Red Light Therapy

As promised, here is my post explaining all about red light therapy. Finally. Yes, I know, I’ve taken my time, but it’s a post that requires peace and quiet. And access to my research!

With Otis’s not so great diagnosis a few weeks ago, I sat down to look at some management techniques. The first one that sprung to mind was red light therapy, because a friend of mine uses it regularly and successfully on her horse, who has lots of foot problems and they manage to do riding club level competitions.

My first port of call was Google, which informed me that red light therapy was developed by NASA to help heal injuries to astronauts in space. The technology was initially designed to improve plant growth in space, but then scientists realised it could benefit the human body too.

This led to successful experiments that found that this technology reduced pain and side effects of cancer sufferers.

Then the rest of the world sat up and took note.

Now you can find red light therapy in medicine, health and beauty, veterinary treatments, to name a few.

It’s important to remember that red light therapy doesn’t solve a problem, it just alleviates the side effects and makes the problem manageable.

How does it work? The red lights themselves are light sources releasing energy in the form of photons. Healthy cells vibrate at 660 nanometers a second (this is important as lower quality lights don’t vibrate at the correct frequency), and when tissue is injured the vibration level drops in cells. The red lights “jump start” the affected cells so that they vibrate at the correct level. 

The mitochondria within the damaged cells are accelerated, which increases ATP production, so the brain releases endorphins, serotonin, and anti-inflammatories. The blood flow is also increased which enables nutrients to reach the cells and for toxins to be eliminated quicker. By reducing or eliminating pain and inflammation the body will heal faster.

One website claims that red light therapy works by:

1. Reduces pain by increasing production of endorphins – a natural pain killer

2. Reduces inflammation by suppressing enzymes that create swelling, redness, and pain.

3. Boosts the release of anti-inflammatory enzymes to reduce swelling quickly.

4. Increases cellular regeneration and healing by stimulating the mitochondria within the cell. This increases the production of ATP which causes damaged cells to accept nutrients and eliminate toxins faster

5. Increases lymphatic drainage and circulation.

6. Relaxes tight muscles and quickly releases muscle spasms and cramps.

7. Strengthens anti-viral properties by increasing antibody production in the bloodstream

8. Improves structure of tendons, bones, skin, teeth, and cartilage by increasing collagen production.

9. Stimulates a strong heart beat by regulating serotonin levels. Serotonin helps to regulate inflammation and allergic reactions and plays an important role in blood clotting, stimulating a strong heart beat, initiating sleep, and fighting depression. It also stimulates the smooth muscle in the intestinal wall helping it to contract.

I haven’t enough knowledge to try to prove these claims to be wrong, but what I do know is that if NASA think red light therapy is worth studying then there must be some benefit of it. Additionally, it does sound like it will suit Otis’s condition by reducing pain and inflammation of the soft tissue in the foot when it gets aggravated by the side bone.

Armed with this knowledge, I started picking my friend’s brain. Interestingly, she has an issue of a tendon rubbing over a bony protrusion in her knee, which is very painful. But she finds the red lights very beneficial. This sounds like the human version of Otis’s problem. She has just qualified as a red light therapist so offered to come and assess Otis.

I decided that I didn’t have much to lose from trying this and booked Otis in for a session.

What I didn’t realise was that Eastern medicine has gotten in on the act and red lights are often used on acupuncture points instead of needles, with good effect. I’m sure I’d rather have beans of light pointed at me rather than being stabbed by needles, but apparently acupuncture doesn’t hurt (I’ve never tried it). So when my friend arrived she started with a whole body assessment.

I would be concerned if a vet or physio or anyone else, solely focused on the problem area and neglected the rest of the body in case they missed a causative factor or another sore area caused by compensating for the injury.

Anyway, Otis flinched slightly on his left brachiocephalic muscle, which makes sense as it’s his left forefoot that’s problematic and that side of his neck is involved in lifting that foot forwards. He also, weirdly, had a square of heat on the left side of his thoracic vertebrae and a bit of sensitivity over his sacro-iliac. There was a bit of heat in the sidebone area, but nothing else to note.

Next, my friend put him to sleep. He was somewhat reluctant, but after a minute of putting the two red lights on his spine (just above the wither and in front of the croup) his head dropped and he licked and chewed, a common sign of the release of tension. These points are to do with acupuncture, I think they reset his energy lines or something.


Some people will by now shouting at me, telling me it’s mythical rubbish. I don’t know much about Eastern medicine, but if acupuncture has been around as long as it has it has to be successful. And I was actually amazed at Otis’s response to the lights on those trigger points. 

Next, she put the red light pad onto his sacro-iliac to treat that area and she started making her way down the left side of his body, putting the lights on different points, again linked to acupuncture points. This was all about resetting his body and sorting out any niggles or areas of strain where he’d compensated for his injury.

While she did the right side of his body, she wrapped the light pad around the right foot, and put it onto the skeletal setting. If I’m honest, I don’t know how this differed, but I assume it’s a higher energy level because bone is denser than muscle.


Interestingly, in the right hock there was some activity. I put my hand around the point of hock while the lights were focused on it and could feel the hock bubbling. It felt like a simmering surface on a pan. Or what I’d imagine a simmering surface feels like as I’ve never touched one! Weird! But again, it goes back to compensating for the injury with his diagonal pair.

To finish, Otis had the pad on his neck, to release the tension in his left brachiocephalic muscle. 

Otis was almost asleep while all of this went on, and when my friend checked his pressure points again he didn’t react at all.

So did it work? I don’t know! 

From this treatment I twigged that his pelvis had rotated so for that treated. There’s not been any heat in the sidebone area since. And I can only presume he felt better the next day because he lost a shoe in the field … but the jury is still out. Otis definitely enjoyed the experience and it was non invasive so I know there won’t be a negative outcome … except for losing a shoe. And after his pelvis was corrected he did feel good. Possibly normal. But let me go and touch a big bit of wood.

I think I’ll see how he is over the next couple of weeks and I can always try it again to get a more definitive answer.

Otis’s Rehab – Weeks 2 and 3

There wasn’t much to report last week with Otis’s rehab and it was very much hanging in between treatments, so I thought I’d leave you all in suspense until today.

I was still doing a combination of long reining and hacking out in walk when I last updated you; I wasn’t overly happy with what I was feeling and that was playing on my mind a lot.

The on the Thursday of that week (ten days ago now) he had his red light therapy session. I won’t go into huge detail as a blog on that is in the pipeline, but since the red light I have noticed that the sidebone hasn’t had heat in the area (which there was on the Thursday) and the treatment enabled me to solve the conundrum.

  1. When trotting, Otis didn’t feel limpy in front, but generally all wiggly.
  2. His exercise sheet kept slipping to one side.
  3. He responded to pressure over his sacro-iliac and the right hock was “active” during the red light therapy.


I’d solved it! His pelvis, which has always had a tendency to slip, had rotated and dropped. I hypothesised that a lack of muscle tone had meant that a little slip in the field or slight compensation for his injury, has just caused him to get out of alignment.

Typically, I only came to the conclusion on Friday, when I rode him after the red light therapy, and that night he lost a shoe. So the weekend was out, not that I would have done much now I’d twigged the problem, but it would have been useful to have been able to long rein him gently.

Anyway, I waited until first thing Monday morning to speak to my farrier, because I know how much I appreciate being able to switch off at weekends and not think about my diary. He couldn’t come until Wednesday. My next port of call was to speak to my vet/chiropractor friend, who could come out on Friday to see Otis, but she agreed with my theory and felt it was definitely worth checking his alignment.

I’ve kept Otis on this supplement of natural anti-inflammatories, and once he had his shoe put back on I long reined him Wednesday and Thursday as he was definitely a bit bored of his time off. He was up to no good on Wednesday as halfway through our walk, he decided to take me down a very narrow, overgrown footpath. Bracing myself like a tug of war champion I managed to stop him, and we had to rein back out of this mess! Thankfully he’s remembered his manners since then.

Friday’s Mctimoney treatment found good muscle tone – not surprising really as he’s all flab at the moment – but his pelvis has rotated and dropped. This took two corrections because he’s so flexible, but he did show signs of release. To help stabilise the pelvis we need to build up more muscle over his hindquarters, which I guess will mean lots of hill work being incorporated into his rehab.

This morning was the first time I could ride Otis since his treatment, and I feel so much more positive! His trot felt more normal, none of that strange disconnected feeling I had between the right hind and left fore. Was there a slight limp in front? Possibly? But it was very marginal and certainly not every stride.

My next job is to email the vet, tell him my research, progress, and find out how he thinks I should continue but I feel it will be longer hacks, plenty of hill work, and bring in more short trots. 

Otis also needs his hind shoes putting back on, so I’ll speak to my farrier about that too.

But I feel a bit more in control of our journey now. I have a couple of questions for the vet, have got some answers, and can plan the rehab with another chiropractic treatment in April. 

Unfortunately I’m not really sure of the success of the red light therapy because it coincided with the lost shoe and the McTimoney treatment, but it is interesting that I’ve not felt heat in that foot since, so it’s possible that the red light reset the cells (I’ll explain the theory of it more in that blog post) and the foot is in a better state to start increasing the workload.