Manage Knee Arthritis with Drug-Free Red Light Therapy

Manage Knee Arthritis with Drug-Free Red Light Therapy
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I was 50 when my right knee blew up. My doc did not want to replace it, because I was “too young.”

My biggest success with red light therapy has been using it on my osteoarthritis knee pain. Studies show that my experience is typical. Red light therapy reduces inflammation, swelling and knee pain.

I’m 60 years old know, and I still use my original knee, because I’ve been lucky to know that red light therapy helps control the pain and damage.


  1. knee osteoarthritis is the degeneration of the knee joint
  2. the pain from knee osteoarthritis comes from the inflammation and loss of cartilage causing rubbing bones
  3. red light therapy (photobiomodulation) is the use of low energy delivery of light to heal at the cellular level
  4. studies show that red light therapy is very effective in reducing knee joint pain from osteoarthritis

How Osteoarthritis Causes Pain

Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative joint disease. It breaks down the cartilage, which is the tissue that covers the ends of bones. Cartilage is what allows joints to move.

The bones in the joint rub together as cartilage breaks down. That rubbing leads to pain, stiffness, and loss of function.

How Knee Osteoarthritis Breaks Down the Joint

Knee osteoarthritis usually affects the cartilage on the ends of the thigh bone (femur). It also usually affects the shin bone (tibia) and the kneecap (the patella).

The joint space narrows as the cartilage wears away. Sometimes bone spurs form from the constant rubbing.

These effects result in the pain and swelling. They decrease the range of motion, and make it difficult to walk, climb stairs, and bend the knee.

Knee osteoarthritis is a cluster of physical events that cause the pain.

  • cartilage breakdown
  • chronic inflammation of the synovial membrane
  • reduced synovial fluid
  • swelling from inflammatory attacks

Basically, the immune system attacks the knee. The reason for this is simple and frustrating. The knee’s degeneration appears as if it’s under attack. The immune system whips into gear, looking for the invader. The enemy is wear and tear, something the immune system can never fix.

The swelling is the immune system’s attempt to kill the invader, but it just attacks the knee itself, causing the pain from osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is More than a Pain in the Knee

The loss of cartilage and rubbing bones cause a host of symptoms. These include pain, stiffness, swelling, range of motion limitations, cracking sounds, and muscle weakness.


Knee pain is the most common symptom of osteoarthritis and can be felt as a dull ache or sharp pain. Pain may be worse after periods of inactivity, such as sitting or sleeping, or after physical activity.


Stiffness in the knee joint can make it difficult to bend or straighten the knee, particularly after periods of inactivity.


Osteoarthritis can cause the knee joint to become inflamed, leading to swelling and tenderness in the affected area.

Limited range of motion

As the disease progresses, the range of motion in the knee joint may become limited, making it difficult to perform daily activities such as walking or climbing stairs.

Cracking or popping sounds

As the cartilage in the knee joint wears down, it can cause the bones to rub against each other, leading to cracking or popping sounds.

Muscle weakness

Knee osteoarthritis can cause muscle weakness in the thigh muscles, which can contribute to difficulty with mobility.

Who Gets Knee Osteoarthritis Pain?

Knee osteoarthritis is a common degenerative joint disease that affects a large proportion of the population, particularly the elderly. According to a recent study published in the Osteoarthritis and Cartilage journal, knee osteoarthritis affects approximately 14% of individuals over the age of 45, with the prevalence increasing with age.

The study also found that knee osteoarthritis is more common among women than men, with women having a 1.7 times higher prevalence rate. In addition, individuals who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing knee osteoarthritis, with the prevalence increasing by 2-3 times in those with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher.

Risk Factors for Knee Osteoarthritis

The biggest osteoarthritis risk factor is age. The older we get, the more likely we are to get these problems.

The main contributors to knee osteoarthritis pain are:

  • age
  • genetics
  • obesity
  • injury
  • overuse

Other risk factors for knee osteoarthritis include a history of knee injury or surgery, genetic predisposition, and occupational factors such as repetitive knee bending or squatting.

Early Intervention Benefits

KOP is extremely common. Preventative measures are more effective than repair. Once too far gone, the knee joint becomes debilitating. Red Light Therapy helps with pain, and even restores some structure, but does is not a substitute for surgery. The symptoms of knee osteoarthritis pain can worsen over time if left untreated.

Traditional Knee Osteoarthritis Treatment Options

Treatment for knee osteoarthritis typically involves a combination of lifestyle modifications, such as weight loss, physical therapy, medications, assistive devices, and surgery.

Lifestyle modifications

Weight loss and regular exercise can help to reduce stress on the knee joint and improve overall joint health.

Physical therapy

Strengthening exercises and stretching can help to improve joint mobility and reduce pain.


Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help to manage pain and reduce inflammation. In some cases, prescription medications such as corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid injections may be recommended.

Assistive devices

The use of braces, orthotics, or other assistive devices can help to reduce stress on the knee joint and improve mobility.


In severe cases of knee osteoarthritis, surgical intervention may be recommended. Options include partial or total knee replacement surgery, as well as arthroscopy to remove damaged tissue or bone spurs.

Self-Care Measures

  • resting the joint
  • hot packs
  • cold packs
  • posture exercises

What is Red Light Therapy and How Does it Help?

Red light therapy is a non-invasive therapeutic modality that uses low-level red light wavelengths to promote healing and reduce pain and inflammation. Red light therapy devices typically emit light in the range of 600-700 nanometers (nm), which is believed to penetrate the skin and stimulate cellular activity.

Potential benefits of red light therapy include improved circulation, increased collagen production, reduced inflammation and pain, and enhanced tissue repair. Red light therapy has been shown to be effective in the treatment of a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, including osteoarthritis, back pain, and tendonitis.

In addition, red light therapy has been used in the treatment of skin conditions such as acne and rosacea, and in the management of mood disorders such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and depression.

Red light therapy is considered safe and well-tolerated, with few side effects. However, as with any therapeutic intervention, it is important for individuals to consult with a healthcare provider before starting red light therapy, particularly if they have any underlying medical conditions or are taking medications that may interact with the therapy.

Should You Use RLT for Your Knee Osteoarthritis Pain?

Based on the available evidence, red light therapy appears to be an effective non-invasive treatment modality for knee osteoarthritis pain, offering potential benefits such as reduced inflammation, improved joint function, and decreased pain, making it a promising option for individuals seeking a safe and effective alternative to conventional treatments.

Red Light Therapy and Osteoarthritis

Photobiomodulation, also known as red light therapy (RLT), is a non-invasive treatment approach that uses low-level laser therapy or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to stimulate cellular function and reduce inflammation.

Several dozen studies show that RLT is effective in reducing pain and swelling in arthritic knees.

During RLT, light energy is delivered to the affected area using a device such as a handheld wand. The light penetrates the skin and is absorbed by cells in the body, which can help to stimulate cellular activity and reduce inflammation.

Studies have shown that RLT might be effective in reducing pain and improving mobility in patients with knee osteoarthritis. It relieves pain by reducing inflammation and improving circulation in the affected joint.

The immune system interprets constant degeneration as an attack. It sends killer cells and swelling to the knee to fight off the invader. It can never win this fight, because the invader is old age.

RLT triggers growth factors that probably work by rebuilding cartilage in the knee. This signals to the immune system that the constant degenerative attack is less of a threat. That turns off the chronic inflammation switch.

RLT vs. Traditional Knee Treatment

Using non-invasive treatment options for knee osteoarthritis pain can offer several potential benefits over traditional treatment approaches, which may involve invasive procedures or medications. Some potential benefits of non-invasive treatments for knee osteoarthritis pain include:

Reduced risk of complications

Non-invasive treatments such as red light therapy or physical therapy typically have a lower risk of complications than more invasive treatments such as surgery. This can reduce the potential for negative side effects or adverse reactions to medications.

Improved mobility

Non-invasive treatments such as physical therapy or low-impact exercise can help to improve joint mobility and flexibility. This can help to reduce pain and improve overall joint function.

Reduced reliance on medication

Non-invasive treatments may be able to reduce the need for medications such as NSAIDs or corticosteroids, which can have negative side effects or interact with other medications.


Non-invasive treatments may be less expensive than invasive procedures or ongoing medication costs, making them a more cost-effective option for some patients.

Minimal recovery time

Non-invasive treatments typically require little to no recovery time, allowing patients to resume their normal activities more quickly.

RLT Significantly Reduced KOP Based on standardized Tests

RLT significantly reduces osteoarthritis pain, according to the study ” Low-intensity LASER and LED (photobiomodulation therapy) for pain control of the most common musculoskeletal conditions” published in 2022.

This study evaluated RLT on 48 patients with KOP. The subjects were randomized. Half were given placebo treatment. Neither the researchers nor the subjects knew which subjects received real RLT and who received a placebo.

OA pain dropped significantly after four weeks of RLT, but only in the treatment group. The placebo group continued to experience the same severity of pain.

The standardized measurements included the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) pain and function scores, visual analog scale (VAS) for pain, and timed up and go (TUG) test.

Patients who received RLT reported no adverse effects or complications.

The study suggests that RLT may be a safe and effective non-invasive treatment option for knee OA pain and function. However, further studies with larger sample sizes and longer follow-up periods are needed to confirm these findings and to determine the optimal RLT parameters for knee OA treatment.

The Therapy Wrap
Phototherapy in this spectrum promotes muscle relaxation. It also stimulates collagen production, and reduces swelling and inflammation bringing relief to athletes, sufferers of arthritis, and those with chronic pain.
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Caroline Bogart

Caroline Bogart is a red light therapy (photobiomodulation) and author. She runs the,, and websites. Caroline is the auhor of the forthcoming book "Brain Light: Alzheimer's Edition," about using photobiomodulation to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. More about Caroline Bogart.

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