Red light therapy has soared in popularity due to its many scientifically validated health benefits.
This natural treatment can be a blessing for anyone looking for chronic pain relief, facial rejuvenation, or athletes who want to maximize physical performance and speed up recovery.
Queries for “red light therapy for pain relief” or “red light for muscle recovery” bring up a variety of products, including wraps, which are designed to fit snugly around a painful area to relieve pain and support healing.
Because we’re often asked about red light wraps, we decided to pass along what we’ve discovered about these devices. We’ll start by exploring their effectiveness.
Do Red Light Therapy Wraps Really Work?
As the leading innovator in the industry and a manufacturer of red light therapy panels, PlatinumLED Therapy Lights, we receive many types of inquiries about red light therapy.
One question we are often asked is whether we carry red light therapy wraps. We do not carry wraps, and there are a number of reasons why.
Why People Buy Wraps
Red light therapy wraps are lightweight, flexible, wearable devices that conform to the body. They’re designed to put a red light source in direct contact with the skin, theoretically for maximum light absorption.
But there are several important negatives to consider before you buy one.
Red Light Therapy Wrap Technology
Wraps shine light from extremely short-range, which makes it impossible for them to expose the skin to multi-wavelength treatment, while also creating hotspots that could lead to discomfort.
Red light therapy needs to be exposed to the skin at a distance for the treatment to be most effective.
This allows the space for multiple wavelengths coming from different angles to mix together before they're exposed to the skin.
Wraps are so close that they cannot have crossed wavelength exposure. The super 'close range' doesn't make them more effective. It's more an inherent product flaw than it is a feature.
The fundamental design of wraps prevents them from having enough physical space for the types of bulbs needed to emit intense near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths, which absorb deep into the body.
Panels also house bulbs that are far stronger than those found in any lightweight wearable device.
The light power output of red light therapy wraps typically delivers poor results. Its irradiance doesn’t match the superior light power output of medical-grade near-infrared light therapy panels.
Some wrap manufacturers claim that wraps can deliver red light photons deeper into the skin than panels. In fact, one says that panels can only deliver light 0.1” into the skin, while their wraps deliver light 2” into the tissues.
But, this claim is highly deceptive. Absorption depth depends on the following three factors:
Light Energy Output
Power matters! In this video, we show the difference between a PlatinumLED Therapy Lights BIOMAX panel and a competitor, demonstrating the importance of high irradiance.
Irradiance is measured in milliwatts per square centimeter (mW/cm2).
The petite BIOMAX 300 panel features an irradiance of 150 mW/cm2 at 6" from the device. The most powerful panel on the market is the PlatinumLED Therapy Lights BIOMAX 900, with an irradiance of 185 mW/cm2 at 6”.
By comparison, one wrap we reviewed features 25 mW/cm2 at 6”. To achieve the claimed 200 mW/cm2 irradiance requires being in direct contact with the device.
Proximity to the Device
If you want to increase the irradiance, you can always get closer to an infrared therapy device. But with the powerful light energy delivered by a panel, you can be farther away and still receive more light than you would from most wraps.
And, a panel delivers the third key ingredient: near-infrared light.
Red Light Wavelengths
The word “wavelength” refers to the length of a beam of light. This varies by color, with near-infrared wavelengths the longest, followed by red. Thus, red light photons absorb “skin-deep,” whereas NIR light absorbs much deeper into tissue, penetrating cartilage and even bone.
Hundreds of studies have shown that the greatest amount of positive biological benefits on the human body are achieved with a combination of red light between 630 and 660 nanometers (nm), and near-infrared light between 810 and 850 nm.
Some wraps on the market claim to feature NIR light. But due to the small size of the bulbs, the power output could only be a fraction of the power delivered by a panel, especially if the wrap also contains bulbs that deliver red light.
Don’t believe wrap manufacturer claims like “knee pain relief in one week.” Such claims are dubious given the limited wavelengths and low power of these so-called “infrared therapy wraps.”
Common Issues with Red Light Therapy Wraps
In this section, we go into greater detail about some of the limitations found in red light therapy wraps.
Although this doesn’t pertain to all red light therapy products on the market, many are knock-offs that are not subject to any regulatory bodies, which means the manufacturers of these products get away with making questionable claims about their technology and benefits.
Red and near-infrared light therapy products, including wearable devices, should always be official FDA Class Medical Devices. Such products are manufactured in an FDA registered facility and are ETL/UL-certified for electrical safety assurance.
One of the most seemingly attractive features of a red light therapy belt is that it looks convenient: the photos convince you that you can multitask while receiving your treatment. Keep in mind, however, that you’re still tethered to a cord unless it’s a cordless device – and cordless devices are even weaker and less effective.
One-Size-Fits-All Is a Myth
A one-size-fits-all red light therapy belt ... does not fit everyone. After all, people come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
We have seen infrared therapy wrap advertisements that depict thin, fit people who easily slip a red light therapy belt around their waists. Yet this is completely unrealistic for many potential users, who would have to resort to creative ways to wear the wrap in order to get pain relief in their low back or hip.
Small Treatment Area and Extremely Limited Applications
Wraps are designed for spot treatments of small areas – which means, of course, that you can only treat one body part at one time.
But what if you have widespread arthritis joint pain in multiple joints? You’d be sitting, tethered to a cord, for hours every day just to get pain relief, which is not only impractical, it’s frustrating.
One of the ads we reviewed showed a picture of a woman holding a wrap next to her face for facial rejuvenation, which seems uncomfortable and inconvenient given the recommended 10- to 20-minute treatment time.
Hair regrowth, facial rejuvenation, and weight loss are the most popular uses for red and infrared light therapy. Wraps are not suitable for these applications.
If you are looking for chronic back pain relief, you need arthritis joint pain relief, or you suffer from neuropathy or a chronic skin disorder, you’d be spending a long and fruitless period of time trying to get relief from a wrap.
By contrast, a full-sized panel can treat the entire body at once and actually do so effectively.
And what about body parts that aren’t easy to wrap, such as shoulders? You could struggle to position the wrap and fasten the strap around one shoulder (assuming the strap fits) ... or drape the device over the shoulder and remain perfectly still to avoid having it shift.
Or … you could just relax in front of a near-infrared light therapy panel.
Types of Red Light Therapy Wraps
In this section, we’ll discuss a few of the top wraps available on the market and why they’re still not the best choices.
Novaa Light Pad
At $350 (on sale from $659), this is one of the more expensive wraps, but it does come with a 60-day “You are relieved or 100% refunded!” guarantee. The pad features 660 nm red and 850 NIR lights, the latter of which delivers light 2” into the tissues. This pad is probably the highest quality of this type of product, but since the company advertises its high-end bundle of two wraps for $600 (normally more than $1,300), why not just get a panel?
Tommie Copper Pro-Grade Infrared & Red Light Therapy Flex Wrap
This $199.50 wrap features 880 nm near-infrared light with 660 nm red light, two sizes of compression straps (once again, only thin, fit people are pictured), a 20-minute timer, and copper anti-odor fabric technology. Cautionary note: the 8” x 3.5” treatment area is very small.
Redtonic Exerscribe Red Light Therapy Body Wrap – RedTonic LED Infrared Light Device Belt for Pain Relief & Recovery w/ 2 Wavelengths
This $159 wrap features 660 nm and 850 nm wavelengths and has two therapeutic modes: steady state and pulse. Keep in mind, though, that the “pulse” mode is a marketing gimmick. Light emitted by LEDs does not need to be pulsed (as is necessary for certain types of lasers to prevent tissue overheating), which means that you’re only receiving light treatment for a fraction of the time. It’s not clear how large the wrap itself is: the listing shows “package dimensions” of 12.13” x 6.5” x 3.23,” which suggests the wrap is smaller than that.
The Nushape Lipo Wrap
This $499 wrap, which measures 5” x 20”, is directly targeted at consumers who wish to lose weight. It’s the only wrap we’ve seen that is generously sized (51” standard strap), and comes with extender straps if more length is needed. The wrap features 600 bulbs that deliver 635 nm and 850 nm wavelengths to support fat loss. Since it costs more than the smallest panel in the PlatinumLED Therapy Lights BIOMAX series, you’ll be spending more money for less power.
Overall Tech Review
The lightweight nature of wraps determines how large LED bulbs can be. Because of their small size, these bulbs simply cannot deliver anywhere near the power as the beefier bulbs found on panels. Thus, even if they do deliver some near-infrared light, the devices themselves are not powerful enough to deliver the intensity of light that ensures deep absorption.
The Difference Between Red Light Therapy Wraps and Red Light Therapy Panels
Throughout this article, we’ve touched on a few reasons why red light therapy panels are superior to red light therapy wraps. Here’s an in-depth comparison.
Panels Are Versatile
Any and all body parts can be treated quickly and efficiently with a panel, including muscles that are sore from a workout, arthritis in the hands or feet (or anywhere in the body), rosacea and other skin disorders that affect the face, and treatment of many other conditions.
In the PlatinumLED Therapy Lights Learning Center, you’ll find a wealth of information on the many ways you can use panels to treat yourself – and even your pets.
A smaller panel like the BIO 300 or BIOMAX 300 is ideal for travel, as well as for targeted treatments such as carpal tunnel syndrome pain relief or a flare-up of rosacea.
A larger panel offers the ultimate in versatility and value since you can choose between targeted and whole-body treatments. The BIOMAX 900, for instance, is large enough to treat your whole body, providing pain relief, wound healing, and better physical functioning literally from head to toe.
Panels Have the Most Powerful Lights
Infrared light therapy panels will give you far more light energy output than wraps over a larger area. PlatinumLED Therapy Lights offer twice the light energy output of any other near-infrared therapy light, and are now even 40 percent more powerful in our newest-generation BIOMAX panels.
The BIOMAX 900, for example, treats a 48” x 25” area at 6 inches from the device, or 108” x 85” at 3 feet from the device at a still very respectable 85 mW/cm2.
Panels Have the Most Potent Light Spectrum
The BIOMAX series features a patent-pending multi-wave R+|NIR+ spectral output, which harnesses five of the most widely studied therapeutic wavelengths – 630, 660, 810, 830, and 850 nm – for both deep tissue and skin surface-level treatment at the same time.
There is currently no red light wrap that compares.
Also, the effects of each wavelength are amplified when you use wavelengths with different absorption depths. The longer wavelengths absorb deeper and boost the effects of the shorter wavelengths. Here's why that matters …
Red light therapy is most famously used for anti-aging. Yet this natural treatment has many applications deeper in the body, including joint pain relief, which requires longer NIR wavelengths.
Near-infrared light treats scar reduction, low back pain, osteoarthritis knee pain, fat loss, general pain relief, muscle recovery and performance, neuropathy, and chronic wound healing.
Using both red and near-infrared light together is the ultimate treatment. Red wavelengths treat skin-deep conditions including wounds and superficial nerve damage. NIR wavelengths can treat bone breaks, ligament damage, and the pain of deep muscle bruises.
What happens when light absorbs into the body? Much like photosynthesis in plants, the light stimulates biological activity at the cellular level.
Read in-depth about how red light therapy works.
Benefits of Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy supports pain relief and healing with four primary effects: increasing cellular energy, reducing inflammation, increasing circulation, and increasing the production of collagen.
More Cellular Energy
Red light therapy increases energy production within the cells, which boosts their ability to perform their specialized functions and repair/regenerate themselves.
A condition known as mitochondrial dysfunction (the inability of cells to produce energy from raw materials) is seen as the root cause of many physical ailments. Red light treatments have been shown to reverse mitochondrial dysfunction to support healing at the cellular level.
Red light therapy reduces inflammation; this, in turn, accelerates healing and relieves pain of inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation and oxidative stress have both been shown to contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction.
Red light therapy increases blood circulation and the circulation of lymph, which helps nourish and cleanse the cells and all tissues in the body.
Increased Collagen Production
Red light therapy boosts synthesis of collagen, a protein also present in muscles and joints. When red/NIR light is applied immediately after skin damage, it can help prevent the formation of scar tissue.
The potency of these effects depends on the wavelengths, treatment length and consistency (10–20 minutes daily is ideal), and the power of the device.
Red and NIR wavelengths work together to support skin and deep-tissue health.
A July 2021 article in the PlatinumLED blog offers in-depth information about the benefits of treating your body with all five wavelengths simultaneously.
If treating a single body part is your objective, a wrap could be a tempting investment. But as research shows, red light therapy has so many applications that it makes sense to invest in a medical-grade red light therapy device that gives you the option of targeted or widespread treatments without wearing a bulky yet weak device.
Red Light Therapy Solutions
We’ve covered a lot of information in this article, and we hope it has helped you better understand the differences between red light wraps and panels – and why panels are clearly the best choice.
If you have even one ailment that could be improved with LED light therapy, it makes sense to invest in a high-quality, powerful, medical-grade panel for home use.
The SaunaMAX Pro has all the capabilities of the BIOMAX Series, but is made for intense, in-sauna use. It's perfect for the home sauna user who is also a red light therapy enthusiast.
When it comes to the best red light panels, look no further than the industry leaders, PlatinumLED Therapy Lights. Take a look, to get started setting up the perfect red light therapy device for your unique needs.