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All About Low-Level Laser Therapy for Recovery

Whether you’re looking to lift more, train longer, or recover faster, low-level laser therapy could help.

by CSCS
LightPod
Anya Semenoff / Getty

What's your favorite form of body therapy? Foam rolling? Sports massage? Maybe getting your sweat on in the sauna? Well, here’s a new one for you: using a freakin’ laser beam to boost performance, soothe aching muscles, and speed up recovery. And yes, we’re serious.

The Lowdown on LLLT

What it is: Known to lab coats as low-level laser therapy, or LLLT, zapping your muscle tissue post-workout has been used to improve performance for years, and the science is finally catching up. Those looking to partake can use full-body pods and wands to administer light, set to a particular wavelength, to their muscles. Laser lovers are counting on it being more ubiquitous in years to come.

The claim: It’s speculated that when applied, the light reacts with certain enzymes involved in the electron transport chain in mitochondria. The alleged results: reduced inflammation and pain and improved blood flow, soft-tissue healing, muscle recovery, and brain capacity.

The science: There have been multiple studies and metastudies that have found the following to be true with LLLT: a) faster muscle recovery due to the removal of blood lactate; b) increased muscle oxygen uptake, meaning you can train harder for longer; and c) improvements in memory capacity and metabolism function.

The verdict: LLLT is still a nascent concept, so it might be a while before you find light pods in your gym. But more believers are emerging. In addition to the Oregon Project at Nike, the Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, and Utah Jazz use LLLT as a performance enhancement. Also, CryoUSA is installing NovoThor light pods at fitness facilities around the country, including CrossFit Garden City in New York. 

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