Anyone who has exercised even once in life is familiar with the dreadful muscle soreness that occurs the next day. Being unable to move without feeling pain all over your body can be enough reason for some people to stop working out at all. If this is the case with you, we might have something quite interesting for you.
Red light therapy has been proven to help speed up muscle recovery and increase physical endurance. And this is not just a bold claim with insufficient evidence – over a thousand studies have been conducted around RLT and its benefits. What’s more, many professional athletes turn to red light therapy to help them recover fast after extensive training.
How does red light therapy help your muscles heal and take your workout routine to another dimension? Here’s all you need to know:
What Causes Muscle Soreness?
Before we jump into the science behind red light therapy’s superpowers, let’s talk a bit about muscle soreness.
Experiencing muscle pain after your first few exercise sessions or when you add a new workout to your routine is completely natural. It happens when you kick your lazy muscles out of their comfort zone and put them under stress. In the medical world, this is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). You’ll likely feel the DOMS kicking in after 6 to 8 hours of physical activity, and you can be stuck with it for up to 48 hours.
Gentle stretching, massaging, and applying cold compresses are some of the most widespread remedies for sore muscles. But they only help so much. Research shows that red light therapy can be one of the quickest ways of repairing muscle tissue.
Basics Of Red Light Therapy
Different colors of light have different effects on humans. The intensity of penetrating the epidermis also varies from lightwave to lightwave. In the case of red light therapy, red and near-infrared light wavelengths are used, which can reach deep tissue layers (approximately 10mm deep).
Red light particles have a boosting effect on our cellular activity. Due to red light therapy, mitochondria generate increased amounts of ATP – an energy-carrying molecule that supplies our cells with the necessary energy to carry out all of their functions. With higher ATP levels, our cells become more efficient at their job and increase endurance against stressors, such as inflammation and injuries.
How Does Red Light Therapy Help Muscle Recovery?
Red light therapy can help you deal with sore muscles in multiple ways.
This treatment method is characterized by anti-inflammatory properties, which work as first aid for muscle pain. RLT calms down the inflammation and helps reduce pain and discomfort associated with DOMS.
What’s more, red light particles promote nitric oxide production. It is a free radical, naturally formed in our body with one essential function – vasodilation. Nitric relaxes the inner muscles of the blood vessels, causing them to widen. As a result, blood circulation increases, which is important for restoring the functions of compromised muscle tissue.
Red light therapy’s benefits for muscle recovery go further than that. This treatment is effective not only in the DOMS case but for injuries such as strains and sprains. These are very common in athletes who work out every single day of their lives. Considering that their livelihood depends on their physical performance, many of them use red light therapy as an ultimate way to quick healing. In fact, in the 2016 Olympics, the U.S track team arrived in Rio with their own red light therapy bed that helped them stay on top of their game.
Is It Better To Use Red Light Therapy Before or After Workouts?
There is no doubt that red light therapy is effective for speeding up muscle recovery. However, it is highly debated whether you should have a session before or after the workout. Sorry to break it to you, but there is no straightforward answer to this question.
If you use RLT before a workout, it is going to prepare your muscles for the training and also increase your general energy levels. If used after a workout, it will help you avert inconveniences such as muscle soreness. And there is no rule that says you can’t use it both before and after workouts! So basically, it boils down to your preferences.
Don’t forget to ease into using red light therapy products as their effectiveness varies from person to person. Start slow with just 2-3 minutes of exposure each session and gradually increase up to 15 minutes. The good thing is that red light therapy has zero proven side effects, which adds a whole new level of flexibility to this treatment. So experience with it freely until you find the application that works best for you and your muscles.