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Demystifying Red Light Therapy Terminology: The Terms You Should Know

Red light therapy is one of the most straightforward treatments available today — simply expose the treatment area to this particular type of light to provide a wide variety of wellness benefits to patients.

Red light therapy (RLT) is an advanced technology, and like any high-tech medical device, industry professionals use specific terminology to discuss various aspects of RLT. The terminology may describe the different types of red light therapy devices, such as RLT's effects on the human body.

Many wellness clinics are adding red light therapy to their treatment offerings. While knowing the name of every part included in a red light therapy device is unnecessary, a working knowledge of basic RLT terminology can help wellness professionals provide the best treatment possible.

Essential Red Light Therapy Terminology All Wellness Clinic Personnel Should Know

Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy is a groundbreaking approach to treating several conditions and wellness issues. It uses the power of light to make beneficial changes to body cells. Many health and wellness professionals administer red light therapy to:


Photobiomodulation is another word for red light therapy. “Photo” refers to the light used in this therapy, “bio” means body, and “modulation” is another word for change. Altogether, photobiomodulation means using light to cause changes in the body.


Did you know that light travels in waves? Scientists measure light based on its wavelengths, which can produce a variety of colors. The longest wavelengths tend to produce red light to the naked eye.


Scientists measure wavelengths in nanometers. Nano means one-billionth, so nanometer (nm) means one-billionth of a meter. To put that into perspective, human hair is about 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers thick.

Red & Near-Infrared Light

Red and near-infrared (NIR) light (635nm – 940nm) penetrates the skin to cause a phototherapeutic effect in the underlying tissue. More specifically, red and near-infrared light stimulates the mitochondria to promote energy production within the cells.

Free Radicals

All atoms have negatively charged particles called electrons, essential in conducting electricity in solids. When electrons are paired, they are more stable than those unpaired. An atom or molecule with unpaired electrons is called a free radical. Free radicals take electrons from stable atoms or molecules, ultimately destabilizing them and turning them into free radicals. This process is known as oxidation, which can cause significant chain reactions. Widespread oxidation and free radicals can damage cells, resulting in illness and aging.


The function of antioxidants is to regulate free radicals in the body. While the body generates some antioxidants, they can also be obtained from foods like blueberries.

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress occurs due to an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants. Some chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases, may develop due to oxidative stress.
Red light therapy, free radicals, and oxidative stress
Red light therapy can neutralize free radicals to reduce the damage these unstable atoms and molecules cause.


Inflammation is more than just harmless swelling — it is an essential physiological process that helps the immune system protect the body. Inflammation develops when the immune system sends fluids and cells to fight bacteria or heal the injury. While acute inflammation helps the body, chronic inflammation can cause illness, aging, and disease. Chronic inflammation can also cause pain and mobility problems.
Red Light Therapy Reduces Inflammation.
Red light therapy increases circulation to the treatment area. Improved circulation carries away the excess fluid that causes inflammation.


The mitochondria are essential components of human body cells. Their primary function is to generate the most energy required to power the cell.
Red light therapy and mitochondria
Red light therapy may strengthen the mitochondria to improve energy production, which enhances cellular health and healing.

Full-Body Red Light Therapy

Full-body red light therapy uses the same wavelength of light as handheld devices, but full-body therapy delivers the red light to the patient’s entire body, which maximizes the therapeutic potential of treatments. Full-body red light therapy can also produce systemic benefits, such as improved circulation and better sleep.

Targeted Red Light Therapy

Targeted red light therapy uses a smaller area, such as a sore wrist or the skin on the patient’s face. To deliver this therapy, practitioners typically use portable or handheld devices.

Continuous Wave Mode

Red light therapy devices may emit continuous or pulsed waves of light. Continuous wave (CW) mode delivers a constant output of power.

Pulsed Mode

Devices that utilize red light therapy can emit pulses of light, which can bring about various beneficial effects on the body, such as reducing inflammation and promoting healthy cell regeneration.


Also known as combination therapy, polytherapy combines two therapies; red light therapy is non-invasive and drug-free, so it works well with other treatment modalities.

Are you seeking more information about red light therapy and the terminology used in this innovative health technology? Our TheraLight providers are always glad to help.


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