LED Light Therapy: How it works and benefits for gut health
LED light therapy is a newer form of acupuncture using LEDs and lasers to bring about different effects within the body.
·October 7th, 2021
LED light therapy, sometimes known as laser acupuncture or LED phototherapy, uses the energy from light.
Laser acupuncture uses lasers of precise wavelengths to penetrate acupuncture points non-invasively in much the same way that needles traditionally would.
LED phototherapy uses lower energy LED light to penetrate broader swaths of skin, less deeply. It is more commonly used to treat skin conditions.
If you’re interested in LED light therapy, find a practitioner who offers it near you with Bright Belly’s acupuncturist search tool.
When you think of acupuncture, your mind likely jumps to tiny needles or maybe the circular imprints left in the wake of a cupping session. But acupuncture has expanded in recent years to incorporate new tools and techniques that offer distinct benefits or may be a better fit for some individuals.
A newer form of acupuncture uses forms of light energy, including LEDs (light-emitting diode) and lasers, to bring about different effects within the body. There are several terms for light therapy treatments in acupuncture. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT), sometimes called cold laser therapy, is an umbrella term that can encompass both laser or LED phototherapy, as well as other forms of lower energy laser treatments.
Laser acupuncture generally refers to the use of low-energy targeted lasers in place of acupuncture needles. LED light therapy uses a different form of light that is even lower energy, and therefore permeates less deeply into the skin.
What is laser acupuncture?
Laser acupuncture uses lasers at specific wavelengths of light, generally in the range of red or infrared, to target specific acupuncture points in much the same way that needles traditionally would.
Lasers offer some advantages relative to needles: they can feel less invasive for those who are generally sensitive to needles, and they can often achieve a similar effect to traditional acupuncture in a shorter time. Lasers used in acupuncture do not penetrate the skin, and patients may not feel any sensation when they are applied.
Laser acupuncture has been shown to be particularly effective at reducing inflammation and pain, but as the technology is significantly newer than needle acupuncture, research is still being conducted on the most effective parameters for wavelength and methodology.
Is laser acupuncture safe?
In recent years, lasers have taken on an increasingly important role in medical treatment and care. These days, we can use lasers to remove tumors, correct our vision, smooth our skin or eliminate our hair. Medical lasers work by concentrating and focusing light on a very precise area.
The light in a laser is of a single wavelength of visible light, and is focused into a narrow beam with high intensity. The radiation from lasers is non-ionizing, which means the energy density is not high enough to remove electrons from atoms or molecules, so the long-term health risk is not significant. This contrasts with other forms of radiation we may encounter, like x-rays or proton radiation used to treat cancer.
Among forms of laser therapy, laser acupuncture uses particularly low energy lasers, designed with maximum safety in mind. It is unlikely that laser acupuncture would cause sunburn due to the low energy level associated with the light therapy device involved, but patients should wear eye protection while receiving treatment.
What symptoms and conditions can laser acupuncture help treat?
Laser acupuncture has been shown to be most effective at treating symptoms related to inflammation, pain, and tissue repair. Among those it has been shown to benefit:
TMJ: A study comparing both general low-level laser therapy and laser acupuncture found that both were effective at increasing jaw mobility and reducing pain in patients with TMJ.
Knee osteoarthritis: Laser acupuncture when applied to points in the knees reduced arthritis-caused pain both at the end of treatment and at least 6 months after treatment was complete.
Chronic tension headaches: Laser acupuncture may reduce the frequency, duration, and intensity of chronic tension headaches, one of the most common forms of headaches experienced.
Depression: In one study, laser acupuncture was indicated as an effective treatment for depression, but more and larger studies need to be conducted on this potential application.
What is LED light therapy and what can it treat?
LED light therapy is not necessarily considered acupuncture in all forms. Most acupuncture points are located in the myofascial level of the body, and only a subset of LED devices with higher energy output are strong enough to permeate past the skin level of depth.
However, some acupuncturists may nonetheless offer LED light therapy as part of a broader complement of services. Instead of lasers, LED treatment uses infrared, red, or blue light-emitting diodes to penetrate broader swaths of skin with energy.
Blue light treatment: More often used for acne due to its ability to target the skin’s oil glands and kill bacteria.
Red light treatment: Targets the outer layer of the skin, and is used for its anti-inflammatory effects and to potentially stimulate collagen production and to reduce the appearance of wrinkles or age spots.
Laser acupuncture and LED therapy are newer modalities, so it may be harder to find an acupuncturist trained to offer one or both of them. Bright Belly’s acupuncture provider database will help you screen for providers who offer the treatments you’re looking for.