It is widely accepted that light has healing powers. Light therapy devices are used in clinical settings for a variety of treatments, including the temporary relief of muscle and joint pain. The benefits go beyond simply heating the affected area, which increases blood flow and promotes healing. Research also indicates that light can cause the formation of nitric oxide, which can help reduce pain sensations in nerves. (No, this is not “laughing gas;” that’s nitrous oxide, which is different stuff.) The light may also may slow the conduction of pain signals in nerves, and help encourage the production of endorphins.
One problem is that devices for this light therapy tend to be designed for clinical use and can cost thousands of dollars. A device called the LumiWave sells for $300 (for the base model) and provides infra-red light therapy using an array of 200 LEDs (50 LEDs in each of four pods). The device comes with a controller that times the treatments for 20 or 30 minutes. The LumiWave was cleared by the FDA in 2015 as a Class II medical device, and is now available as a consumer product.
I had the opportunity to try out a LumiWave. The device had a clearly noticeable warming effect. In my limited testing, I did not notice any discernible difference between the light therapy and a standard heating pad, but I accept that there can be additional benefits from the light. The device was not always easy to use; the fact that it has to be plugged in limits your movement during a treatment session. On the other hand, a battery pack with sufficient power for a half hour session would add considerable weight and cost to the product. The device runs on 12 volts DC, however, so you should be able to rig your own power source if you’re so inclined.
The LumiWave does provide localized pain relief without the need for pharmaceuticals, which can provide consumers with an alternative means of treatment. And the price seems reasonable, especially when you consider that the company has made the effort to go through the FDA clearance process.