Red-Light-Therapy-vs-Infrared-Saunas-Which-is-Better-for-Muscle-Recovery_v2 (1)

Recovery is as important as training for athletic performance. Proper recovery provides the body with time for rest and helps to prevent injuries. 

What’s the best way to recover during training? Taking time off and not overdoing it are the two most helpful ways. However, there are a range of new therapies on the market that may offer benefits. 

For example, research suggests that red light therapy and infrared sauna improve muscle recovery and athletic performance. These therapies, however, are different, and offer different benefits to athletes. Interested in what they are? 

This article will focus on potential benefits, risks, and the critical differences between Red Light Therapy vs Infrared Sauna

Understanding Red Light Therapy 

Red light therapy (RLT) goes by many names, such as photobiomodulation (PBM) or low-level light therapy (LLLT). This form of therapy uses low-level red and near-infrared light to stimulate the body. 

RLT can be used in various forms like medical-grade LED light panels, personal red light therapy devices, masks, and wands. 

Red light therapy for muscle recovery works by penetrating the skin and reaching mitochondria. It then stimulates mitochondria to produce more energy in the form of ATP. 

Cells need this ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) to perform various functions, including regeneration and healing. 

Since mitochondria are found more in muscle tissues than anywhere else in the human body, the higher the stimulation, the higher the energy generation, resulting in quicker muscle recovery. 

Red light therapy targets the body with specific wavelengths known for its unique therapeutic and regenerative results. For example: 

  • 630 nm – ideal for rejuvenating skin’s tone and texture, reducing fine lines and wrinkles 
  • 660 nm – promoting blood flow and pain relief 
  • 810 nm – offers neurological benefits, improves stroke recovery, depression, anxiety 
  • 830 nm – promotes bone repair and growth post-injury 
  • 850 nm – anti-inflammatory benefits, muscle recovery, wound healing, higher collagen  

Exploring Infrared Saunas 

Infrared saunas or infrared heat therapy use far-infrared (FIR) light of the light spectrum. 

Is infrared sauna the same as red light? 

No. They’re very different.

We have covered the comparison – Red Light Therapy vs Infrared Sauna below, and you’ll see that their method, therapeutic benefits, and purpose is altogether different from one another. 

NIR and FIR are distinctive from each other when it comes to light properties. Hence, they react differently and offer different benefits. 

An IR sauna uses infrared light wavelengths to heat up the body, causing the core body temperature to rise. This is like traditional saunas. However, the heating mechanism is different, e.g., direct body heat from IR light vs increasing ambient temperatures.

Like a traditional sauna, an IR sauna benefits detoxification, pain relief, improved circulation, stress reduction, improved sleep, better skin, improved movement, boosts the immune system, reduces pain and inflammation, etc. 

Does an infrared sauna help with muscle recovery? 

The heat and light from the infrared saunas help blood circulate effectively and aid in the healing process of damaged tissues. 

This gentle light and heat penetrate the tissues and muscles, reducing muscle soreness, pain, and immobility. 

Red Light Therapy vs Infrared Saunas: A Comparison 

Red light therapy and infrared saunas offer promising benefits regarding health, wellness, and rejuvenation. However, their technology and applications vary significantly. 

Red Light Therapy vs Infrared Sauna: Technology 

Red Light Therapy

RLT utilizes low-level wavelengths of red and near-infrared light to penetrate the skin.  

Usually, between 620 nm and 750 nm wavelengths, and three other bands of light that have shown proven benefits to humans are 810 nm, 830 nm, and 850 nm. 

RLT stimulates cellular repair, collagen production, and circulation, promoting skin health and reducing inflammation. 

Infrared Saunas 

Infrared saunas use far-infrared light to heat the body directly. 

The far-infrared wavelengths (FIR) range between 5.6 to 1,000 micrometers. 

IR saunas generate heat that penetrates the tissues, inducing sweating and promoting detoxification and relaxation. 

Infrared Sauna vs Red Light Therapy: Application 

Infrared Sauna 

The therapy can be applied within enclosed sauna cabins, where individuals sit or lie down to experience full-body heat therapy. 

Promotes detoxification, relaxation, improved circulation, and stress relief, offering a holistic wellness experience. 

Red Light Therapy 

Applied through standalone devices or panels, targeting specific areas of the body for therapeutic purposes. 

Used for skin rejuvenation, wound healing, muscle recovery, and pain relief, often in clinical or home settings. 

Comparative Effectiveness for Muscle Recovery 

Both therapies address specific health issues and offer benefits for various health conditions. 

Infrared Sauna – The deep heat relaxes both muscles and the mind. Deep penetration also helps with chronic pain relief. It reduces pain and improves joint flexibility and muscle soreness after intense workouts.  

Red Light Therapy – Stimulates collagen production, improves circulation, and reduces inflammation. It also benefits muscle repair and healing post-workout. 

Safety Considerations and Precaution 

Excessive use of the discussed therapies may lead to overheating, dehydration, or heat-related issues. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind for safety and precaution: 

  • Take enough water intake before and after your sessions 
  • Start with a smaller duration, typically around 10-15 minutes 
  • Avoid alcohol and other medications that may affect the treatment 
  • Consult your healthcare provider if feeling uncomfortable after sessions 
  • Speak to your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have epilepsy or such condition 
  • Use a protective eye cover during therapy 
  • If you have sensitive skin or feel irritation, check with your doctor 

Potential Risks and Side Effects: 

Red Light Therapy – RLT is a natural and non-invasive process. This therapy is not toxic as it exposes us to low-level lights that are not harmful, unlike UV rays from the sun. 

Infrared Sauna – Potential side-effects of saunas include heat discomfort, low blood pressure, light-headedness, leg pain, airway irritation, claustrophobia, etc. 

How to Incorporate Red Light Therapy or Infrared Saunas into Your Muscle Recovery Routine?

Incorporating the red light or infrared sauna therapy into your health and wellness routine depends on your goals. 

Using Infrared Sauna for Muscle Recovery

For optimal benefit, you may start with 3 to 4 times a week for a shorter duration, around 10-15 minutes, and gradually increase to up to 30 minutes as you go. 

It is best advised to take these sessions after your strength training. 

Using RLT for Muscle Recovery

To gain maximum benefit from red light therapy for muscle recovery, one must use it 3 to 5 minutes before exercise to precondition the muscles and prevent injury. 

After the workout, you may use the therapy for up to 20 minutes to accelerate muscle recovery. 

Combine RLT and Infrared Sauna before and after your workouts for the best results. 

Wrapping Up

In summary, while RLT and infrared saunas harness light and heat for therapeutic benefits, differences between red-light therapy and infrared sauna benefits are distinctive. 

RLT targets specific areas with light wavelengths for cellular repair and skin health, while infrared saunas provide whole-body heat therapy for detoxification and relaxation. 

Understanding these distinctions can help individuals choose the modality that best suits their wellness goals and preferences.