The importance of blood circulation to the entire body can’t be overestimated. It’s vital to every part of the body, and poor blood circulation can cause a myriad of health problems.
Could light therapy have a positive effect on blood circulation? Research suggests that it could! Let’s take a look at the existing evidence on light therapy and blood circulation.
What Is Light Therapy?
Light therapy is a medical treatment that isolates specific wavelengths of light, such as red, near infrared (NIR), blue, green, or full-spectrum light, and shines them onto the body to produce beneficial effects.
Each light wavelength penetrates to a different depth in the skin, with red and NIR penetrating the deepest. The different wavelengths also have different, specific effects on the body. For example, red light reduces inflammation and blue light destroys bacteria.
Light therapy has been used in medicine since the early 1900s, but received more attention in the 1990s when NASA began studying the wound-healing properties of red light. Interest and research have increased over the last 20 years, and light therapy has also become more popular with and available to the general public.
All About Blood Circulation Problems
We recognize the importance of our heart as an essential organ, but the reason our heart is so important is that it pumps blood throughout our entire body!
Our circulatory system, a complex network of blood vessels, removes waste from all our cells while delivering blood, oxygen, and necessary nutrients to every inch of our body. If part of this system doesn’t function correctly, our bodies can’t get what they need to run properly.
Causes of Poor Blood Circulation
Anything that damages or blocks the blood vessels can result in poor blood circulation. This can be caused by any of the following:
- High blood pressure.
- A blood clot in your leg.
- A blood clot in your lung.
- Peripheral artery disease.
- Varicose veins.
- Raynaud’s disease.
- Atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries).
Symptoms of Poor Blood Circulation
Poor blood circulation can cause a variety of symptoms, including one or all of the following:
- Bulging veins.
- A feeling of your skin being “asleep,” like pins and needles.
- Cold toes.
- Cold fingers.
- Chest pain.
- Weak or painful muscles.
- Leg pain and swelling.
- Pale or blue skin.
Light Therapy and Blood Circulation: Can It Help?
Because light therapy is able to penetrate the skin and target the cells below, its effects are more than just skin deep. Research on light therapy and blood circulation is still in its early stages, but studies suggest it can help.
One research study involved 19 children between the ages of 3 and 15 with a severe form of spina bifida. Nearly half of the participants had bedsores in areas of poor circulation. Researchers tested blood circulation before and after applying low-level laser therapy (LLLT) with 680 nm red light to the bedsore areas. Their measurements showed that the light therapy resulted in significantly increased blood circulation to the skin.
Another small study administered 810 nm LED light to healthy participants’ forearms for 10 minutes. Researchers found that the light therapy promoted increased blood circulation and oxygenation in the treatment areas.
Light Therapy Safety
Light therapy is supported by more than 2,000 peer-reviewed clinical studies. This research has shown that light therapy is noninvasive, well tolerated by patients of all ages, and almost completely free of side effects and complications when used correctly. Long-term safety studies are lacking, but more information should be forthcoming.
Consult With Your Healthcare Provider About Light Therapy for Blood Circulation
Before you decide to use light therapy for blood circulation, speak with your healthcare provider. While light therapy is likely safe to use in conjunction with any current medications, it’s always a good idea to talk to your primary care physician, cardiologist, or vascular surgeon.
And of course, you should never discontinue any medications, including vasodilators like pentoxifylline (Trental) and hydralazine (Apresoline), without first speaking to the person who prescribed them to you.