How Does Infrared Light Help Muscle Pain?

As people grow older, suffering from different types of diseases is normal. Muscle pain or strain is a common disease among a high percentage of senior citizens. While there are no shortages of pain medications on the market, the adverse effects of these medications are a real concern for many old people. In this context, can old people rely on red light therapy for the remedy of pain?

Common causes of muscle pain in middle-aged and elderly populations

While many elderly people endure chronic muscle pain, many of them accept it as a normal process of aging. Three common causes of muscle pain among old people are polymyalgia rheumatica, Fibromyalgia, and repetitive strain injuries. Polymyalgia rheumatica or PMR is a disease that has several bad effects including pain, stiffness, and inflammation around the hips, shoulders, and neck. Common symptoms of PMR are muscle pain, stiffness, fatigue, fever, depression, and weight loss.

Fibromyalgia is another chronic muscle pain that is felt throughout the body. Researchers still don’t know what causes Fibromyalgia. Their assumption about the origin of this pain is brain process the pain signal and then spreads the pain sensation throughout the body. Symptoms of Fibromyalgia are muscle pain, fatigue, poor memory, and depression.

Approximately, one-fourth of elderly patients are affected by repetitive strain injuries- a type of pain that originates from a repetitive motion of the body parts like playing tennis, weightlifting, knitting, or playing golf. Common symptoms of repetitive strain injuries are swelling, weakness, tingling or numbness, throbbing, and muscle cramps.

Current pain Treatment Options and Their limitations

Since pain is a common condition affecting both men and women, so is the ubiquity of pain medicines. pain affects people with varied intensity. Physicians prescribe pain medications depending on the severity of the pain. Common pain medicines are

Paracetamol: prescribed for short-term pain

Aspirin: Recommended for normal pain like fever, headache or period pain

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen: effective for reducing pain and inflammation like swelling and redness.

Opioid medicines such as codeine, morphine, and oxycodone: applied for treating severe pain like cancer pain.

Local anesthetics like injections, creams, or sprays: used when nerves are reachable.

Antidepressants or Anti-epilepsy: Used for the remedy of some specific type of pain like nerve pain.

While pain medicines help patients get rid of pain like magic, but these medications are not free of limitations. The least or no side effects originate from taking the prescribed amount of paracetamol drugs. However, taking a large amount of paracetamol drugs for a long time may cause adverse effects like skin rash, and kidney damage. Aspirin side effects are more pronounced than paracetamols which could be nausea, vomiting, indigestion, and stomach ulcer. For some people, aspirin could cause more severe problems like asthma attacks, bleeding, kidney damage, and tinnitus(ringing in the ears)

Taking Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) takes a limited period since their adverse effects include headache, nausea, stomach upset, heartburn, dizziness, tiredness, skin rash, and elevated blood pressure are more discomfort for patients in general. The worst side effects of NSAIDs could be kidney failure, heart failure, heart attack, and angina stroke.

The side effects of opioid pain medicines such as morphine, oxycodone, and codeine are drowsiness, confusion, falls, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. They also decrease physical coordination and balance. Opioid medicine’s more important side effects are patients can become addicted to these medications and can slow down their breathing.

Explanation of infrared light and its properties

The electromagnetic spectrum is an array of all types of radiation. Different wavelengths of radiation divide the whole electromagnetic spectrum into different regions. Our visible light wavelength is 380 to 700 nanometers which belong to the visible light spectrum. The region in the electromagnetic spectrum where the wavelength is 700 nanometers to 1 millimeter is allocated to Infrared light. Radiation like x-rays, gamma, and UV have short wavelengths with high energy.

Infrared radiation wavelength is higher than visible light but shorter than radio waves. Correspondingly, Infrared frequency is lower than visible light frequency but higher than microwave frequency.

Human eyes cannot see Infrared light, while heat sensors can detect longer wavelengths of this radiation. Since in the electromagnetic spectrum, the position of visible light, and Infrared are close to each other, the latter shares some common characteristics with the former. Infrared, for example, can be focused, polarized, and reflected.

The infrared region in the electromagnetic spectrum can be subdivided into several spectral zones. These are near-infrared, short-wavelength infrared, mid-infrared, long-wavelength infrared, and far-infrared. However, the common three infrared radiations are near, mid, and far-infrared.


The near-IR brand starts from the red end of the visible light spectrum. It starts at 700 nanometers and ends at 1300 nanometers. The frequency range of near-IR is 215 THz to 400 THz. In the Infrared region, the near-IR group contains the longest wavelength with corresponding the shortest frequencies and generates the least heat.

Mid-IR The mid-IR band’s wavelength range is 1300 nm to 3000nm. The corresponding frequencies of this group are 20 THz to 215 THz.


The wavelength range in Far-IR is 3000nm to 1 mm. The corresponding frequency range is from 0.3 THz to 20 THz. This group features the shortest wavelengths and the longest frequency with the capability of heat production.

Historical background of infrared light therapy

That the sunlight has healing power is known, and has been used in medical, and psychological treatment for thousands of years in many places of the world. However, red light therapy did not come onto the scene until the invention of laser technology in 1960 when engineer and physicist Theodore H. Malman developed the first laser. This is a device that can emit light with consistent wavelength. Then the real breakthrough occurred in infrared light therapy in 1967 when the Hungarian physician Endre Mester developed a laser device that could deliver concentrated red and infrared light for skin cancer treatment. The clinical application of red light therapy started in 2002 when the FDA approved a low-level laser therapy device.

Mechanisms of action of infrared light on muscle tissue

Since the whole process of Infrared light therapy is invisible to the human eye, in other words, how the process works prompts scientists to conduct study after study. Their findings are something like this: The IR radiation penetrates through the multiple layers of skin until it reaches the cell’s mitochondria. Mitochondria is the power plant of the cell. The IR radiation transfers its energy to mitochondria. Due to the absorption of IR energy, cell regeneration, and regrowth happened. So the absorption of IR radiation at the cellular level explains how Infrared light helps relieve pain and wound healing.

Benefits of Infrared Light Therapy for Muscle Pain Relief

Apart from treating muscle pain, Infrared therapy can be applied to the following treatment process

Increased blood circulation, and oxygenation

when IR radiation reaches the hemoglobin molecules of red blood cells, it punctures them causing them to release a chemical called Nitric oxide locally. The chemical reacts with blood vessels, making them relax, and ensuring more blood flow in the region. More blood flow there means oxygenation or the presence of more oxygen in tissues or cells of that part of the body.

Reduction of inflammation and swelling

The energy of IR radiation transfers to the affected cells, stimulates them and reduces oxidative stress. The oxidative stress results from the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. Oxidative stress causes damage to organs and cells that result in various diseases. So IR radiation, on the one hand, speeds up healing by stimulating the ailing cells, and, reduces oxidative stress on the other hand. The resultant effect is a reduction in inflammation and swelling.

Relaxation of muscles and alleviation of tension

IR radiation penetrates deep into the painful muscles, tissues, and tendons to heat up the area. This heating process stimulates more blood circulation there, removes waste matter, and gets the muscles and joints to relax.

Potential side effects and contraindications of infrared light therapy

Since research on red light therapy has not been completed yet, there is no conclusive evidence that constant exposure to IR radiation has no side effects. Potential side effects of IR radiation include temporary headaches. eye strain, premature aging, and the risk of development of cancer at the later stage of life. However, these side effects are all possibilities, not backed up by scientific research.


Infrared light therapy for relieving muscle pain is getting acceptance every day. Potential side effects like headaches or eye strain are isolated incidents, not to patients in general. However, the biggest beneficiaries of red light therapy are senior citizens. The non-invasive, often soothing experience of the treatment process addresses the most concerning issues of elderly people like signs of skin aging including wrinkles, fine lines, sunspots, paper skin, and sagging. IR radiation penetrates the deeper layer of skin which results in the production of collagen, and elastin. The outcome of the production of collagen, and elastin is restoring the thickness, firmness, and elasticity of youthful skin.

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