Red Light Therapy

As promised, here is my post explaining all about red light therapy. Finally. Yes, I know, I’ve taken my time, but it’s a post that requires peace and quiet. And access to my research!

With Otis’s not so great diagnosis a few weeks ago, I sat down to look at some management techniques. The first one that sprung to mind was red light therapy, because a friend of mine uses it regularly and successfully on her horse, who has lots of foot problems and they manage to do riding club level competitions.

My first port of call was Google, which informed me that red light therapy was developed by NASA to help heal injuries to astronauts in space. The technology was initially designed to improve plant growth in space, but then scientists realised it could benefit the human body too.

This led to successful experiments that found that this technology reduced pain and side effects of cancer sufferers.

Then the rest of the world sat up and took note.

Now you can find red light therapy in medicine, health and beauty, veterinary treatments, to name a few.

It’s important to remember that red light therapy doesn’t solve a problem, it just alleviates the side effects and makes the problem manageable.

How does it work? The red lights themselves are light sources releasing energy in the form of photons. Healthy cells vibrate at 660 nanometers a second (this is important as lower quality lights don’t vibrate at the correct frequency), and when tissue is injured the vibration level drops in cells. The red lights “jump start” the affected cells so that they vibrate at the correct level. 

The mitochondria within the damaged cells are accelerated, which increases ATP production, so the brain releases endorphins, serotonin, and anti-inflammatories. The blood flow is also increased which enables nutrients to reach the cells and for toxins to be eliminated quicker. By reducing or eliminating pain and inflammation the body will heal faster.

One website claims that red light therapy works by:

1. Reduces pain by increasing production of endorphins – a natural pain killer

2. Reduces inflammation by suppressing enzymes that create swelling, redness, and pain.

3. Boosts the release of anti-inflammatory enzymes to reduce swelling quickly.

4. Increases cellular regeneration and healing by stimulating the mitochondria within the cell. This increases the production of ATP which causes damaged cells to accept nutrients and eliminate toxins faster

5. Increases lymphatic drainage and circulation.

6. Relaxes tight muscles and quickly releases muscle spasms and cramps.

7. Strengthens anti-viral properties by increasing antibody production in the bloodstream

8. Improves structure of tendons, bones, skin, teeth, and cartilage by increasing collagen production.

9. Stimulates a strong heart beat by regulating serotonin levels. Serotonin helps to regulate inflammation and allergic reactions and plays an important role in blood clotting, stimulating a strong heart beat, initiating sleep, and fighting depression. It also stimulates the smooth muscle in the intestinal wall helping it to contract.

I haven’t enough knowledge to try to prove these claims to be wrong, but what I do know is that if NASA think red light therapy is worth studying then there must be some benefit of it. Additionally, it does sound like it will suit Otis’s condition by reducing pain and inflammation of the soft tissue in the foot when it gets aggravated by the side bone.

Armed with this knowledge, I started picking my friend’s brain. Interestingly, she has an issue of a tendon rubbing over a bony protrusion in her knee, which is very painful. But she finds the red lights very beneficial. This sounds like the human version of Otis’s problem. She has just qualified as a red light therapist so offered to come and assess Otis.

I decided that I didn’t have much to lose from trying this and booked Otis in for a session.

What I didn’t realise was that Eastern medicine has gotten in on the act and red lights are often used on acupuncture points instead of needles, with good effect. I’m sure I’d rather have beans of light pointed at me rather than being stabbed by needles, but apparently acupuncture doesn’t hurt (I’ve never tried it). So when my friend arrived she started with a whole body assessment.

I would be concerned if a vet or physio or anyone else, solely focused on the problem area and neglected the rest of the body in case they missed a causative factor or another sore area caused by compensating for the injury.

Anyway, Otis flinched slightly on his left brachiocephalic muscle, which makes sense as it’s his left forefoot that’s problematic and that side of his neck is involved in lifting that foot forwards. He also, weirdly, had a square of heat on the left side of his thoracic vertebrae and a bit of sensitivity over his sacro-iliac. There was a bit of heat in the sidebone area, but nothing else to note.

Next, my friend put him to sleep. He was somewhat reluctant, but after a minute of putting the two red lights on his spine (just above the wither and in front of the croup) his head dropped and he licked and chewed, a common sign of the release of tension. These points are to do with acupuncture, I think they reset his energy lines or something.


Some people will by now shouting at me, telling me it’s mythical rubbish. I don’t know much about Eastern medicine, but if acupuncture has been around as long as it has it has to be successful. And I was actually amazed at Otis’s response to the lights on those trigger points. 

Next, she put the red light pad onto his sacro-iliac to treat that area and she started making her way down the left side of his body, putting the lights on different points, again linked to acupuncture points. This was all about resetting his body and sorting out any niggles or areas of strain where he’d compensated for his injury.

While she did the right side of his body, she wrapped the light pad around the right foot, and put it onto the skeletal setting. If I’m honest, I don’t know how this differed, but I assume it’s a higher energy level because bone is denser than muscle.


Interestingly, in the right hock there was some activity. I put my hand around the point of hock while the lights were focused on it and could feel the hock bubbling. It felt like a simmering surface on a pan. Or what I’d imagine a simmering surface feels like as I’ve never touched one! Weird! But again, it goes back to compensating for the injury with his diagonal pair.

To finish, Otis had the pad on his neck, to release the tension in his left brachiocephalic muscle. 

Otis was almost asleep while all of this went on, and when my friend checked his pressure points again he didn’t react at all.

So did it work? I don’t know! 

From this treatment I twigged that his pelvis had rotated so for that treated. There’s not been any heat in the sidebone area since. And I can only presume he felt better the next day because he lost a shoe in the field … but the jury is still out. Otis definitely enjoyed the experience and it was non invasive so I know there won’t be a negative outcome … except for losing a shoe. And after his pelvis was corrected he did feel good. Possibly normal. But let me go and touch a big bit of wood.

I think I’ll see how he is over the next couple of weeks and I can always try it again to get a more definitive answer.

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