My Experiment With Red Light Therapy.

Two months ago I had chronic and continuous back pain (caused by dozens of recurring muscle knots – I was seeing a Physical Therapist regularly, taking a muscle relaxer at night, 1-2 doses of ibuprofen a day, and having to take 1-2 heating pad breaks every day), sharp hip flexor pain when I tried to run, and an inability to get comfortable while sleeping. 45 days later, I now have zero back pain, I am running with zero pain AND at a pace that is 1 to 2 minutes a mile faster than I have been able to in over three years, and am falling asleep faster and sleeping comfortably.

I know. Sounds like an infomercial. But let’s start by where I’m coming from.

I’m a skeptic. Especially regarding the newest, greatest, fix-everything solutions. They never seem to work on me because placebo effects don’t work on me due to my extreme skepticism. Which sucks, really. I’d love to have some placebo effects.

However, I am an optimistic skeptic.

I’m an early adopter of new things, and get excited about those things, but then I take a deeply analytical and objective view of them, and therefore cannot convince myself  that they’re working. I take good notes, I measure results without emotion, and I usually come up short. So I try all the things, and I keep doing hardly any of the things.

So the fact that I am objectively, absolutely, 100% convinced of the results I have seen in the past month and a half is mind-blowing – especially to me.

After three years of regular physical therapy visits for my back, legs, and other ailments, and a year of my physical therapist repeatedly telling me that he thought I could benefit from Red Light Therapy, I bought a book that put all the scientific studies into plain English, read the book in one night, and ordered a Red Light that same night. Within days, my life was changed. Two weeks later I bought a second Red Light.

Red Light Therapy Grasping Objectivity

(Let me go ahead and say: I have zero stake in red light therapy, nor have I been asked to review it, nor have I been in touch with the company to which I paid full price for both my lights.)

So what the heck is Red Light Therapy and why haven’t you heard of it?

You haven’t heard of it because it only recently became affordable for consumers to own. Each light that I bought was $750 (and you really only need one, but two makes the process quicker.) A couple of years ago, the cheapest Red Light Therapy device we knew of was $100,000. You can see why I waited until now to try it.

Red LightSo. What it is. It sounds really hokey that a light could make you feel better in all the ways, but there is a lot of science behind it (thousands of well-run studies), it’s already FDA approved for many uses (and is used by doctors, health spas, and physical therapists), and they actually know what the red light does – it activates, heals, and energizes mitochondria – i.e. The engine of our cells, so it makes total sense that it could help so many functions in your body.

The basic takeaway is this: we as humans need red and infrared light, and we don’t get enough of it. Because of that, our cells are unnecessarily sluggish, effecting our energy, our moods, our muscle recovery and growth, our sleep, and pretty much our everything. By getting a daily or every other day dose of red light, we can have more energy, less pain, and better functioning muscles. Because I was having such extreme and chronic muscle pain, I can absolutely attest to its effectiveness.

I started using the light on December 1, which consists of laying in front of my light (about 6 inches away from it) and rotating angles every 3-5 minutes to let it light every surface of my skin. I have taken 13 pages of notes, documenting daily how I feel in every facet, what time I used the light, how I felt afterward, how I slept, how I ran, and everything else I could think to document. Here is a summary of those notes:

– On the third day of use, my back pain went away. Completely. I discontinued taking ibuprofen and muscle relaxers, and didn’t need my heating pad anymore (though I held onto its use for a few more days because it had become an expected comfort in my life.) Before that, I had not had a back-pain-free day in months.

– Toward the end of the first week, I began to find myself wanting to run longer. I went from having intense hip flexor pain after running 3 miles to running 8 miles with no pain.

– I also noticed at the end of that first week that a pain I’ve had continuously since I started running – sharp knee pain upon walking downstairs the day of and the day after a run – was completely gone. I could walk downstairs with no pain and without leaning on the handrail.

– I found myself falling asleep immediately – something I do not do. I’m normally a 30-minutes-of-wind-down person, all while resenting my immediately-asleep husband. But I was now actually sleepy at bedtime and would feel myself immediately drifting off. It was shocking and magical the first few times it happened.

– Using the light gives me an immediate energy boost. I can wake up sluggish and with burning eyes, then feel energetic and have no eye burn after using the light.

– One of the FDA approved uses is to get rid of cellulite. Three weeks after using the light daily, I went into our bathroom with the most unflattering lighting and did a search for my always-plenteous thigh cellulite. It was gone.

– Starting in the third week, my legs all of a sudden felt bionic when I ran. They had no pain, no muscle burn or soreness, and felt significantly faster and more able. I could run up hills, without breaking pace, that I’d always walked up before. My legs felt like they were putting out no effort. It was spectacular. From there, my speed began ramping up to levels that I literally could not make my legs move before I started using the light. I remember last summer feeling like I was flying one day, and then being discouraged when my pace, still fast for me, was 10:30. I am now running sub-10 miles every time I run – up to 6 sub-10 miles in a row – and have nearly run a flat 9 minute mile (9:08. So close.) For me, this is huge. After my wreck in 2015, I became a much slower runner and have hung out in 11-12 minute miles since then. So to be running 9-9:30 is a huge gain for me – one that is clearly a result of the red light.

Here’s my six mile run from this past weekend next to my fastest run in November, which was the month before I started using the light:

Red Light Therapy Running Pace Comparison
– I also used to get injured when I would run faster than 10 minute miles – I would have knee or ankle pain for several days after going “too fast.” Last January I even resolved to run less in 2018 and hike more so that my knees could be more healthy. Despite the fact that I’m running faster than I have in over three years, I am experiencing no aches and pains from my running, during or after the runs.

– After three weeks, some of my back pain returned. It wasn’t as bad as it was before, and was more localized. I was discouraged, because I couldn’t figure out why it would show back up, but then I was able to pinpoint where it was coming from: our old and unsupportive mattress. The light had stripped away all of my other muscle pain to make it obvious that the one thing I couldn’t red light away – my mattress – was still hurting me. We bought a new mattress and now I am back to zero back pain, all the time.

There are many, many other FDA approved and researched uses for the lights. Although my lack of pain has been miraculous, the thing that got me most excited about the light’s potential are the documented cognitive improvements it can make over time. It’s supposed to make your brain work better, which y’all know I need. If a light could make me able to write again, I would be ever so thankful. That’s still out on trial, but hey – I am writing this, so it’s a start.

So if you’re interested in trying Red Light Therapy, here are my tips:

1. Read this book first. It has so much valuable information in it, and is an easy read that is objective and informative.
Red Light Therapy Book

2. BUY CAREFULLY. Most Red Light products (there are a ton on Amazon) are not powerful enough to work. The studies have been able to pinpoint what wavelengths and outputs are helpful, and it’s a pretty specific science. The book explains all of this and has several brands they recommend. The two I got are PlatinumLED Therapy Light’s BIO-600, Combo Red light.

3. Make it a part of your daily routine. I think the dramatic effects I’ve experienced are because I have used it every single day – and sometimes twice a day.

4. Take notes. Find what time works best for you. I found that too close to bedtime kept me awake, but about 4 hours before bedtime put me to sleep. However, in general I tend to use it earlier in the day for the energy boost. And I can also tell a huge difference in runs after I’ve used the light for the day versus runs before lighting.

 

So clearly, I’m a believer. I will continue to take notes and use the light daily, and will update its results in the future. Feel free to ask me any questions!

The Incident at Walgreen’s.

161206-Clock-Tower-Crestline-Edit

We were on our way home from dinner. The weather was abhorrent, but we needed two things from Walgreen’s. I went in on behalf of the whole family, because I’m sacrificial like that and also because one cannot trust one’s husband to pick out an eyebrow filling pencil. He probably doesn’t even know I fill in my eyebrows. Or what it means to fill in one’s eyebrows. I was trying to hurry, as we were all ready to get home and out of the cold rain. This whole 38-degrees-and-raining selection on the Weather Jukebox is one of those records that when it starts playing, everyone groans in unison and says “REALLY?! PATRICIA, C’MON. NO ONE LIKES THAT TRACK BUT YOU!!”

But dang it if Patricia hasn’t been hitting that track hard lately.

I made my selections and scrambled up to the counter. Except…that I got behind a lady buying all the Christmas decor. Her questionable hair dye job was about a foot from the top of her head, which boasted of gray strands sticking out any which way. Her double pack of Pall Malls were hanging out of her purse, desperately trying to escape. Her house shoes were a lovely shade of pet hair. And she wanted to make sure that she was able to use the most Walgreen’s rewards possible – whether that was on her husband’s or her account. She impossibly-slowly explained “We never use them … then they expire … and my husband … comes in and gets his prescriptions … but never uses his points … but I might have more … so I need you to check both …”

The patient cashier checked both accounts. Told her that she had $3 available to use. “Is that … on his account or mine … ?” He explained that it was from both accounts and she could use it all.

What a windfall day.

Maybe now we could move forward in this process of CHECKING OUT.

(I was becoming pretty sure that I was standing behind the very same Patricia that selected the day’s awful track on the Weather Jukebox.)

But then she noticed the total. “But all those … decorations … were supposed to be fifty percent off … “

“No ma’am…they’re BUY ONE get one 50% off.”

I internally roll my eyes. I’ll never get out of here. And Christmas decorations are never 50% off before Christmas (except at places where things are always 50% off like Hobby Lobby but we’re not at Hobby Lobby we’re at Walgreen’s and everyone knows that Walgreen’s is more of a buy one get one 50% off kind of place.)

“No, they were … definitely … 50% off.”

The cashier, still patient and smiling (#GodBlessHisSoul) called over the loudspeaker for help.

The manager came up. She said, “They’re buy one get one 50% off.”

“No, they were … definitely … 50% off.”

The manager, not being as patient as the cashier, said rather sassily with a bit of an “Oh yeah?!” implied, “Was it a red tag or a yellow tag?”

Mrs. Patricia Pall Mall looked her dead in the eye. “It was … a blue tag.”

Both the cashier and manager snorted.

“We don’t have blue tags.”

“It was … a blue tag.”

“Well, your total is $26.67.”

“Then … let me … think about it … for a minute.”

OHMYGOODNESS NO. PATRICIA, NO ONE HAS TIME FOR YOU TO THINK ABOUT IT FOR A MINUTE. YOU CAN’T EVEN SPIT OUT A SENTENCE IN UNDER A MINUTE.

But she grabbed all her decor up and headed back into the store. The manager went to the other register and called over to me, “I can take you over here, ma’am.”

She was ringing up my items, shaking her head, and muttering “Blue tag. We don’t have a single blue tag in this store! Not a one. There ain’t no blue tags. You can take your card out now, ma’am. Happy Holidays. Blue tags. Psh.”

As I took my card out, I turned to look over my shoulder – I guess I sensed Patricia approaching.

Indeed. She was shuffling slowly back to the counter, the same hopeful purchases in one hand and … a … FREAKING BLUE TAG in the other.

I nearly walked out the door backwards to enjoy the sight of the Manager and Cashier staring openmouthed at this legendary, impossible, nonexistent, nay, 50% off, blue tag.

The moral of this story is: don’t be a Blue Tag Denier. And make your husband go into Walgreen’s. And if Patricia says it’s 50% off, it’s probably 50% off.

Cognitively Speaking…

Noah turns eight on Wednesday.

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His overachieving (and awesome) summer camp (Camp Straight Street) sent him a birthday card last week. Which is great and kind and made him feel special and….when mixed in with the 4-5 Christmas cards we receive every day, also made him feel rather inferior and needy of more, CONSTANT birthday cards.

Every day he’s been running to the mailbox, absolutely perplexed at the quantity of Christmas wishes and the complete lack of birthday wishes. Indignantly he will announce, “WHERE are all my BIRTHDAY cards??”

One night he was being especially moody, so we had this little conversation about it.

We tried to explain that it’s a whole WEEK until his birthday and usually you only get cards right around the day of your birthday…and also you only get one or two birthday cards total and you shouldn’t compare your birthday mail volume to Christmas (which is dang hard to do when your birthday happens to be on the 19th of December.)

But alas. He’s only seven. Such concepts of self-coaching and setting realistic expectations are completely and absolutely lost on him.

Building radios, however, is within his grasp.

He got several Snap Circuits kits last Christmas (best, most fun toy for the spatially-minded child ever, if you need some last minute Christmas shopping ideas.) Last year, I usually had to help him with them, which I rather enjoyed. Then they got lost in the horror that is his room for a few months. But, due to a forced cleaning of his room, he has rediscovered many fun toys, and Snap Circuits are one of them. Except that this year, he’s an excellent reader and putter-togetherer, and he doesn’t need me anymore. So he’ll thunder down the stairs to announce his latest invention, all rather proud and much more excited than he was when I used to be his lab assistant. (Which, by the way, he no longer has a bedroom – he now has a LAB.) (Which I kinda love.) (Except for the pain doled out to the bottom of my feet when I try to walk through the lab in the dark to give him his good night hug.)

His favorite invention, the aforementioned radio, happened yesterday. He admittedly didn’t think a radio would function as an actual radio until he built the thing, turned it on, and started hearing Christmas music and commercials about incontinence.

He was immediately enthralled – especially when he realized how to channel surf. All afternoon he’d run to me and say things like “Mom!! Someone’s grandkid is having to have brain surgery!!”

“Whose?”

“I don’t know! They’re talking about it on the RADIO!!”

His radio is quite portable, so I didn’t notice when he’d taken it in the car last night, and he proceeded to surf those channels all the way to dinner, while keeping us all informed as to what was going on in the world.

“Camila Cabello hasn’t had a vacation in six years!! But she’s taking some time off now that ‘Havana’ has done so well.”

“They’re talking about jail cells now! I think they’re in one!!”

And then, when he realized the sheer amount of potential knowledge he held in his hands, he cackled gleefully and announced,

“I AM GOING TO KNOW EVERYTHING BY THE END OF THE WEEKEND!!!!”

I side-eyed Chris and smiled. “So this is our life now.”

As I was reading in bed last night, Noah came in with his radio, on which he’d dialed to some smooth jazz Christmas music. He turned out my light. (Because jazz requires mood lighting.) He cuddled up in bed with me, with a sigh of accomplishment for his invention of transmittable music. And then reminded me that he hadn’t gotten any more birthday cards.

Inventors have fragile egos, yo. I’m sure Alexander Graham Bell had these same exact struggles.