Shoulder pain is one of the most common (not to mention annoying) types of pain – we use that joint basically every time we move our arm!
The goal is to get rid of that nagging thorn as quick as possible, and red light therapy is fantastic for that.
In order to effectively treat your shoulder pain with red light therapy, it’s important to look at device-type, time per session, amount of sessions per week, and how often to use it in a day to get the most out of your treatment.
In this article, we’ll discuss exactly what you should be doing red light therapy-wise for your shoulder pain, show you our favorite red light device, and give you a couple bonus methods that’ll speed up your recovery even more!
How Red Light Therapy Can Help Relieve Your Shoulder Pain
The nice thing about red light therapy is that there’s not much to it – it’s quite the plug-and-play experience that doesn’t have to be overly complicated.
Using it will improve blood flow and stimulate healing in your shoulder, effectively lowering pain and reducing the symptoms of tendonitis.
You do want to keep a couple things in mind however, as there is a wrong way of using it – not “wrong” in the sense that you’ll hurt yourself, but more so in that you won’t really get much benefit from it.
You’ll generally start feeling differences in pain after about 3-4 weeks of using this protocol, but sometimes people even feel subtle improvements within the first week.
Let’s check out the keys to an effective red light therapy protocol for shoulder pain.
Location Of Red Light Therapy For Shoulder Pain
Your shoulder is a mess of tendons, muscles, ligaments and nerves, which is both a blessing and a curse.
The curse is that it’s hard to know exactly what’s causing pain, while the blessing is that you can hit nearly everything with one placement of your red light device.
You’ll want to place your red light therapy device on the top, front, or back of the shoulder, depending on where your pain is.
You generally won’t hit the deep shoulder as good if you put it on the outside of your shoulder (laterally) unless your pain is specifically there (like for the supraspinatus tendon).
Some red light devices have a spread or several modules – like the Kineon MOVE+ I’m using below – that hit the shoulder from several angles.
This would be the ideal way to do it, as you’re getting a 360º treatment.
How Often Should You Use Red Light Therapy Per Week For Shoulder Pain?
This can depend a bit on what kind of shoulder pain you’re having and how serious the injury is, but it’s perfectly fine to use red light therapy 7 days out of the week.
I discuss this stuff in much greater detail in my full guide to red light therapy for muscle recovery!
A recent study used red light therapy on a subject 3 times per week, and found that there were significant decreases in pain – but the coolest thing is that red light therapy stops your muscle from wasting away when you can’t train it as much due to an injury!
Light-emitting diode therapy can be useful to reduce muscle damage, pain, and atrophy, as well as to increase muscle mass, recovery, and athletic performance in rehabilitation programs and sports medicine.1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5026559/
That’s perfect if you’re still wanting to train arms and shoulders, as the lowering in pain and improved recovery will help out a ton!
This suggestion of effectively using it only 3 days per week is in-line with many other studies, including one that found that red light therapy decreases performance loss even after a 4-week long detraining period – which is especially good for anyone going through rehab!2https://bmcsportsscimedrehabil.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13102-020-00171-2
I recommend using red light therapy 3 times per week at a minimum, but 5-7 times per week for speedier healing and to take advantage of the pain-relieving benefits.
Using it less than that will lower how much you actually get out of it, so stay diligent!
Red Light Therapy Treatment Session Duration For Shoulder Pain
This is where red light therapy gets exciting – it barely takes any time to be effective!
A lot of studies out there use short-duration treatments, usually sticking to under 10 minutes.
But that also depends on what kind of device you have, with some types requiring 20+ minutes of treatment while others are super effective with only 5 minutes (I’ll show you the best one down below).
With a direct-to-skin device like the one in the picture above, you want to treat your shoulder for 5-15 minutes for the highest effect, preferably around 15 minutes if done 3-5 times per week and 5-10 minutes if done 6-7 times per week.
How Many Red Light Therapy Sessions For Shoulder Pain?
This is nice and simple – give your shoulder some red light therapy 1-3 times per day.
You can often feel solid improvements already by just using it once a day for 3-4 weeks, but I recommend doing it closer to 3 times if you use shorter 5 minute sessions or have lots of pain.
Don’t worry about overdoing it either – red light therapy won’t cause more pain… but you also don’t need to spend 5 hours a day doing it.
Muscle Scraping & Red Light Therapy – A Perfect Synergy
Muscle scraping is an awesome recovery technique that increases blood circulation, loosens tight muscles, and reduces pain.
It pairs great with red light therapy because muscle scraping tends to work more on a “mechanical” level, meaning that it works the actual tissues (like the tendons and ligaments).
Red light therapy, on the other hand, works on a cellular level, boosting regeneration along with its many other benefits.
Combining those two can speed things up for you, making it something to really consider!
Physical Therapy Definitely Helps As Well!
You can also do some strengthening for the shoulder as you’re using red light therapy and muscle scraping, so that it gets strong and healthy.
This really depends on what type of pain or injury you have, and you should definitely see a physical therapist for guidance, but trying out some movements that feel decently comfortable will keep your shoulder moving.
That’s super important, because you don’t want to let that joint stiffen up!
An example could be starting off with isometric exercises to get some blood flowing and have the tissues start strengthening, since you can control isometrics without pushing past your limits.
Make sure to never push into too much pain, and listen to your body when it screams at you to stop!
I’d fit this into the protocol by doing red light therapy before and/or after doing some light exercises, around 1-3 sets of ones that are comfortable to do – again, ask a physical therapist if you’re having pain!
Muscle scraping can be done before or after exercise as well – I’d suggest doing it after, with at least 2-3 days in between sessions to give your shoulder a break since it can be a little aggressive for the tissues.
Keep an eye on your shoulder to see how it reacts to muscle scraping, and use red light therapy afterwards to stimulate healing in those cells after working the tissues with your muscle scraper.
Best Red Light Therapy Device For Shoulder Pain
I’ve used towers, hand-helds, wearables – there are so many red light therapy devices out there!
The best I’ve used by far (and am currently using) is the Kineon MOVE+, a wearable red light therapy device that is perfect for shoulder pain.
This thing is way better than towers because it directly touches your skin, making sure none of those red light waves bounce off and make your session useless.
Plus it uses lasers as well as red light that goes both deep and superficially, giving your entire joint the most thorough treatment possible.
It also provides pin-point accuracy, since you can wrap this thing around your entire shoulder and hit it from 3 different sides with the 3 modules that are included.
It’s perfect for on-the-go recovery, and is extremely convenient for when you’re traveling, heading to the gym, or wanting to use it before/after the game.
It’s also just recently received an upgrade, allowing you to choose between 5, 10, or 15 minute treatment options, making it super convenient.
I use it on my shoulder during my leg days a lot of the time, or while I’m walking on the treadmill to warm up.
My busy schedule appreciates not having to stand in front of a tower for 20 minutes or sit around waving a device over my shoulder – this thing gets it done by putting it on and just pressing a button!
Be sure to check out our full review of the Kineon MOVE+!
It’s also more affordable than most hand-helds or towers, and you can get it for a sweet discount by using our coupon code A1ATHLETE at checkout!
Shoulder pain can be terribly difficult to navigate, but thankfully red light therapy can make things feel much better without much hassle.
Using it 3-7 times per week, 1-3 times per day, and 5-15 minutes per session (unless you’re using a tower or hand-held, then it’s usually 20+ minutes a session) will help ease that pain and get you back to training.
Add some exercises and muscle scraping to the mix, and your shoulder will love you for a long time!