LEDs and Therapy: Dispelling Confusion

You may not know what the letters “LED” stand for, but as a consumer, you have certainly used LEDs in multiple settings.

  • LED lightbulbs are available for home and commercial use
  • LED lighting is used outdoors, at night, and in art settings
  • LEDs are found in TV and smartphone backlighting
  • LED displays are found in many applications, from clocks to microwaves to automobile brake lights and more
  • LEDs are used in billboards, signs, and posters

The examples above all refer to visible LED lighting. LEDs also emit infrared (not visible to the human eye) light.

What is an LED?

An “LED” is a light-emitting diode.

A diode is a component comprising two terminals. The terminals are made of materials that carry different charges. When electricity is applied to the terminals, the way the electrical charges interact produces luminescence or light. Variations in the terminal materials, plus other factors, produce different kinds of light.

Light-emitting diodes are used widely for many different applications, as shown above.

About LEDs and Therapeutic Uses of Light

In the medical environment, light-emitting diodes are used in scores of therapeutic environments.

Skin care professionals use LEDs in red-light therapy to treat cosmetic conditions. Red light is different from infrared light in its position on the light spectrum, its wavelength, and the depth to which it can penetrate the skin. Because red light wavelengths only penetrate 2-4 mm, their use is limited to treatments of the skin’s surface and just underneath it.

LEDs that produce infrared light can be used for different therapeutic purposes. Infrared light penetrates the skin up to an inch and a half deep. This means it can reach into tissues, muscles, blood vessels, and even bone.

Anodyne® Infrared Light Therapy

Infrared light delivered by LEDs is now recognized as beneficial in the treatment of conditions and injuries. The application of light to places in the body that are experiencing pain or stress helps to promote circulation. Improved blood flow helps decrease inflammation. Decreased inflammation brings relief from pain.

Anodyne® Infrared Therapy devices all comprise a power unit and pads studded with light-emitting diodes. In normal use, a healthcare provider sets the diode pads on targeted areas of a patient. The LEDs deliver light for 20-30 minutes. A patient may also have an Anodyne® consumer unit for use at home between office visits.

Studies have shown that infrared light treatment with Anodyne® products can increase local circulation by up to 3200% after half an hour of exposure. Circulation remains healthy for several hours even after treatment.

Wrapping It Up

LED technology has been around for over 60 years, although nearly one hundred years ago, a Russian inventor claimed to have created the first LED. Light-emitting diodes were developed for consumer and industrial purposes first, although the use of light for medical treatments has been around since the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.

In 1994, the FDA cleared Anodyne® infrared light products for use in providing heat therapy and temporarily increasing local blood circulation. Anodyne® LED products have delivered infrared light for nearly 30 years, bringing relief to more than 100,000 patients.