I have been playing golf for almost half my life without any negative physical side effects. Recently, however, I started experiencing some pain in my left shoulder. Even though I am very proactive about my health, including joint health, as a boomer I really should not have been all that surprised. After the age of 60, it would be news if I didn’t have some aches and pains.
So, I checked with my doctor about it and after an MRI, she confirmed that I have mild osteoarthritis – which is often called “wear and tear.” Reportedly, more than 54 million adults in the United States have some kind of arthritis and for almost half of this group, the pain is so bad that is makes daily life a challenge. It appears that, as we age, friction develops in our joints. It is also true that as we age our cartilage becomes thinner.
The first thing I checked after my diagnosis was my nutrient balance to make sure my body was still getting the nutrients it needs and in the right amounts. I also added red light therapy (RLT) to my treatment program. In case you’re not familiar with this therapy, it is a form of low-level laser light therapy. I like to think of it as a healthy tanning bed. It is described as a type of photomedicine, since it uses light to treat a variety of health conditions.
Most treatments consist of a series of sessions over a certain period, which is determined by your treatment goals. During a session, the light delivers wavelengths of natural red and near infrared light. It’s like the wavelengths you get from sunlight without the harmful UV rays. The procedure was totally painless, and I didn’t even feel any heat, which I was expecting. I felt more relaxed after the RLT than I did before, which was a bonus.
I found it interesting to learn that light therapy has been around since the 1960s. As with many things in science, its benefits were almost discovered by accident when researchers found during experiments with red lasers on lab animals that this form of light aided in wound healing and hair growth.
It also was reassuring to learn that NASA used RLT to help keep astronauts healthy while in space. And learning that RLT neither causes damage to the skin nor has been associated with any side effects gave me more confidence to try it.
RLT improves targeted health conditions by creating a biochemical effect that strengthens a cell’s mitochondria. If you think back to your high school biology classes, the mitochondria were described as the “powerhouses” of the cell. Without going too much into the biochemistry, the energy it creates is carried by a molecule called adenosine triphosphate or ATP (is this sounding familiar?).
The theory is that by enhancing the function of the mitochondria with RLT, the cell makes more ATP which, in turn, helps the cell be more efficient and repair cell damage. Others believe that RLT may improve our bodies’ natural response to stressors.
In my case, I can tell you I have noticed both an increase in my shoulder’s mobility and a decrease in discomfort since adding red light therapy to my treatment regimen. There also is a notable decrease in inflammation. There is also some evidence that RLT may also stimulate collagen production and blood flow, both of which contribute to joint health.
While research continues into the benefits of RLT, for boomers some of the more promising and relevant potential for this therapy include:
Given our risk for osteoporosis and related conditions, bone health is priority. RLT is associated with accelerating the healing of breaks and defects in the bones themselves as well as increased bone mineral density, bone strength, and general bone health.
RLT has been associated with reduced inflammation and swelling caused by arthritis, burns and other injuries. This, in turn, can help promote tissue healing.
RLT may also have a positive effect on acute and chronic pain. The theory is that RLT acts on the neurons that transmit pain.
RLT may also help improve the appearance of your skin as well as its complexion. It is reported to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and help heal sun damage. It is thought to do this by increasing circulation, decreasing inflammation, and triggering collagen production.
There is some evidence RLT may improve hair growth in people who have androgenic alopecia, a common form of hair loss (also known as female/male pattern baldness).
Credible research suggests that the anti-inflammatory properties of RLT may improve your body’s ability to heal. The theory is that it activates a growth factor that promotes healing and regeneration.
If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, recent studies suggest that RLT may help by increasing the amount of melatonin in your body.
RLT may help reduce some of the side effects of cancer treatments. Additional research is needed in this area, but it is promising.
Keep in mind that RLT is usually meant to enhance or complement other steps you may be taking to manage joint pain or other medical conditions. As I did with my doctor, I highly recommend that you first make sure you are nutritionally balanced so that you can address any needs your body may have to keep itself as healthy as possible.
Finally, please consult with a competent health practitioner before starting RLT or any other new therapy. This is especially true if you have any existing health issues such as diabetes.
Have you or anyone you know used red light therapy to help treat arthritis or another help condition? If so, how was the experience? Would you use it again or recommend it to someone? If you have not used it, would you consider it? Why or why not? Please join the conversation.
Tags Medical Conditions
Recommend reading Miranda Esmonde White’s book, Aging Backwards.
Definitely sounds like a book I would be interested in reading. Thanks.
I admit to being a bit suspicious. If this treatment works so well why haven’t any of my doctors ever mentioned it? If it was effective then insurance companies would be jumping on it so they could save money that they currently spend on medications and surgery.
Linda – the therapy is actually utilized by some doctors – especially dermatologists. I believe light therapy is also FDA approved. I also found this Forbes article about light therapy instructive – https://www.forbes.com/sites/josephdeacetis/2021/10/11/the-five-best-handheld-led-light-therapy-devices-for-skincare/?sh=2640eaef2c83
Because doctors and pharmacies don’t make money on wellness!
Thank you sharing this information. How do you go about finding treatment? Can you just buy one of those at home devices used for facial enhancement to use on the painful areas or do you go to a specific treatment center? I have significant arthritis in my shoulder which is causing daily discomfort and pain.
Have you tried acupuncture? I currently have shoulder pain from rotator cuff impingement. Two treatments of acupuncture and I’m 99.9% better.
No – not yet. I know it is also a credible form of healing so I will do the research and write about it here as well. And yes, when I am hurt again I will definitely try it. Thanks so much for reminding me of this.
Yes, I have thought of trying acupuncture. I had a steroid injection in my shoulder two weeks ago and it does seem to be helping so I guess I will see how long it lasts. Will definitely consider acupuncture as well! Thanks for the suggestion.
Many wellness centers have this service – I usually prefer the full body red light therapy bed because it allows the entire body to benefit from the therapy. I can also recommend Celluma products which you can read about here –https://www.celluma.com/collections/all/products/celluma-home. This will adapt to the relevant body part.