Red Light Therapy For Neck Pain - Review Of Scientific Studies

Whether caused by poor posture, muscle tension, or other underlying issues, neck pain can cause severe discomfort. Recent studies found that red light therapy for neck pain, also called photobiomodulation or low level laser therapy, can be an effective treatment option.

“We observed that the photobiomodulation therapy offers a non-invasive, safe, drug-free, and side-effect-free method for pain relief of both acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions as well as fibromyalgia.” [DE Oliveira MF, Johnson DS, et al.]

In this article, we will explore the benefits of red light therapy for neck pain, the scientific evidence supporting its use, its effectiveness compared to other treatment options, and a recommended treatment protocol.

Benefits of Red Light Therapy for Neck Pain

Red light therapy, also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation, is a non-invasive and drug-free treatment that utilizes low-intensity red and near-infrared light to stimulate healing and reduce pain. Here are some of the key benefits of red light therapy for neck pain:

Reduction Of Inflammation

Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury or irritation, and it often involves the release of chemicals that can cause pain. Inflamed tissues can also restrict movement, cause stiffness and compress surrounding nerves leading to further discomfort.


Red light therapy has been found to activate anti-inflammatory responses in the body, which helps reduce pain and inflammation. It works by inhibiting the inflammatory signaling pathway. 


This means that red light therapy can help decrease an excessive and uncontrolled inflammatory response in the body such as swelling. This is especially beneficial for older adults who may experience chronic inflammation.

"Laser therapy is a non-invasive method that contributes to pain relief and reduces inflammation, parallel to the enhanced healing and tissue repair processes." [Dompe C, Moncrieff L, et al.]


"A single application of LLLT produced significant reductions in inflammatory cell infiltration and inflammatory cytokines" [Hamblin MR]

What does this mean?  By reducing inflammation, people who suffer from neck pain can ease their pain and perform daily activities with less discomfort. Furthermore, patients are less restricted through stiffness and other mobility issues that may otherwise keep them from being able to perform activities like driving a car. Many people also experience better quality sleep when their pain and discomfort has improved.

Increased Blood Flow

Another significant benefit of red light therapy is its ability to improve blood circulation. The light energy stimulates the formation of new capillaries, enhancing blood flow to injured areas. This increased circulation delivers vital oxygen, nutrients, and immune cells necessary for efficient healing. By allowing for better delivery of essential resources, new capillaries expedite the healing process.


Improved blood flow also aids in removing waste products and toxins from affected areas, and creates an optimal environment for tissue repair and regeneration. Thus, further supporting the body's natural healing mechanisms.

"A significant increase in blood flow was noted in the treated group" [Frangez I, Cankar K, et al.]


"The results indicated that LLLT accelerated collateral circulation and enhanced microcirculation" [Ihsan FR]

What does this mean?  Better blood flow creates a healthier environment around neck structures to support the overall healing process, reducing pain and enhancing the overall function of the neck. Through endorphins, neck patients will experience an analgesic effect and a more positive mood.

Pain Relief

Red light therapy can help alleviate pain by modulating pain-signaling pathways in the body through the release of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, such as endogenous opioids and serotonin. These substances help to inhibit pain transmission and modulate pain perception.


Additionally, better microcirculation promoting the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and the warmth of the red light relaxes the muscles. Thus, red light therapy offers a non-invasive and drug-free method to manage and reduce pain for older adults.

“In addition to the demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects, LLLT may have benefits provided by its ability to act on nerves by reducing pain transmission and activating endogenous opioid receptors” [Hamblin MR]

What does this mean?  Less pain allows people who suffer from neck pain to engage more fully in their daily activities and reduces the reliance on assistance from others. Chronic pain can have significant emotional consequences, including stress, anxiety, and depression. Pain relief contributes to better emotional well-being, positively influencing mental health and mood.

Repair Of Degenerative Changes

Scientific studies also show that red light therapy supports the repair of degenerative changes in tendons, cartilage, and bones. This is achieved by 2 mechanisms:

Enhancing cell proliferation that activates signaling pathways to up-regulate growth factors.

Increasing the production of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMMSC).

"These low doses of light have demonstrated the ability to heal skin, nerves, tendons, cartilage and bones." [Cotler HB, Chow RT, Hamblin MR, Carroll J.]


“LLLT can enhance the viability and proliferation rate of healthy and especially osteoporotic autologous BMMSCs” [Fallahnezhad S, Piryaei A, Tabeie F, Nazarian H, Darbandi H, Amini A, Mostafavinia A, Ghorishi SK, Jalalifirouzkouhi A]

What does this mean?  If you experience neck pain, the repair of degenerative changes will reduce friction and irritation in your neck. As a results, your mobility and comfort improves. It also minimizes the risk of worsening symptoms and complications, preserving long-term neck health.

Scientific Evidence for Red Light Therapy For Neck Pain

Numerous scientific studies have investigated the effectiveness of red light therapy for pain relief. While research in this area is ongoing, several studies have provided promising results:




Nonspecific Chronic Neck Pain

It is concluded that LLLT was effective in reducing chronic nonspecific neck pain. LLLT is a non-invasive, safe and effective method that can improve chronic nonspecific neck pain in patients.

Nonspecific Chronic Neck Pain

There is evidence that photobiomodulation therapy reduces pain intensity in non-specific knee pain, osteoarthritis, pain post-total hip arthroplasty, fibromyalgia, temporomandibular diseases, neck pain, and low back pain.

Acute Neck Pain

We show that LLLT reduces pain immediately after treatment in acute neck pain and up to 22 weeks after completion of treatment in patients with chronic neck pain.

Red Light Therapy For Neck Pain Against Other Treatment Options

When comparing red light therapy to other treatment options for neck pain, it offers several advantages:




Red Light Therapy


Non-invasive, reduces pain and inflammation, may provide long-lasting relief.



Only short-term relief from pain. May have side effects.

EPhysical Therapy


Tailored exercises to strengthen neck & reduce tension. Expensive.

Heat & Ice Therapy


Can relax muscles & improve blood flow for short-term relief.

Recommended Treatment Protocol

To receive the maximum benefits of red light therapy for pain management, it is recommended to follow these treatment protocols:

Follow a consistent treatment schedule: Red light therapy works best when used consistently over a period of time. Aim for daily treatments or as advised by your healthcare provider.

Positioning: To be effective for pain management, the light source should be as close to the skin as possible for deep tissue penetration. A wrap/ belt product provides significant advantages over panels

Be patient and persistent: Red light therapy takes time to show its effects, so it's important to be patient and persistent with your treatments. Results may vary depending on individual factors and overall health condition.

Side Effects & Risks

Red light therapy is considered safe to use, especially for older adults. It has virtually no risks or serious side effects.


Some people with light or skin sensitivities may experience mild side effects like skin irritation. These side effects are typically mild and temporary and should subside within a few hours of treatment.


To ensure the safety and effectiveness of red light therapy, it is crucial to choose FDA-approved devices. FDA approval indicates that the device has undergone rigorous testing and meets certain standards for safety and performance.


Red light therapy is an increasingly popular and natural approach to alleviate neck pain. With its ability to reduce pain, improve blood circulation, relax muscles, and promote tissue repair, it offers a promising alternative to traditional treatments.


If you're struggling with neck pain, it's worth exploring red light therapy as a potential solution to improve your quality of life and regain pain-free mobility.

Targeted Treatment For Specific Areas

While red light therapy proves to be highly effective, not all red light therapy devices are created equal. Pads are designed to target specific areas of the body, while panels emit light over a much broader area.


Red light therapy for this condition requires deep penetration, which is why a red light therapy belt is far more effective than a red light therapy panel. You can put a red light therapy belt closer to your skin, and don’t have to stand bare naked in front of a panel for 20 minutes.


By focusing the therapy on specific areas, you maximize its benefits outlined above and reduce pain more effectively.


Consistency is one of the most important variables to the effectiveness of red light therapy when it comes to pain relief, so ease of use should be a major criteria for consideration. Red light therapy belts are convenient and easy to incorporate into your daily routine. They are portable, which means you can wear them while pursuing other activities, or even take them on your next trip.

Choosing the Right Red Light Therapy Device

Here are some important factors to consider when choosing a red light therapy device to relieve chronic pain:

FDA Approval: Look for devices that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and effectiveness.

Wavelength of Light: Consider devices that emit a combination of red and near-infrared light, as these wavelengths have been shown to be most effective in reducing pain and inflammation.

Ease of Use: Look for devices that are user-friendly, easy to operate, and come with clear instructions for use.

Treatment Protocols and Frequency: Consider devices that offer recommended treatment protocols and frequency guidelines based on scientific research and clinical studies.

Cost: Compare the cost of different red light therapy devices and consider your budget. Keep in mind that medical-grade devices may be more expensive but can offer better results.

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