Tendonitis is a pain to deal with (literally) especially considering how stubborn and inconsistent it can be with treatments.
Red light therapy has been proving itself as a beast for improving recovery, treating joint and muscle injuries, and increasing performance – but what about healing tendonitis?
Red light therapy can help treat your tendonitis, but how effective it is can depend on things like the device you use, how long and often you use it, and what other additional therapies you use.
A ton of research backs up red light therapy for effectively treating injuries, with a steady stream coming out that’s showing us how to use it for tendonitis specifically – and you don’t want to miss out on it!
In this article, we’ll make sense of all the research, show you how red light therapy helps your tendonitis, give you a protocol of how to effectively use it, and show you our favorite red light therapy device for tendonitis!
Why Red Light Therapy Is Effective Against Tendonitis
Red light therapy has been migrating into the world of recovery over the last couple years, showing how good it’s been for muscle and joint injuries – and surprisingly for improving performance!
Tendonitis is a slightly different animal however, and red light therapy is (relatively speaking) still in its early stages with treating it – but we can clearly see how it helps by understanding what tendonitis actually is.
Tendonitis is a condition where your tendons (the things that connect your muscles to your bones) become inflamed, causing a whole cascade of problems like pain, stiffness, weakness, and overall less function.
Which, on paper, is exactly in red light therapy’s wheelhouse for treatment.
Research has been positive in using red light therapy to treat tendonitis, and its been showing consistent results in rehab plans that use red light therapy.1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4544521/
In fact, there’s several specific ways that red light therapy is effective against tendonitis…
Red Light Therapy Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is the name of the game when it comes to tendonitis – and red light therapy wins that game blindfolded with its hands behind its back!
That’s because red light therapy is super effective in lowering the markers that have to do with inflammation in the body:
The results regarding gene expression of IL-1β, a known gene marker of inflammation, strongly suggest that LEDT (red light therapy) produced an anti-inflammatory effect, as reported by previous studies.2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5026559/
It’s also one of the most consistent effects of red light therapy, making it the perfect treatment for something like tendonitis.
One of the most reproducible effects of PBM (red light therapy) is an overall reduction in inflammation, which is particularly important for disorders of the joints, traumatic injuries, lung disorders, and in the brain.3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5523874/
Getting your tendons out of that constant inflamed state is important to break that cycle, letting them recover and “understand” that they don’t need to be inflamed all the time.
Red Light Therapy Also Reduces Acute Inflammation!
A study split up a group of people suffering from Achilles tendonitis, with half of them receiving red light therapy while the other half got a placebo treatment.
They purposely aggravated that Achilles tendonitis to ramp up the inflammation and make the symptoms more intense before applying the red light therapy.
This is great for calming any extra inflammation down from training or a game.
Red Light Therapy Improves Blood Flow In Your Tendons
Blood flow is one of the key “ingredients” needed in healing tendonitis because it carries oxygen and nutrients to the damaged tissues like a cargo transport system.
Red light therapy has been shown time and time again to speed up that cargo and make it more efficient at unloading its goods, directly affecting how well it heals injuries.
Low level laser therapy (red light therapy) is believed to effect various physiological mechanisms of change that include improved blood flow and increased cell metabolism, advanced healing, anti-inflammatory actions and stimulation of the immune system.5https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01882725
Improved blood flow also means you flush out any swelling you’re dealing with and reduce any stiffness.
Plus, red light therapy is completely non-invasive – you don’t feel anything using it (except the sweet relief of pain)…
Red Light Therapy Lowers Tendonitis Pain
Red light therapy is highly effective when it comes to lowering pain levels, and does so in less time than it takes you to watch an episode of whatever show you’re binge watching (I’m on a “Parks & Recreation” bender right now).
Nearly every study on red light therapy mentions how it affects pain, and I could drop a hundred quotes that speak on how well it works…
But there was this interesting study that focused on athletes, treating their tendonitis and other injuries with red light therapy.
They found that their pain levels dropped significantly, and actually allowed them to return to their sport way quicker – by about 10 days – than what the medical estimate was without red light therapy.6https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4846838/
Not only did the athletes’ pain improve greatly, but they were able to train and compete again much quicker!
Treat The Area Around Your Tendonitis With Red Light Therapy
Sometimes the root cause of your tendonitis has to do with injured structures around your tendon.
For example, injured and weakened muscles can often have a domino-effect, causing your tendons to be overworked and developing tendonitis.
Red light therapy is amazing for muscle recovery, and can make a big impact if that’s where your problem started from!
Red Light Therapy Vs. Ice For Tendonitis
Everyone reaches for ice to numb their pain, but did you know it can actually slow your recovery?
Sure, ice can help with swelling – but it doesn’t actually improve recovery effects as much as red light therapy does…
A study compared red light therapy and ice for recovering muscles after exercise, and found the following:
We conclude that PBMT (red light therapy) used as single treatment is the best modality for enhancement of post-exercise restitution, leading to complete recovery to baseline levels from 24 h after high-intensity eccentric contractions.7https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27624781/
Muscles and tendons aren’t exactly the same, but they are treated quite similarly when it comes to injuries and damage, making these findings transferable to tendonitis.
Ice also slows blood flow, which isn’t something you want when dealing with tendonitis – quite the opposite!
Red Light Therapy Protocol To Treat Tendonitis
Now check out how to get all these benefits and treat your tendonitis with red light therapy!
Location Of Red Light Therapy For Tendonitis
Location is pretty self-explanatory: aim the red light wherever your tendonitis is.
You generally want to get the whole tendon from multiple angles, which can be a bit tricky depending on where the injury is.
That means you might want to try doing 2 sessions from slightly different angles, unless you use something like the Kineon MOVE+ that can wrap around wherever you’re targetting!
That way you hit multiple angles in a single session!
A good rule-of-thumb is poking along your tendon until you find the most sore spot, and then aiming the red light therapy there.
Red Light Therapy Treatment Duration For Tendonitis
There’s not much we wouldn’t give to feel comfortable and pain-free – so how about giving less than 30 minutes of your time?
Depending what device you use (we’ll talk more about that down below), your session can range from anywhere between 5 to 20+ minutes.
It varies a little from towers to hand-helds to wearables, but the closer the red light therapy is to your skin, the less time it takes to be effective.
Use red light therapy for 5-10 minutes if done 2-3 times a day, and 15 minutes if done 1 time per day.
This makes it super easy to use while you’re stretching or warming up/cooling down on the treadmill (if you have a wearable…)!
How Often To Do Red Light Therapy Per Day
This depends on how long your treatment sessions are, but you want to add up to about 15-20 minutes of red light therapy per day for tendonitis…
Do 2-3 red light therapy sessions per day if your sessions are 5-10 minutes, and 1 session if done for 15-20 minutes.
I usually recommend doing red light therapy for shorter sessions, but more often throughout the day for tendonitis to consistently have the healing effect going.
You also can’t overdo red light therapy – so go nuts if it relieves pain!
How Many Red Light Therapy Sessions Per Week For Tendonitis
You want to do red light therapy 6-7 days per week for an injury like tendonitis.
It’s important to be consistent with it, which is why lots of volume throughout the week is better for healing and taking advantage of the pain-relieving benefits.
Red Light Therapy + Physical Therapy To Boost Healing!
Physical therapy usually focuses on building ECCENTRIC strength first for tendonitis issues – these are movements that lengthen the tendon rather than contracting it…
Eccentric movements take advantage of your tendon’s strongest positions, making it less likely to aggravate them while strengthening it – which is super important!
Every person reacts differently to different exercises (so I recommend talking to a Physical Therapist) but try slow and controlled exercises 3-7 times per week with 1-3 sets per exercise as tolerated.
Slowly lengthening your affected tendon while progressively adding weight is key here – don’t rush it, but only increase weight when you can comfortably handle it!
Pair that with red light therapy to ease pain, heal on a cellular level, improve blood flow, and lower inflammation, and you’ve got yourself and awesome rehab plan!
Red Light Therapy + Muscle Scraping For Tendonitis
And don’t be fooled by the name – it’s not limited to just muscles.
It’s been shown to improve tendonitis in the long term by increasing blood flow, lowering pain, and kick-starting the healing process in the body.9https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6354305/
Keep an eye on how your tendonitis reacts to this, as muscle scraping is safe but can make things a little sensitive.
Give your tendons at least 2-3 days in between sessions so that you’re not constantly bugging them, but allow them to recover and benefit from the treatment.
Pair that with red light therapy and you’ll hit your tendonitis mechanically (muscle scraping) and from a cellular level (red light therapy) for the ultimate combo!
Best Red Light Therapy Device For Tendonitis?
I’ve tried towers, hand-helds, and different wearables, but I’ve yet to find one as good as the Kineon MOVE+.
It’s my current daily-driver for all my red light therapy needs, and I’ve traded in my foam-roller and ice pack permanently for this handy little device.
The MOVE+ has 3 separate modules that allows you to get a 360º treatment around your tendon, making it super efficient at hitting all angles in a single session.
It also adjusts to almost any part, easily being used for tendons in your shoulder, knee, elbow – you name it!
You get direct skin contact with the modules, making sure none of those precious red light waves bounce off – you can also use the modules separately for smaller tendons like in your hand.
It’s super convenient, being extremely portable so you can carry it anywhere – you can also wear it while doing warm ups or chores around the house since it’s a wearable!
The MOVE+ also has 3 options for 5, 10, and 15 minute sessions, giving you lots of flexibility for on-the-go treatment.
The Kineon MOVE+ costs less than pretty much any other red light therapy device at this quality-point – plus you can get it at a great discount using our code A1ATHLETEMOVE+!
Check out my full review of the Kineon MOVE+ here!
Tendonitis can be a tricky and stubborn condition to deal with, especially when you have to work through the pain and can’t rest it.
Red light therapy is a quick, convenient and effective way to lower inflammation, decrease pain, improve blood flow, and stimulate healing in your affected tendons.
Use it 6-7 times per week, 1-3 times per day, adding up to 15-20 minutes of treatment per day for some solid results.
Combine it with an exercise program and some muscle scraping and you’ll soon leave that tendonitis in the past!