Red, NIR, and FIR Light Therapy
Categories: Inspiring Athletes, Recovery, Training Tips, Uncategorized
Photobiomodulation for your body, mind, and performance.
My Typical Daily Routine
Wake up 5-12 min cold water immersion, fast hot shower Hydrate: Chilled lemon water, followed by cup of adaptogenic tea + cocoa NIR session w/ Joovv 10 min 10 min full body resistance flow (sequence here) Bike off to training 1st session, 2-4 hrs Read 2nd Session 1-3 hrs Sauna, shower Bike home Hydrate, cook. NIR session w/ Joovv 20 min, leave red light on in room for + 20 min Sleep 9-10.5 hrs ; )
What is Red and Near Infrared Light Therapy?
In essence, low-level lasers apply a therapeutic dose of light to damaged tissue, instigating cellular responses mediated by mitochondrial mechanisms. This form of photobiomodulation (PBM) stimulates our cells to generate more energy and undergo repair, resulting in:
Increased : collagen synthesis + muscle performance
Reduced : inflammation + wound healing time
How does it work?
Recreating Natural Light to Power Your Cells
Light therapy sessions charge our cells similar to sunlight, without the harmful UV rays or heat wavelengths. Natural light consists of a broad spectrum. The mitochondria in our cells respond to certain wavelengths within this spectrum, resulting in upregulation of their metabolism and ATP production [3,4]. (For details on mechanisms, see further research links below)
Performance, Muscle Recovery, Sleep Optimization
Athletes of various disciplines – ultra runners to volleyball players, gymnasts, NBA players – have started to utilize the performance and recovery benefits of 3 main zones of light: red, near-infrared (applied via lasers/LEDs), and far-infrared wavelengths (saunas). Pre-workout, short duration sessions of NIR have been found to effectively increase capacity for muscle workload, improve fatigue resistance, and functional movement . Post-training, all 3 zones simulate more-efficient recovery .
These 3 specific wavelengths have slightly different effects on our cells, triggering diverse beneficial responses for health and performance.
More broadly, Red and NIR light has also been shown to repair sun-related skin damage, improve thyroid regulation, optimize hormone levels, increase both attention and reaction time, and improve post-concussion recovery [2,4,5].
Experience as an Athlete
My first exposure to light therapy was during a session at Rose City PT to rehab a serious MCL sprain. (Side note – I highly suggest avoiding deeeep drop knees with your foot at eye level 🤦🏻♀️). We used a medical grade pulsing laser for 5 min, followed by some cross sectional massage. While I’d had manual work done on the injury before, the next day noticed a significant jump in pain-free range of motion and stability. After learning more of the science behind photobiomodulation a year ago, I’ve been cycling in consistent sessions with the full body Joovv elite light therapy plates. It’s been amazing for reducing recovery time. The combination of Joovv + Normatec + homemade bone broth helped me increase my training volume by ~25%, quality of recovery, and reduce occurrence of minor tweaks during both intense training and competition cycles.
Note: The device you use matters. As with many expensive tech devices, knock offs exist. I highly recommend using only a medical grade device as they deliver reliable wavelengths in the safe, therapeutic zones. Personally I’ve been using Joovv - their module LEDs are registered with the FDA as class II medical devices .
Simultaneously heal and reduce excess inflammation.
Think about acute injuries or total wreckage after a grueling training week. Tissue needs blood to heal. Compressing fluid into the lymph system to remove byproducts reduces swelling and increases function. Icing stops blood flow, halts hormonal communication between the tissues and the brain, locks up swelling, and makes tissue stiff. Considering the physiology, does ice really seem like the most efficient method for recovery or injury healing?*
Instead, I began to experiment with different recovery options. Light was particularly intriguing, as it can both heal and energize in 10-30 min vs the typical hours of icing followed by the “replenish” period. Red and NIR light simultaneously act on various pathways to increase blood flow, stimulate collagen synthesis, and speed wound healing [2,5].
Utilizing lasers and full body Joovv plates has been groundbreaking for me both during recovery throughout intense training weeks as well as busting through plateaus while rehabbing serious MCL and A2 pulley strains.
*That’s not to say that hot/cold contrast doesn’t have value. Personally I use full body contrast multiple times a week through cold water immersion + sauna. It has been amazing for jumpstarting the day, minimizing jet lag, muscle synthesis, recovery, and other full body systemic effects. For acute healing responses and reduction in swelling, I’ve just found ice to be minimal compared to compression or lasers.
Future PBM Research
PBM has been a powerful tool for health, performance and recovery. Looking forward, promising observations have been seen of red light’s potential in healing damaged brain tissue, improving memory of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, reducing depression, and repairing eye health. Grateful to have access to this tool and excited to see future applications of PBM!
Resources and Further Information
Performance and Recovery
Overview and Extended Benefits
4. Greenfield, Ben. Boundless. Victory Belt Publishing, 2020.
Skin and Healing
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