Evidence Based Full-Body Red Light Therapy Dosage: The Real Data

Evidence Based Full-Body Red Light Therapy Dosage: The Real Data

With the surging popularity of "full-body" light therapy panels, the burning question is how to properly dose it?

Many panel manufacturers, authors, and blogs have tried to answer this question over the past couple of years, and they tend to get into a decent range.

However, these sources are always fatally flawed for the following reasons:

1. Most of the light panels they reference falsify their intensity advertising by over 2x based on Solar Power Meter Measurements. Obviously you can never follow a proper dosage protocol based on inaccurate measurements.

2. The clinical studies referenced typically use laser parameters. A small targeted laser treatment is going to have VERY different dosage guidelines than a large coverage panel.

3. Most clinical studies use skin contact to avoid reflection losses. If a "full-body" panel advises being 6 inches away, then it creates the opportunity to lose a lot of effectiveness by simply bouncing off of the skin.

Most manufacturers, bloggers, and authors are ignorant of these issues and think that they can apply these flawed concepts to a large panel treatment.

These same people will claim you "need" a full body device that emits 100mW/cm^2 at the treatment distance. Yet we find these claims are often misleading and false. Luckily, red light therapy is SO effective that many times people get good results despite these massive errors in calculating dosage.

In order to increase the knowledge of light therapy and help more people, we need to start to study the full-body dosages that seem to work the best!

So we want to do the obvious thing here to understand proper full-body dosage.

1. Look at ACTUAL full-body light studies. Not laser or small-coverage studies.

2. Relate these numbers to accurate intensity measurements! Don't be tricked by high intensity advertisements based on solar power meters.

3. Be mindful that reflection losses might be a big factor in some situations.

Full Body Pod Red Light Therapy Dose

Can you apply the same dosage protocol from a laser study to a full body panel? Certainly not, due to the obvious differences in treatments.

Peer-reviewed full-body light therapy studies:

Study #1: Full-Body Light Therapy for Skin Improvements [1]

  • Group 1: 42.8mW/cm^2 for 20 min and 51.4 J/cm^2 dose.
  • Group 2: 54.8mW/cm^2 for 15 min and 49.3 J/cm^2 dose.
  • Group 3: 10.3mW/cm^2 for 25 min and 15.5 J/cm^2 dose.
  • Group 4: 23.4mW/cm^2 for 12 min and 16.8 J/cm^2 dose.
  • This study used polychromatic light (not LED or laser) with appropriate filters for the Red to NIR range of 570nm to 850nm.
  • All groups seemed to show a similar improvement in skin features.
  • Treatments were twice a week for 30 total treatments (15 week study).

Study #2: Full-Body Light Therapy for Sleep and Athletic Performance [2]

  • 658nm Red LED light therapy for 30 min and 30 J/cm^2
  • Calculated intensity is 16.6 mW/cm^2.
  • Used to improve sleep and athletic recovery for 14 consecutive days including athletic training.

Study #3: Full-Body Light Therapy (via LightStim bed) for Cardiovascular Health [3]

  • The study had users lay on the LightStim bed for 30 minutes. The study does not tell us the dose or intensity of the light.
  • The study included heat + light in this trial, and they suspect some of the benefits are contributed by the heat effects of the LightStim bed.
  • In a recent online PBM summit, it is revealed that LightStim emits 13.05 mW/cm^2. [4]
  • This means we can calculate the dose of 23.49 J/cm^2 for 30 minutes.
  • The study was successful in two-thirds of the patients in showing that blood pressure is lowered after following the treatment protocol.
  • This particular treatment protocol split the light dosage in half to try to separate the heat and light effects. But a total treatment time of 30 minutes per session still happened on the bed.

That's it! After exhaustive searching we have only found 3 actual studies on "full-body" red light therapy. That is only 3 studies out of over 5,000 peer-reviewed articles on red light therapy! So how can all of these manufacturers claim to have a fancy "clinical grade" LED panel? How can they claim clinical benefits if full-body light therapy hasn't been studied extensively?

Real World Full-Body light data:

With minimal clinical data, we look at two more popular examples. These two companies have been successfully marketing full-body light therapy for years, and are widely considered the leaders of the full-body industry. So their relative success in marketing light therapy is an important data point, even if it isn't yet in a peer-reviewed study.

Joovv Panels:

  • Based on their 3rd party data on their website, we can calculate they emit 33.75mW/cm^2 intensity at 6 inches away (2nd Generation Solo Panel).
  • The general recommendation is 10-15 minutes at 4-6 inches away.
  • For 10 minutes and 6 inches away we calculate you get about 20.4 J/cm^2 per session.

Novothor Pod:

  • In a recent online summit, James Carroll revealed the intensity of the Novothor at 28.34mW/cm^2. [4]
  • Some sources indicate that they used the Novothor pods for athletic recovery at the Olympic games with a protocol of 12 minutes three times a week.
  • At 28.34mW/cm^2 for 12 minutes we calculate 20.4 J/cm^2.

Interestingly, we get the same dose of about 20.4 J/cm^2 from both of these products! Perhaps this is not simply a coincidence and there is some congruence in dosage targets.

Summary Table:

Here is a summary of the "full-body" data we found:

Data Wavelength Intensity Time Dose
Study #1 High Power Group (average)

Polychromatic

570nm-850nm

48.8 mW/cm^2 17.5 min 51.24 J/cm^2
Study #1 Low Power Group (average)

Polychromatic

570nm-850nm

16.85 mW/cm^2 18.5 min 18.70 J/cm^2
Study#2 658nm 16.6 mW/cm^2 30 min 30 J/cm^2
Study#3 (LightStim) 630nm+660nm +855nm+940nm 13.05 mW/cm^2 30 min 23.49 J/cm^2
Joovv Solo and Elite 660nm + 850nm 33.75 mW/cm^2 10 min 20.4 J/cm^2
Novothor 660nm + 850nm 28.34 mW/cm^2 12 min 20.4 J/cm^2

 

From this summary we see most of the studies range in 16 to 50 mW/cm^2, 10 to 30 minutes, and 18 to 51 J/cm^2.

For lower intensities of 13 to 16 mW/cm^2 it is preferable to do longer times of 18 to 30 minutes.

For higher intensities of around 30 mW/cm^2 we see times closer to 10 minutes.

Despite variations in intensity and time, we generally see a popular full-body dosage is around 20 J/cm^2!

The Myth of 100mW/cm^2:

This may be surprising to some people, but none of these full-body studies or brands emit 100mW/cm^2 at the treatment distance! This myth has been perpetuated in the industry for a long time. Some companies were claiming that you NEED 100mW/cm^2 to be effective. Well maybe that is true for laser treatments, but clearly it is not necessary for full-body light therapy. In fact, it would be gross over-use for 100mW/cm^2 to engulf the entire body!

Conclusion:

We find that a reasonable range for "full-body" red light therapy is between 16 to 50mW/cm^2 and 10 to 30 minutes. A popular dose is 20 J/cm^2. Sticking within this range and dose target can help make sure full-body treatments are being used appropriately.

Most dosing protocols seem to happen at a repetition of 2 to 3 times per week. Study #2 was done every day for 14 consecutive days. [2] There have not yet been any long-term studies for the usage of full-body panels.

We recommend being wary of companies claiming >100mW/cm^2. They are likely misrepresenting their actual power. If they actually emitted such a high intensity, it could cause quick overdosing or cause heat effects if applied to the whole body.

So far the highest intensity data point we have for full-body light therapy is only 54.8mW/cm^2! How can we know the relative safety and effectiveness if we were to double or triple the intensity from these protocols? Could we simply cut the treatment time in half? It doesn't always work that way. There seems to be a reason why all of these protocols are at least 10 minutes long.

Make sure to search for companies with honest and accurate intensity that give reasonable dosage recommendations. If they are recommending a high power to simply "save time" then they are probably ignoring the science and proper measurement techniques.

 

Disclaimer: All information in this article and website are intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, or cure any ailment. Please consult with your doctor or trusted wellness practitioner before starting any new health activity including Red Light Therapy.

 

References:

[1]

Wunsch A, Matuschka K. A controlled trial to determine the efficacy of red and near-infrared light treatment in patient satisfaction, reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, skin roughness, and intradermal collagen density increase. Photomed Laser Surg. 2014;32(2):93-100. doi:10.1089/pho.2013.3616

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3926176/

[2]

Zhao J, Tian Y, Nie J, Xu J, Liu D. Red light and the sleep quality and endurance performance of Chinese female basketball players. J Athl Train. 2012;47(6):673-678. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-47.6.08

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3499892/

[3]

Z. MarcinkevicsDz. BriljonoksH. Kronberga, and J. Spigulis "LED-bed therapy of cardiovascular disorders: a volunteer study", Proc. SPIE 11221, Mechanisms of Photobiomodulation Therapy XV, 112210R (11 March 2020); 

https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2560630

https://www.spiedigitallibrary.org/conference-proceedings-of-spie/11221/112210R/LED-bed-therapy-of-cardiovascular-disorders-a-volunteer-study/10.1117/12.2560630.short

[4]

James Carroll Interview within the:

"BRAIN + TRANSCRANIAL PHOTOBIOMODULATION THERAPY VIRTUAL SUMMIT"

https://brain-tpbmt.app.virtualsummits.com/