How to Use Red Light Therapy LLLT for Fibromyalgia
Like with certain other chronic illnesses, the list of symptoms associated with fibromyalgia is very long. Fortunately there are types of light therapy that can help improve some of the symptoms. Here I want to talk about some of the common symptoms of fibromyalgia and suggestions for light therapy or sauna use that may help.
Please keep in mind that:
- You should always consult a qualified physician before beginning any treatment for fibromyalgia disease or any other symptoms.
- Nothing you read here should be considered medical advice. Instead, it should serve as ideas for topics to discuss with your physician.
- There are some situations where you should not use light therapy or sauna. Please see my article on who should not use light therapy for more details.
Now, let's get to how low level light therapy (LLLT) can help with some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Near Infrared Light Therapy for Fibromyalgia Pain
One of the defining characteristics of fibromyalgia is pain of many different types, such as:
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Bone pain
- Nerve pain
- Back pain
For all of these, I would recommend using a 250W human-grade near infrared bulb. They provide pain relief and over time may help heal the problem that is causing pain.
For pain that originates from deeper tissues, healing can take longer (for example, back pain or joint pain). There still should be some immediate pain relief from using the bulb, though.
If you have pain in multiple places, you can do full-body treatments using multiple bulbs.
If you don't want heat, LED red light therapy would be the next best option.
Near Infrared Sauna for Fibromyalgia Stiffness
Especially in the morning, those with fibromyalgia may experience stiffness and decreased range of motion. Use of a near infrared bulb can be helpful for getting immediate relief.
There is an even better option, though, and that is using multiple near infrared bulbs as part of a near infrared sauna. When used regularly, episodes of stiffness will decrease in frequency.
Near Infrared Light Therapy for Underactive Thyroid
It seems like the thyroid controls pretty much everything. Unfortunately, those with fibromyalgia are likely to have an underactive thyroid. With your thyroid on the fritz, your body will struggle to get enough energy and tons of other problems will result.
The good news is, using light therapy on your thyroid is easy to do and it can really help with thyroid problems. You can use a red or near infrared light directed at the thyroid (which is right in the area of your Adam’s apple on your neck) to help support healthy thyroid function.
For this, I usually use red or near infrared 2-3 times a day, with at least a couple hours in between uses. I tend to favor an incandescent near infrared bulb for this, since the heat encourages blood flow to the neck and ultimately, the increased blood flow helps me think more clearly and stave off depression (in addition to boosting my thyroid function). It also has a nice renewing effect on the skin of the neck.
Red Light Therapy for Extreme Fatigue
Whole-body near infrared light therapy would by my top pick for improving fatigue. It provides energy to the mitochondria of your cells which means more energy overall for you.
My next choices would be near infrared or red light therapy used on the thyroid area.
For mental fatigue, I’ve found that using a heat-producing near infrared bulb on the right side of my forehead and sometimes on the neck does wonders for my mental energy levels. More on that next.
Brain Fog and Other Mental, Neurological, and Psychiatric Symptoms
Brain-related symptoms can be the most frustrating symptoms of this disease. Although it isn't the same, I do understand these symptoms a bit, as they are common in Lyme disease, which I have.
For someone whose pleasure in life mainly comes from her ability to think, learn, imagine and invent, the brain fog and other neurological (and mental) effects of Lyme were crushing. I couldn’t stand it, so I went to war on the Lyme in my brain, using every way I could come up with to fight it. One of the most effective therapies I found was EEG neurofeedback. It was truly a game-changer in my life. The trouble with neurofeedback, though, is that it’s expensive, it’s hard to find a good practitioner and it may be hard to find any practitioner at all depending on where you live.
With all that in mind, I decided I needed to find a treatment related to neurofeedback that I could use at home on a daily basis in between treatments.
I began researching therapies similar to neurofeedback and that’s how I learned about hemoencephalography. Hemoencephalography is based on increasing blood flow to the parts of the brain that lack it. I came up with the theory that perhaps I could use a heat-producing near infrared light therapy bulb to achieve the same goal. The heat would encourage blood flow and the light would provide additional energy to my mitochondria…I hoped. I still needed to try it for myself.
I felt confident about trying my idea out because I’d used RubyLux's human-grade near infrared bulbs on my head before. I knew they were very relaxing, but I’d never paid attention to whether they would have other effects depending on where I aimed the light. I knew from a previous EEG what areas of my brain were dead zombie zones, so I knew exactly where I needed to increase blood flow.
I focused my light therapy bulb on those areas and it did seem to have an effect within 5-10 minutes. It definitely eased depression, brain fog and made it much easier to focus. The effect seemed to last a few hours. I immediately started using the light several times a day. The difference that it makes for me makes me feel that it is well worth the time.
I noticed that if I used the light on parts of my head that had been shown to have normal activity on my EEG, I would get a mild headache after a few minutes. Stopping use reversed the headache a few minutes later.
I have tried using an LED bulb in place of the incandescent near infrared bulb and it does help, but I prefer the addition of heat. It is extra effective in increasing blood flow.
In my case, using the light on my forehead in the center or to the right side relieves depression, improves focus and makes me feel more awake, energetic and less spacey.
If I use the bulb on any part of my neck, I get more mental energy and feel less foggy.
When using it on the very top of my head, towards the back, I feel more focused.
If I use it on the side of my head around my ear, it sometimes can improve anxiety.
For problems with muscle movement and coordination, I use it on the sensorimotor cortex areas- you can see where these are located in this diagram, where they are colored blue, green and orange
One thing I do want to point out is that when it comes to positioning the light, what works for one person may not work for another. Each individual’s brain is different and the ideal light positioning is going to vary in every case. It can even differ over time in the same person.
It may take some experimenting to figure out what works best. What’s clear is that no matter what, it should not hurt or be uncomfortable. If you notice you’re feeling somewhat irritated or agitated after starting a treatment, or if you feel a headache coming on, stop and turn your lamp off. You’ve picked the wrong spot to focus on or you may have let your session overrun by a long time.
Always listen to your body. Light therapy is not supposed to hurt at any point during treatment. It’s supposed to make you feel better, not worse.
Restless Legs Syndrome Symptoms - LLLT Can Help
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a miserable condition. There are so few treatments and when symptoms are bad, the fallout affects so many aspects of life. Interestingly, a study found that RLS is 10 times more common in people who have fibromyalgia.
Luckily, near infrared light therapy can help. Near infrared bulbs are the best for RLS. Use them on the legs when you notice symptoms and you should see a reduction in the intensity of the restless feeling. If you also have Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (the RLS-like condition where your limbs move too much during sleep), using the bulb before bed helps them stay still.
Red light therapy might also work, but heat-producing near infrared bulbs seem to work better.
LLLT Can Help with Insomnia, Too, But Not How You Think
Insomnia is common in fibromyalgia. Although there isn't a light that can make you sleep, you can use light to help regulate your circadian rhythm, which will reduce insomnia.
Exposure to bright light in the morning time, especially light with a blue-green hue to it, shuts off the body's melatonin production and signals the brain to wake up. Even if you feel awake enough in the mornings, if you are having chronic insomnia at night, the light exposure could help you because it puts your body on the right cycle.
By the same token, at night you should avoid blue light. Most of us have a lot more blue light exposure at night than we realize, as we watch TV, computer or phone screens. Don't worry- you don't have to stop using those devices at night. You just have to wear blue blocking glasses or use apps that automatically remove the blue from your screens. I prefer the latter. I use an app called f.lux for my computer (which is free) and for my phone I use the Accessibility- Display Accomodations Settings to choose a screen that has way more red in it...which automatically blocks out the blue.
What You Should Do Next
It's true that even though it's powerful and extremely useful, LLLT cannot cure fibromyalgia. It can, however, make life a lot easier and more symptom-free. If you have fibromyalgia, I'd recommend trying heat-producing near infrared bulbs and/or near infrared sauna at home to reduce your symptoms. You'll be glad you did!