It's no secret that the work you put into your body outside of training is just as important as training itself. Recovery-centric modalities have become uber-popular over the past few years; additionally, the rising popularity of recovery has made more disciplines approachable from an at-home standpoint — you no longer need to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist or studio to reap the pain-eliminating benefits of these practices.
One such recovery modality that's been rising in promise as of late has been red light therapy. Using light-emitting diodes, it attacks your aches and pains on a cellular level as the emitted red light penetrates and stimulates your cells. This penetrating energy allows the cells to self-repair, improving circulation and reducing inflammation; this, in turn, can lead to better pain management and a heightened sense of well-being.
This cellular self-repair has been why red light therapy, or RLT for short, has been a popular practice for improving skin health for some time. However, recent studies have shown that those effects can also help improve your muscles and joints, too, provided the light frequency penetrates deep enough into your skin.
Now, all this science talk might seem like RLT is solely available at high-end establishments, but there are plenty of at-home devices that allow you to take advantage of this modality from the comfort of your abode. Before we flip the switch on the best red light therapy devices for at-home relief, let's dive a little deeper into the benefits of the recovery practice, and what you should be looking for if you decide to add a module to your post-workout regimen.
BEST OVERALL RED LIGHT THERAPY DEVICEPlatinum LED BioMax 600 Read More
BEST UPGRADE RED LIGHT THERAPY DEVICEJoovv Solo 3.0 Read More
BEST BUDGET RED LIGHT THERAPY DEVICELifepro BioHeal Red Light Panel Read More
BEST RED LIGHT THERAPY DEVICE FOR BEGINNERSKineon Move+ Read More
BEST FULL-BODY RED LIGHT THERAPY DEVICEHooga HGPRO4500 Read More
The Benefits of Red Light Therapy
A recovery technique is worthless if it's not effective at a physical level, right? Thankfully, RLT has been proven to provide that therapeutic relief, leading to such benefits as improved collagen production, increased circulation and reduced inflammation.
When you work out, you develop micro-tears across your musculature, which leads to soreness through the increased blood flow and pressure across the area. RLT helps activate the cells to generate that repair, kickstarting that process of growth to help keep your muscles working properly without having you deal with the lingering aches.
Outside of the physical benefits, RLT is also a worthwhile recovery technique due to its convenience. Unlike massage guns or foam rolling, you don't have to work the muscles through massage or pressure. You simply stand in front of a light panel or guide a module across the target area, allowing the photons to penetrate your skin. You don't feel the cellular activity, which promotes a more comfortable setup than other, more active regimens. Plus, a proper RLT session only takes roughly 15–30 minutes — meaning you can quickly transition from post-workout status back to your normal day-to-day in no time (provided you have the patience to sit in front of a light beam for a set amount of time).
What to Look for in Red Light Therapy Devices
One of the first qualities to consider when choosing a RLT device is how it powers up. Larger panels and some handheld devices utilize a power cord, which can be ideal for full-body treatments but may hinder coverage if you're trying to navigate across more specific areas. Plus, a cord limits where your treatment can occur, so be sure to have enough space near an outlet to allow for a comfortable setup.
There are smaller profiles available that are rechargeable, however, which lend themselves more to targeted RLT sessions. Be sure to weigh your needs and wants before purchase.
As stated, the effectiveness of RLT depends on how deep the emitted light can penetrate your skin, which is illustrated through its wavelength frequency. The three typical frequencies found in RLT devices are regular red light, near-infrared light and infrared light, each with their own wavelength range and benefits.
- Regular red light is the visible red glow you see across devices, measuring between 630–660 nanometers. This light option is great for surface-level ailments like wrinkles or hair.
- Near-infrared falls in the range of 810–850 nanometers and is ideal for that deep muscle repair and reduced inflammation.
- Infrared, the longest wavelength available in RLT, can measure over 900 nanometers for the deepest relief, ideal for chronic pain and joint stiffness. Because of its increased energy, however, infrared light is not typically found in at-home devices.
To reap the muscle-recovery benefits of RLT, I suggest searching for a silhouette that offers both regular red light and near-infrared emittance. This can create a well-rounded penetration that repairs your skin and muscle cells across a wide depth. The longer infrared emittance is a nice benefit, but not entirely necessary unless you're really looking to mend chronic aches. If this is your case, I suggest searching for saunas or institutions that offer this more powerful modality.
RLT devices come in a number of shapes and sizes, each with their own intended coverage area. To decide on which is right for you, take into account your main focus when it comes to recovery. Do you want a full-body experience that tackles cellular repair from head-to-toe? Consider a larger panel that allows you to bask in the light from a comfortable stance. Just want a targeted session for your knees or biceps? Consider a smaller handheld option or wrap.
It's also important to take your budget into consideration, especially when thinking about full-body RLT panels. Yes, the coverage is increased, but so is the price. If you want a larger swath of light for your treatment sessions, there are smaller panels available that can sit in a stand or on a desk. They won't encapsulate your entire frame in a red hue, but they can be great (read, cheaper) alternatives.
How We Tested
I've been curious about RLT for a while and was happy to get hands-on with a number of the silhouettes chosen below. Across multiple weeks, I noted how convenient each setup was in terms of coverage and storage. Additionally, I considered how effective the treatment was in comparison to my normal routine of compression and massage. Add-ons like stands and accessories were also considered, which can greatly enhance your overall setup.
Now, let's get comfortable and ready to recover with the best red light therapy devices available today.
Platinum LED BioMax 600
In terms of coverage and effectiveness, I’m really impressed by the BioMax lineup from Platinum LED. I recommend the 600 profile offering up narrow, full-body coverage across its 200 LED lights, but there are multiple sizes available to suit your space and needs, too. The BioMax 600 also employs five wavelengths of RLT treatment ranging from 630–850nm for a wide breadth of penetration and benefits.
I also appreciate the simple touchscreen controls of the BioMax 600 which allow you to seamlessly choose your desired wavelength and time for quick entry into a routine. The silhouette is also compatible with a number of stand setups for more convenient storage and treatment execution. Unfortunately, however, these stands are billed as accessories, meaning you’ll need to shell out a few extra dollars to take your aesthetic up a notch.
Joovv Solo 3.0
If you’ve searched “red light therapy device” in the past, odds are you’ve stumbled across Joovv, and for good reason. The brand has been at the forefront of at-home RLT for a while, bringing innovative, modular setups and impressive performance to athletes everywhere. I really enjoy the Solo 3.0 profile thanks to its convenient app integration and easy-to-maneuver setup. I’m partial to the boot accessory, but Joovv also offers door- and wall-mount options, albeit at differing prices. Plus, if you decide to expand coverage down the road, you’re easily able to sync multiple Solo 3.0 panels to essentially turn your abode into your own personal RLT spa.
The big dilemma with the Joovv Solo 3.0, however, is the cost. While there are other, larger panels available that cost more money, when compared to similarly-sized modules, you’re paying more for less here. The Solo 3.0 only includes 150 LED lights and offers just two wavelengths. With that said, Joovv is registered as a class II medical device with the FDA, and to meet these requirements, a product needs to employ higher quality materials and safety measures. So, when thinking of purchasing a Joovv module, the real question is what matters most: quality or quantity.
Lifepro BioHeal Red Light Panel
It’s no secret that RLT has a heightened cost of entry with many panels and devices coming in at hundreds (even thousands) of dollars. Yet, there’s still some quality options out there for the budget-minded athlete, like the BioHeal panel from Lifepro. I appreciate the four available treatment modes that easily toggle across its control panel, allowing for a variety of modalities depending on whether you’re searching for skin repair or post-workout muscle relief. Plus, the compact, easy-to-tote frame can be set up in a number of areas around your house, perfect for those that often recover in multiple rooms or those on the go.
That compact silhouette is the BioHeal’s downfall, however, as there’s only one available size. I would like to see Lifepro expand this lineup to larger profiles offering more LED coverage, but at less than $200, it’s still a great starter kit for those curious about the recovery discipline.
While I state the Lifepro BioHeal is a good starter kit for RLT novices, I believe the Kineon Move+ is the better option for beginners in the discipline. The targeted silhouette can be great for knees, elbows and joints, which is where I suspect most will feel the quickest relief. Plus, setting up this device is very intuitive — I had no issue getting coverage thanks to the simple band design and synced light modules that turn on with just the touch of one button (no need to toggle all three individually).
I also enjoy the compact nature of this device, and the convenient carrying case ensures you have everything you need for quick relief whether traveling out of town or just staying at the gym for an extra 15 minutes. I do wish, however, that Kineon offered a larger strap that could easily clip around the lower back. This would expand the recovery potential to more muscle groups, but for getting started in the regimen, I’m happy with the joint-targeting aesthetics.
Read our full review of the Kineon Move+.
Sometimes, bigger is better, and that’s certainly the case when trying to treat your entire body with RLT. For expansive coverage across the proper wavelengths, I recommend the HGPRO4500 from Hooga. Over 900 LEDs sit across this wide silhouette, perfect for turning your bedroom or home gym into a multi-use RLT center. I also appreciate the seven heat-dissipating fans that keep the profile working properly, because let’s face it, powering up all those beams does take some energy.
The Hooga HGPRO4500 is also compatible with a mobile stand in either horizontal or vertical designation, but like other RLT devices in this roundup, this accessory is sold separately. For such a large panel, you’d expect this add-on to be included due to the more advanced spacial requirements, but alas, expect to add another purchase to your cart if you’d like your RLT setup to be a little more agile.
Mito Red Light MitoAdapt Min
Maybe you’d like to bask in the effective relief of RLT while, I don’t know, lounging in your favorite office chair or atop your trusty sofa. Well, this desktop-ready MitoAdapt Min is great for these endeavors. You’re able to toggle through 11 (yes, 11) different modules for a wide variety of wavelength combinations, creating a more versatile approach to recovery whether looking to liven up your skin or reduce that post-training soreness. I also appreciate the lightweight frame — at just nine pounds, this silhouette is easily placed on any flat surface without too much struggle or jostling.
Naturally, though, the smaller panel size is best for targeted treatment, and if you’re looking to use RLT for any lower-body ailments, that could mean contorting your frame and setup into some less-than-desirable positions. For example, you may need to set the MitoAdapt Min on the ground and lay prone in front of it if you want to target your knees or ankles properly. Still, at just nine pounds, those situations are approachable, albeit somewhat inconvenient.
Dpl Joint Wrap
Targeting your joints with RLT is a great solution for athletes, as these areas can be a bit tricky to treat with other modalities like massage guns or foam rolling. This wrap from Dpl provides effective relief in a comfortable aesthetic, and the silhouette easily fits multiple areas from your ankles, to your knees, elbows and beyond. Plus, an extension strap is included for targeting shoulders and other, larger areas, which is great for bulkier athletes that may have more pronounced thighs or calves.
I also enjoy the rechargeable aspect of this RLT device, as a full charge can facilitate between 2–3 sessions before needing a fuel up. Unfortunately, though, it’s kind of difficult to fully determine just how deep your treatment is. Dpl does state the Joint Wrap uses infrared and red light wavelengths across its profile, but it doesn’t list the wavelengths like others in this guide. It’s a bit of a grey area, for sure, but the results still deliver.
Mito Red Light Mito Mobile
Treating small areas like your ankles, hands or knees doesn’t require a large swath of LEDs, which is why handheld devices can be great for recovering these areas. I really like the compact, handheld design of the Mito Mobile from Mito Red Light, almost resembling the size of a slightly larger smartphone, albeit with some added thickness (harkening back to those OG iPod days). The 12 LEDs provide a substantial amount of coverage, and navigating the device across larger areas is simple. Plus, a convenient carrying case makes travel with the Mito Mobile a breeze. Have an out-of-town race or competition on the horizon? This silhouette is much more packable than, say, a full-body panel.
While the Mito Mobile can be an excellent option for specific muscle groups, I don’t think it’s the most ideal setup for more general RLT treatment. There’s a bit of a learning curve to painting across larger areas in certain spurts of time. You don’t want to rush through a session for the sake of covering larger muscle groups. For these needs, you may be better off with a larger panel.
The Mito Mobile is an excellent handheld option, but admittedly, the square silhouette is not the most comfortable endeavor for everyone. Thankfully, the Clinical from Dpl packs all the recovery-minded potential of RLT into an ergonomic wand that’s prime for cozy, convenient treatment. I appreciate the wide coverage of this profile that easily paints across aching muscles and joints, almost as if you’re waving your handheld shower head across your body during bathing.
You need to be mindful of where your treatments take place, however. Because of the corded nature, the Clinical can run out of slack if you don’t sit close to an outlet. Additionally, that corded silhouette may not reach some of your troubling nooks and crannies as easily as other, cord-free silhouettes.
Editor's Note: If you like this handheld design but want a wider coverage area, consider Dpl's Nüve lineup, which increases the LED treatment area by 83%.
I like this HG24 silhouette from Hooga for its aesthetics alone. The bulb-style fits conveniently in the hand, and I like how expansive the coverage is as I guide the treatment across my arms and legs. Plus, the HG24 comes with a corded socket, which cannot be said for other RLT bulbs of similar build.
While I appreciate the versatility of this device, I will say setup is a little more involved. The corded socket is not nearly long enough for full-body coverage, meaning you need to fulfill your treatments nearly on top of an available outlet. An accessory stand is available, however, to turn this HG24 into a desktop unit. I recommend purchasing this add-on, as it eliminates the strain of navigating the short cord around your frame. It also creates a unique aesthetic that’s half performance, half style.