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Red Light Therapy for Post-Surgery Care

Posted April 24, 2024

Medically Reviewed by | Heidi Wright, BSN, RN, PCCN

Surgery is invasive by nature, and when you have an upcoming procedure scheduled, elective or not, you want to ensure that your aftercare is in place and available to help keep you comfortable. 

In addition to medications and instructions from your surgeon, one consideration you can make to enhance your recovery process and even help speed it up is using red light therapy. This scientifically-backed, research-driven tool is successful in helping you recover from surgery on multiple levels. 

We’ll cover what red light therapy is, what procedures may benefit from post-surgical red light therapy, and how red light therapy may be able to help. We’ll also talk about where you can find red light therapy treatments and devices. No matter what your surgery roster includes, red light therapy is probably a tool you can use to help get back to your old self. 

What Is Red Light Therapy?

Used for centuries, light therapy has its roots in ancient Greek medicine. In the 1960s, the medical community was using red light therapy as an adjunct therapy for certain procedures. NASA picked up the research in the 1980s as a means of treating injuries sustained by astronauts when they were in a zero-gravity environment, focusing primarily on the use of red light and near-infrared (NIR) light. 

Wavelengths

Unlike ultraviolet light, red light has a long, low-energy wavelength that is able to penetrate the skin, reaching the dermis. It measures between 620 nm and 700 nm. Near-infrared light has a longer wavelength that measures 800 nm-900 nm and can penetrate the skin and reach bone and muscle

These wavelengths can potentially target the cells within the skin, bone, muscles, and other tissues they reach, helping improve the functionality of these systems at the cellular level. 

How Does Red Light Therapy Work?

To fully understand how red light therapy works, you need a working knowledge of cellular function. Inside our cells, tiny structures called organelles produce adenosine triphosphate, or “ATP.” ATP is the molecule your cells use for energy. Your cells need lots of ATP to carry out their specific functions. When cells carry out cellular functions properly, the tissues and organs they support also function properly. 

When cells lose their function, there’s a tidal wave effect that results in a decline in the functionality of organs, tissues, and systems in the body. Unfortunately, this decline is a natural part of the aging process. With age, our mitochondria simply stop functioning like they once did. Loss of mitochondrial function is one of the 12 hallmarks of aging that researchers have identified as a key force in the aging process. 

Red light therapy works by stimulating mitochondria and helping them produce ATP efficiently. Specifically, a molecule known as cytochrome C oxidase absorbs red light. This molecule is essential to the ATP creation process, and stimulation of it helps mitochondria produce more cellular energy. 

The results are phenomenal. Cells function better, and we enjoy a better-functioning body. There are numerous benefits to red light therapy, and many are associated with post-surgical care. 

How Is Red Light Therapy Used in Post-Surgery Care?

After surgery, your primary goal is recovery. Most of the time, recovery involves rest and possibly some therapy if you’ve had a bone or muscle operation. Red light therapy can also be used in numerous post-surgery care scenarios. 

What Types of Surgeries May Benefit From Red Light Therapy Aftercare?

A better question would be which surgeries cannot benefit from red light therapy as an aftercare therapy. There really are very few surgical procedures that do not benefit from red light therapy after the procedure is completed. That said, it’s always important to consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice, as situations vary. They will be able to offer you the most accurate advice regarding your exact circumstances. 

That said, some surgeries that could potentially benefit from RLT include:

  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Sternum and abdominal surgery 
  • Surgeries on limbs and digits
  • Plastic surgery
  • Dermatology procedures 

Even if you have surgery that you think might not be supported by red light aftercare, check with your healthcare provider. Even if your provider does not offer it, they will likely approve it for use after your surgery from a third-party vendor or your own at-home use.

How Does Red Light Therapy Help for Post-Surgery?

One of the primary ways that red light therapy benefits the body after surgical care is by speeding up the recovery process. In addition to research conducted by NASA, military funding also provided ways to explore how red light therapy could be used. This led to the discovery that red light and NIR light therapy might help increase wound healing time by 40-50% in some cases.

After surgery, ensuring that your incision heals properly can help you avoid infection and reduce the chance you develop a thicker, more visible scar. However, there are more potential benefits to using red light therapy after your surgery that make it an even more valuable tool.

Pain Management

In some cases, NIR light therapy and red light therapy may be able to help with the overall pain management process associated with post-surgical inflammation and healing. By reaching bone and muscle, red light may be able to target these tissues and offer relief at the source of the injury.

Protection for Incisions

Keeping your incisions safeguarded is essential in avoiding post-surgical complications and infections. Red light therapy can help by possibly supporting your scar healing processes. Red light therapy might be able to support cell turnover rates, potentially helping the skin around your incision heal faster. 

Reduced Scarring

In addition to faster skin cell turnover rates, red light therapy may also help increase collagen production, which is an essential protein for supporting the skin’s overall structure. Scarring typically occurs when the fibroblasts in the skin (the cells that create collage) cannot keep up with the demand for collagen, usually after an injury. Because they can’t produce enough collagen to fix the problem correctly, the skin heals itself with scar tissue

With more readily available collagen, there’s less likelihood that you’ll develop a severe scar from your incision. If you do, continued use of red light therapy can help improve the appearance of your scar. 

Improved Mobility

After surgery, especially surgery that involves bone or muscle, you may find it hard to recover your mobility. NIR light therapy may be able to help by delivering wavelengths of light to the affected muscle and tissue to help release tension and address irritation where it has started. This can mean the difference in you getting back on your feet sooner. “NIR light has the ability to penetrate deeper than visible red light. This deeper penetration allows it to potentially reach muscles, tendons, and even bones, where some post-surgical discomfort might originate. Red light therapy is likely most beneficial when used alongside traditional physical therapy or rehabilitation exercises,” notes Heidi Wright, Registered Nurse.

Ease Inflammation

Inflammation post-surgery is common and expected, and your surgeon will likely give you instructions on how to use post-surgical anti-inflammatory medications and other methods to help you address and reduce inflammation. Red light therapy is known for potentially helping reduce inflammation and can be a beneficial tool in your recovery.

How To Use Red Light Therapy After Surgery

Before using red light therapy, clear it with your doctor and/or surgeon. While red light therapy is completely safe and has no known side effects, some people should not use it. If you have certain illnesses or take certain medications that can cause photosensitivity, red light therapy may not be a good fit for you. 

Once your surgeon clears you to use red light therapy, you can schedule a session at a medical facility or medspa, or you can use a red light therapy device at home. Keep in mind that using a device at home may be most comfortable. Red light therapy is most beneficial when it is used regularly, so having access to it daily is a good way to ensure you’ll use it more.

You can expose affected areas to red light therapy for 20 minutes per day, and it’s best to only use your devices as instructed.

When you’re ready to use red light at home, consider Mito Red Light.

Why Mito Red Light?

You’ve got options for red light therapy treatment, including seeing a medical professional, visiting a medspa, or treating yourself in the comfort and privacy of your own home. After surgery, staying home and getting rest is of utmost importance. 

At Mito Red Light, we make red light therapy products that are high-quality, effective, research-backed, and client-reviewed so that you can get the post-operative care you want without ever leaving your couch or your bed.

Our Lights

From our panels to our wearable and flexible devices, we include more diodes per square inch than our competitors. This cuts down on dead space and ensures you are getting as much coverage as possible when you use our therapies. It’s important to vet your red light device against others to ensure that the device you have gives you plenty of the wavelengths you need to help you reach your goals. 

Our Testing

Our lights are third-party tested and diagnostically tested to ensure our RLT products are within the therapeutic window of treatment as defined by scientific testing and research. 

Advanced Technology

Our devices are specially formatted with Enhanced Spectral Energy Output™, a technology that delivers energy across more spectrums of red and NIR light. Our MitoPRO series offers multi-wavelengths that give you access to even more spectrums of red and NIR light and contains an even split of the four peak action spectra LEDs for even coverage. You’ll never experience a polka-dot effect with our products. This means that your post-surgical needs are covered, and after you’ve recovered, you can access even more red light therapy benefits for your skin and body. 

Be Well Soon

Surgery can take a toll on the body, but you can fight back and recover faster with the benefits of red light therapy. After speaking to your surgeon, make sure you have the red light therapy device you want at home so that you can add RLT to your routine immediately after you come home from the hospital. 

DISCLAIMER: Mito Red Light devices are not clinically proven to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical conditions. Mito Red Light devices are Class II general wellness devices aimed at affecting the body through topical heating and supporting cellular function. The scientific studies referenced in this article are for informational purposes only. To see a list of precautionary warnings and contraindications, click here.

Sources:

Light emitting diode-red light for reduction of post-surgical scarring: Results from a dose-ranging, split-face, randomized controlled trial | PubMed

Should open excisions and sutured incisions be treated differently? A review and meta-analysis of animal wound models following low-level laser therapy | PubMed

The effect of gallium-aluminum-arsenide 808-nm low-level laser therapy on healing of skin incisions made using a diode laser | PubMed

NASA Research Illuminates Medical Uses of Light | Spinoff.NASA.gov

Hallmarks of aging: An expanding universe | PubMed

Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring | PMC

 

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