been tried and tested by many people with arthritis too!

One reviewer said: “Applying to arthritic hand and foot joints. Immediate reduction in pain levels…” Another person said: “I have received a great deal of relief from the arthritis pain in my right hand…”

 

The Science Behind Red Light Therapy and Arthritis

 

With thousands of case studies and research papers looking into the link between red light therapy and arthritis, this handy therapeutic technique has shown to be hugely beneficial for those dealing with frustrating symptoms.

Here at Kineon, we’ve looked at some of the key research and combined this with what we know about science to give you a full rundown on how red light therapy should be in your treatment plan if you have arthritis.

 

How Does Red Light Therapy Work for Arthritis?

 

Red light therapy can directly interact with the mitochondria in your cells as the wavelengths of light can penetrate beneath your skin.

The mitochondria are like the little energy factories in your body. When the light reaches them, it prompts them to produce more energy, which helps your cells to work better and heal faster.

That’s why any nerve or joint pain can be soothed by light as it can specifically target the affected area.


Reduces Inflammation

 


Red light therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation by increasing blood flow and stimulating cellular function.

Various cytokines activate specific cells in arthritis which then hastens the inflammatory process by activating transcription factors. This takes on a cascading effect as the release of these cytokines can influence the secretion of others.

Red light therapy has been shown to play a regulatory role in arthritis by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and upregulating anti-inflammatory cytokines.

Blood flow being increased is another plus as poor blood flow in an affected area of arthritis can cause nerve compression and pain. When the red light improves the blood flow, pain is reduced and healing is promoted.
 

Relieves Pain and Increases Lack of Mobility


In people with arthritis, the primary cause of pain is due to the release of inflammatory substances by cells in response to local inflammation. This stimulates cell signals to produce pain-causing symptoms, like the relative enzyme.

Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) is the key player in the pain-inducing process. Photobiomodulation (light therapy) has been shown to effectively reduce “COX-2 content, leading to the inhibition of PGE2 production, relieving pain, and swelling in joints.”

 

Boosts Cell Repair and Regeneration


Light therapy has been found to “inhibit metalloprotein enzymes, alleviating the erosion and degradation of joint tissues and components, preserving the normal function of joints.”

With the blood flow-boosting benefits that red light therapy assists with, regeneration is made possible as the necessary nutrients and oxygen can be transported to the cells.

Another important element of the regenerative processes includes macrophages which play a role in the conduction of these stages.

In a study looking at the effect of red and near-infrared photobiomodulation on macrophage phenotypes in the repair process following an acute muscle injury, researchers found that light therapy was able to modulate the inflammation phase, optimize the transition from the inflammatory to the regeneration phase and improve the final step of regeneration, enhancing tissue repair.

 

A graphic image that has this text, "Join the Kineon Community." This encourages viewers to join the facebook group with over 3,000 people to know more about reducing joint pain, inflammation, and more with red light therapy.
 

The studies behind red light therapy and arthritis

Red Light Therapy (aka. Photobiomodulation or PBM) is backed by over 6,000 studies. In this section, our in-house expert, Aaron Rogers shares some of the best studies relating to arthritis and red light therapy, including a study summary, key findings and Aaron’s expert opinion on why this study is valuable.

Study 1: The Mechanisms and Efficacy of Photobiomodulation Therapy for Arthritis: A Comprehensive Review

This review article covers 30+ animal studies and around 20 human clinical trials on PBM treatment for arthritis. It examines the two most common types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Read the full research.

Key findings about arthritis and red light therapy:

  • Animal trials provide incredibly strong data supporting the use of PBM in arthritis and provide additional data that is hard to obtain from humans
  • Human clinical trials are quite positive, but it is clear that the differences in methodology lead to some trials not obtaining awesome results
  • The mechanisms by which PBM affects arthritis are multi-factorial.

Study strengths:

This review article is a fantastic primer on the subject of PBM for treating arthritis. It contains a comprehensive and educational description of the mechanisms by which PBM can modulate arthritis. Furthermore, this article provides a separate list of animal articles and human clinical trials, an important distinction. My favorite part about this article is that each paper that it lists, it provides an ultra-brief summary. Without these summaries, it would be quite tiresome to explore these 50+ articles. One last strength is that the wavelength and power of the light source used in the articles are conveniently provided.


Study limitations and challenges:

As with any review article, the main limitation is that it doesn’t provide new information about PBM for arthritis; it just serves as a summary of the state of the field. One thing that could have been useful is a general comparison between PBM and conventional treatment for arthritis, but understandably, this would require some guesswork.


Our thoughts on The Mechanisms and Efficacy of Photobiomodulation Therapy for Arthritis: A Comprehensive Review

We believe this review article is a great source of information on PBM for arthritis. It's always nice to see a review article that properly explains the various mechanisms that are being discussed in the linked articles. The information provided here is a great place to start when looking for more specific information on PBM’s applications in arthritis.


Our rating on the study's impact

  • Moving the Needle (how substantial are the outcome impacts): 9/10
  • Scientific Maturity (how far along is the science): 8/10

Our rationale: Major improvements are shown in human and animal models, which can be seen in clinical trials, thus giving a 9 in moving the needle. This is itself a review paper, looking at 50+ articles, thereby showing a scientific maturity of the field in general of an 8.


Study 2: Photobiomodulation for knee osteoarthritis: a model-based dosimetry study

This article looks at improving dosing models for knee osteoarthritis. Dosing is a critically important issue in many fields of photobiomodulation and is of extra interest in anatomically complex applications like arthritis.

Read the full research.

Key findings about arthritis and red light therapy:

  • Both light source divergence angle and wavelength massively impact dose delivery
  • Placement of light sources is critical for optimal light delivery
  • The Move+ is listed as a more optimal solution for light delivery in knee osteoarthritis

Study strengths:

This study takes a look at dosing, which is a somewhat ignored area. In this regard, this article offers valuable information in a space somewhat lacking dosimetry data. Furthermore, they did not simply use software algorithms for their Monte Carlo tissue simulations; they used MRI models of real knees for their models. Additionally, they took light measurements with real knees as well to experimentally validate their dosing model. They offer findings that are not entirely surprising but extremely useful. This includes information on wavelength, beam divergence angle, and placement for light sources.

Study limitations and challenges:

One of the challenges with this article is the disconnect between dosimetry and results. While it would be a much more extensive article, it would be fantastic to have data comparing treatment outcomes with different dosimetries, as described in the article. It would also be useful to have clinical trials investigating dosimetry specifically.


Our thoughts on Photobiomodulation for knee osteoarthritis: a model-based dosimetry study

This article fills a super important niche that is all too often left unexplored: dosimetry. Furthermore, they take a comprehensive view of dosing models, looking at MRI imaging data to better construct virtual models. We think this offers a more complete view than simply using prebuilt models.

Our rating on the study's impact

  • Moving the Needle (how substantial are the outcome impacts): 7/10
  • Scientific Maturity (how far along is the science): 5/10

Our rationale: While this article describes the best parameters for PBM treatment in knee osteoarthritis, some extrapolation is required to see how this will affect outcomes. There have been some great articles on PBM for knee osteoarthritis, but there is a disconnect between work on dosimetry and the therapy itself. However, this article provides important information on the best approach for treating knee osteoarthritis, giving a 7/10 on moving the needle.

Dosimetry has been investigated for decades, but modern approaches have examined parameters like wavelength, beam divergence, and placement. While, in some ways, the dosimetry is cut and dry, the interplay between dosimetry and local vs nonlocal effects is mostly undetermined.

We would also like to see more work on the physiological connection between dosimetry and methodology, answering questions like what is the most effective power density, how long treatment should take, and whether different treatment strategies could be optimized based on individuals’ physiology. With this in mind, we’re assigning a scientific maturity of 5/10.

Study 3: Photobiomodulation therapy in knee osteoarthritis reduces oxidative stress and inflammatory cytokines in rats

This article looks at knee osteoarthritis in a rat model, and provides comprehensive measurements of various biomarkers associated with arthritis, such as inflammation and oxidative stress. They used two different light dosing strategies, both with a wavelength of 904nm.

Read the full research.

Key findings about arthritis and red light therapy:

  • PBM reduced oxidative markers and increased antioxidant capacity
  • PBM lead to a reduction in levels of inflammatory cytokines
  • Affects of PBM could be seen in serum levels measured from the spinal cord, showing the nonlocal effect and body level improvements that occurred

Study strengths:

An advantage that is found in rodent studies is the level of control that is possible. Variables such as food, water, environment temperature, sleep, and more could be well controlled, which is simply not possible in most human studies. This gives more certainty that the differences being observed are indeed due to the intervention, not other factors.

Another strength of this study is the sheer number of biomarkers examined and the number of measurement spots. For example, separate measurements were taken from the knee itself, serum, spinal cord, and brainstem. This provides critical information on organ/organismal effects that are very rare in human studies. The last strength I’ll list here is that the researchers conducted behavioral experiments as well, such as reaction to cold hyperalgesia and pain. This gives more information on what is experienced and what can be measured with molecular assays.

Study limitations and challenges:

The main limitation of this study, as is the case in any animal study, is the question of applicability to humans. Some of the effects on things like specific mitochondrial enzymes seem very likely to carry over (and research has shown this), as these enzymes are very evolutionarily conserved. However, other effects like organ level status are harder to translate over to humans because of the huge differences between us and rats. This highlights the importance of following up these animal studies with human clinical trials to validate which claims hold and which do not in humans.

Furthermore, the dosing clearly needs to be altered for humans, but exactly how these two doses used here translate is unclear.
One slightly different limitation with this article is that the graphs are sometimes hard to understand. They could really have used a better color scheme than light grey vs. dark grey vs. darker grey.

For the most part, however, this study provides excellent molecular data that sets the stage for further investigations in humans.

Our thoughts on Photobiomodulation therapy in knee osteoarthritis reduces oxidative stress and inflammatory cytokines in rats

We think this article is awesome based on the sheer number of biomarkers evaluated, combined with the multiple places they were measured from. This provides valuable information on not just the effect of PBM on osteoarthritis but why these changes are occurring. While this article itself does not provide proof that PBM helps humans with osteoarthritis, given the human clinical literature that shows this, this article gives an explanation based on molecular biology to flesh out the underlying mechanisms. We’re excited to see how human trials can encapsulate some of the lessons learned in rodent models and incorporate these biomarker assays when possible.

Our rating on the study's impact

  • Moving the Needle (how substantial are the outcome impacts): 6/10
  • Scientific Maturity (how far along is the science): 9/10

Our rationale: While the results here are extremely convincing, they are in a rat model, so we feel a 6 is a fair assessment of how much this article moves the needle. The methodology and approach taken in this article are extremely precise and developed, so it’s clear this article has taken a long look at the existing literature on the topic and improved upon it. The vast amount of data on PBM in the arthritis model in the rodent model gives a 9 in scientific maturity.

Arthritis and Red Light Therapy: Your Questions Answered

Is Red Light Therapy Helpful for Arthritis?

Red light therapy is extremely helpful for arthritis. The symptoms of this condition tend to come down to the inflammatory effects it takes on the body as this brings on pain and prevents optimum movement.

The powers of light therapy have been found to play a regulatory role by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines while upregulating anti-inflammatory cytokines. As a result, swelling and pain are reduced and mobility is improved.

How Long Does It Take for Red Light Therapy to Work for Arthritis?

Some people with arthritis will see results from red light therapy within a few days of starting the treatment, while others might have to wait a few weeks to see significant improvements.

You should keep in mind that each body is different and people will respond differently, especially as the severity and type of arthritis can differ.

Like with anything worth doing, consistency is key. It takes time and effort to see improvements so stay patient and persistent.

 

How Often Should You Use Red Light Therapy on Lower Arthritis?


You can use red light therapy to lower arthritis as often as you’d like. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach as the effectiveness depends on your individual situation and the severity of your condition.

We recommend people start red light therapy at home with 10 to 15-minute sessions spread out over 3-4 days a week. You could then increase this to every day.

Aside from its helpful benefits, another pro of red light therapy is that it can be used frequently without any adverse effects. It’s generally considered safe to be used every day or multiple times a week.

It’s also non-invasive so many class it as a safer option than other treatment methods. To learn about how often you can use red light therapy, read our article here


Can You Treat Arthritis at Home?


Arthritis cannot be cured, but treatment for the symptoms can be done at home. In fact, it’s much more convenient to do so.

With red light therapy, it’s as simple as purchasing a device and then going through the instructions to administer your own support. So there are no more long drives to a clinic or doctor’s office, instead, you can find quick relief in the comfort of your own home.

If you buy the MOVE+ Pro from Kineon, we will never leave you guessing as we have a whole host of information and help out there. We also run a private Facebook group where you can speak with others who have arthritis and understand how they’re using red light therapy to ease pain, boost mobility, and lower inflammation.

To learn more about using red light therapy at home, read our full article here.

For more on arthritis and red 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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