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Light based technologies have immense therapeutic potential and differences in shape, size, power and versatility. From professional sports teams to clinical use, red light and infrared therapy is starting to be used very effectively to treat injured tissue and nerves. Light-based therapy used to treat pain and inflammation can be delivered by both lasers and LEDs, and consumers often want to know the benefits and differences between them.

Laser and LED therapies rely on their capability to deliver a sufficient amount of energy to the target tissue in order to bring about a photochemical process known as photobiomodulation (PBM). PBM is a nonthermal process involving endogenous chromophores eliciting photophysical and photochemical events at various biological scales. Some processes that are impacted include, but are not limited to, pain relief and inflammation, immunomodulation, and promotion of wound healing and tissue and nerve regeneration."1

Both sources of light share similar mechanisms of action and are both generated using diode technology. When studied in therapeutic use, both lasers and LEDs are often built to emit similar wavelengths, and in the A) red light and, B) near-infrared spectrum, and have been shown to have pain and anti-inflammatory properties. However, significant differences between the two do exist, that create merit in use each or both to treat your condition. The differences lie within the power generated, the specificity of wavelength, and the physical characteristics of the beam generated from the diode. As well as other factors such coverage area, application or conformance to treatment site.

Laser light is unique, in that it is monochromatic, coherent, and collimated. These aspects make it well-suited to many medical applications.3 The monochromatic, or single wavelength, beam is ideal for stimulating chromophores in biological tissue that only respond to very specific wavelengths. Coherent photons are organized where non-coherent photons are not. This property is key in minimizing photon scatter as light interacts with tissue and nerves. Further, since injured tissue is normally deep in the tissue, laser's columnated beam helps focus energy in a narrow, direct path which is ideal for treating tissues at depth.

LEDs emit light in a small band of wavelengths (~20 nm wide) but cannot emit a single specified wavelength (~1 nm wide). This bandwidth impacts their ability to target deep into the tissue. Additionally, LEDs do not produce a collimated nor coherent beam, which is less ideal when treating deep into the tissue. Lastly, LED's operate at lower power (wattage) than lasers, which impacts their ability to reach deeper tissue in shorter treatment sessions.

When trying to target deeper tissues, wavelength is a critical variable that can play a significant role in the light's ability to penetrate tissue. But it is not the only determining factor in therapeutic effectiveness. Power is a second variable that also plays a large role in determining both proper use and consistency of outcomes for light-based therapies. Lasers are generally capable of producing much higher powers than LEDs, which significantly impacts their ability to reach deeper tissues.

Because there is a loss of light energy as it passes through skin and tissue, the stronger the power at the surface, then the light energy can drive deep without dissipating.

For wound healing, skin treatment, injury recovery, nerve regeneration, and a topical pain relief effect, LED's are highly effective as the energy is not dissipated. For deeper or more chronic conditions, a stronger amount of energy should be delivered for a more effective therapeutic result.

However, an LED wrap that is made with a high quantity of LED diodes and with a higher ratio of them being in the infrared range rather than in the red-light range, can have a therapeutic result as well. Note infrared LED's are invisible to the naked eye, so these diodes will appear to be off. But under a camera they will illuminate as purple and you can clearly see they are emitting.

So, Lasers and LED's can and often should be used in tandem, as LED's provide the coverage area, quantity of diodes per area of coverage, and joint application placement that Lasers do not.

The gold standard in wavelengths - The 808nm wavelength, known for its near-infrared (NIR) light therapy applications, has garnered significant attention due to its profound therapeutic effects on the body. Here's a comprehensive overview of its benefits and applications:

Therapeutic Benefits of 808nm Wavelength

  1. Wound Healing and Cellular Regeneration

  • Deep Tissue Penetration: The 808nm wavelength can effectively penetrate deep into tissues, reaching affected joints and other areas beneath the skin.

  • Enhanced Cellular Activity: It stimulates cellular activity, promoting faster wound healing and the production of collagen, which is essential for tissue strength and regeneration.

  • Clinical Evidence: Numerous studies have shown the efficacy of 808nm in accelerating the healing process and improving the structural integrity of regenerated tissue.

  1. Pain and Inflammation Reduction

  • Osteoarthritis Relief: Clinical trials have demonstrated that the 808nm wavelength can alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis by reducing pain and inflammation through deep tissue targeting.

  • Mitochondrial Function: By enhancing mitochondrial function, this wavelength helps reduce pain and inflammation, promoting overall tissue health.

  1. Performance Enhancement

  • Exercise Endurance: Pre-exposure to the 808nm wavelength has been shown to optimize muscle performance and improve exercise endurance by boosting cellular energy production.

  • Fatigue Reduction: Athletes and individuals engaged in physical activities can use this wavelength to combat fatigue and enhance performance, thanks to its ability to increase cellular energy levels.

Challenges and Availability

  • Manufacturing and Cost: Due to the complex manufacturing processes required to produce 808nm emitters, they are less commonly available on the market and tend to be more expensive.

  • Clinical-Level Devices: Despite their high cost, 808nm wavelengths are frequently utilized in clinical-level devices due to their proven therapeutic benefits.


Scientific research supports the remarkable efficacy of the 808nm wavelength in promoting tissue repair, reducing pain and inflammation, and enhancing physical performance. Its ability to penetrate deep into tissues and stimulate cellular activity makes it a valuable tool in managing various challenging conditions. While the cost and availability of 808nm emitters pose challenges, their benefits make them a worthwhile investment for therapeutic and clinical applications.