Red light therapy significantly reduces arthritis pain without side effects, according to hundreds of published studies. Which wavelengths are best for arthritis?
Several tested wavelengths worked to relieve arthritis pain and increase mobility, with the best results coming from 808 nm and 1060 nm infrared light. Evidence supports using the wavelengths below to ease the pain and inflammation of arthritis:
- 633 nm
- 670 nm
- 780 nm
- 808 nm
- 810 nm
- 820 nm
- 830 nm
- 904 nm
- 1060 nm
It’s probably not a coincidence that 808 nm and 1060 nm infrared are emerging as the preferred wavelengths for brain injury and dementia relief as well.
How Red Light Therapy Works for Arthritis
Red light therapy reduces the inflammation at the heart of arthritis pain and stiffness.
Studies show it has an analgesic (aspirin-like) effect on pain perception.
Red light therapy dislodges nitric oxide from the mitochondria to blood vessels where it triggers dilation. The extra blood and nutrition give the body the materials it needs to heal itself.
The photons absorb in the mitochondria, having the direct effect of bringing the biological energy factories back online. This gives the body the energy it needs to use the materials it now has to heal itself.
Which Red Light Therapy is Best for Arthritis?
I pulled the studies on joint health from Dr. Vladimir Heiskanen’s Photobiomodulation (red light therapy) Database. Which wavelengths did researchers study the most, and which of those were the best at relieving pain and inflammation?
While this is not a statistically rigorous analysis, I am happy to report that my results are similar to those achieved by Drs. Gendron and Hamblin when they did use statistically rigorous methods to answer this question. Those results are below, after this section.
Photobiomodulation Database Arthritis Studies
I took the wavelengths from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis studies. I grouped by wavelength, and then subtracted any studies that were less than stellar (I kept only those studies with remarkable results of significant pain reduction).
I used these color names for the wavelengths:
Wavelength Ranges and Their Color Names
|Wavelength Range||Color Name|
|740-1400 nm||near infrared (NIR)|
|1400-10000 nm||far infrared (FIR)|
The Best Arthritis Red Light Therapy Colors
Infrared is the best wavelength range for arthritis relief. The studies with the best results used infrared wavelengths. There are only a handful of studies in the non-infrared ranges, so we don’t know if infrared is the best wavelength or just the best studied wavelength. The results for each color were:
Wavelengths (Colors) Best at Relieving Arthritis Pain
|Color||Successful Arthritis Studies|
Is Blue Light Good for Arthritis?
Three out of four studies using 405 nm blue helped relieve arthritis. One study using 480 nm blue worked as well. This is a small sample with promising results. I don’t know if we can conclude anything from the data, though.
|Blue Wavelengths||Number of Studies of this Wavelength||Minus Less than Excellent Results||Leaving this Many Successful Studies||% Successful|
Is Green Light Good for Arthritis?
Three studies using 536 nm green did well, but one study using 560 nm did not do as well. Green is promising but there’s not enough data to say.
|Green Gavelengths||Number of Studies of this Wavelength||Minus Less than Excellent Results||Leaving this Many Successful Studies||% Successful|
Is Yellow Light Good for Arthritis?
There was only one study using yellow. It was helpful for arthritis but obviously we cannot make conclusions with confirmation.
|Yellow Wavelengths||Number of Studies of this Wavelength||Minus Less than Excellent Results||Leaving this Many Successful Studies||% Successful|
Is orange Light Good for Arthritis?
There is one successful 600 nm orange study, so orange is worth studying more.
|Orange Wavelengths||Number of Studies of this Wavelength||Minus Less than Excellent Results||Leaving this Many Successful Studies||% Successful|
Is Red Light Good for Arthritis?
Twenty-four of 33 red light arthritis studies showed significant pain relief. Nine studies had less than optimal results. Researchers tested 633 nm red 13 times with 11 success and 2 failures. They tested 660 nm 7 times with one success and six failures.
Remember, this is not a scientifically rigorous report. My educated guess is that 660 nm works well, given that it is a bioactive wavelength for wound healing, wrinkle and acne relief.
We are probably seeing a protocol error repeated as the data is re-interpreted and dissected.
Within the red wavelength range, we have the most evidence for using 633 nm and for not using 660 nm.
|Red Wavelengths||Number of Studies of this Wavelength||Minus Less than Excellent Results||Leaving this Many Successful Studies||% Successful|
Is Infrared Light Good for Arthritis?
Infrared heat is definitely good for arthritis, but we are talking about sending light into the body rather than shaking up the molecules to warm them up.
Researchers did many studies using 808 nm, 830 nm, 940 nm and 1060 nm. The 1060 nm rises to the top with the most studies using that wavelength that resulted in significant arthritis pain reduction. Researchers published 12 studies using 1060 nm with 12 positive results and no failures.
Not that the other wavelengths within the range did badly, but the 808 nm, 830 nm and 904 nm were tested multiple times, confirming their efficacy against arthritis inflammation.
|Near Infrared Wavelengths||Number of Studies of this Wavelength||Minus Less than Excellent Results||Leaving this Many Successful Studies||% Successful|
Is Far red Light Good for Arthritis?
With three successful arthritis studies in the far infrared range, we can say that far infrared is worthy of more study.
|Far Infrared Wavelengths||Number of Studies of this Wavelength||Minus Less than Excellent Results||Leaving this Many Successful Studies||% Successful|
Arthritis Study Wavelengths with the Most Science
The Elusive Arthritis Red Light Therapy Protocol
Drs. Gendron and Hamblin published a review of the red light therapy research on arthritis pain in a 2019 edition of Photobiomodulation, Photomedicine & Laser Surgery. They declared in the study’s Background:
“Photobiomodulation (PBM) was discovered over 50 years ago but has still not attained widespread acceptance by the medical community. This is partly due to uncertainty about the precise molecular mechanisms of action and a bewildering array of different wavelengths and dosimetric parameters employed in reported studies.”
That red light therapy significantly relieved arthritis pain was not in doubt. Two-hundred-seventy studies across multiple wavelengths confirmed that red light therapy had better results than drug therapy, especially given that red light therapy has no side effects.
We are missing, though, a consensus on the proper wavelength and dosing. The good news is that many wavelengths reduce arthritis pain. There is no one holy grail of red light therapy for arthritis prescription. You have many choices.
The researchers pulled arthritis red light therapy studies from pubmed.gov to find which wavelengths had the best results. They pointed out the explosion of studies on red light therapy to relieve Musculoskeletal Disorders caused by Osteoarthritis (MSD/OA).
The journals printed 270 arthritis studies between 2000 and 2016, focusing on the ankle, wrist, elbow, back, shoulder and the knee.
Researchers had published successful red light therapy for arthritis studies with these wavelengths having the most success:
- 632.8 nm
- 635 nm
- 670 nm
- 780 nm
- 810 nm
- 830 nm
- 904 nm
- 1064 nm
Compare these results to my less rigorous research:
Best Arthritis Wavelengths
|My Cursory Wavelength Scan Best Wavelengths||Drs. Gendron and Hamblin’s Best Wavelengths|
Gendron DJ, Hamblin MR. Applications of Photobiomodulation Therapy to Musculoskeletal Disorders and Osteoarthritis with Particular Relevance to Canada. Photobiomodul Photomed Laser Surg. 2019 Jul;37(7):408-420. doi: 10.1089/photob.2018.4597. PMID: 31265376; PMCID: PMC6648198.
The Best Wavelengths for Arthritis
Drs. Gendron and Hamblin’s meta analysis results confirm what I found in Dr. Heiskanen’s Photobiomodulation Database. The 808 nm and 1060 nm wavelengths have the most evidence, and wavelengths in the 630’s, 670’s, 780’s and 820s, give or take 15 nm, are certain effective as well.
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