Photobiomodulation (PBM) Therapy and It's Uses To Combat Pain
Photobiomodulation (PBM) Therapy
And It’s Uses to Combat Pain
You may have heard the terms “Cold Laser Therapy”, “Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)” “Red Light Therapy” or “Near-Infrared Light Therapy”. It can be somewhat confusing but basically, they all refer to “treatment using irradiation with light of low power intensity so that the effects are a response to the light and not due to heat.” Many of the terms used to describe this process do not really reflect this technology. They also don’t differentiate this type of therapy from the other laser-based therapies that rely on heating tissue to achieve the desired effect. This has led to a lot of confusion.
In September 2014, the North American Association for Light Therapy (NAALT) and the World Association for Laser Therapy (WALT) discussed this issue, and the term “Photobiomodulation Therapy” was born. This term better reflects the process and better differentiates it “from the popular use of light-based devices for simple heating of tissues…or other applications of light energy that rely on thermal effects for all or part of their mechanism of action.”
So, let’s discuss some of types of pain that have a clear body of research and evidence of PBM Therapy’s efficacy.
Combat Inflammation (and Potentially Inflammation-Related Diseases)
Red and near-infrared light therapy (Photobiomodulation Therapy or PBM) is highly effective in treating chronic inflammation. Since chronic inflammation is now being recognized as a major contributor to most chronic diseases from heart disease, depression, and cancer, to Alzheimer’s and chronic fatigue syndrome, this effect of PBM Therapy on inflammation is a very big deal. Many aging scientists now speak of “inflamm-aging” — the concept that the genes and pathways that control inflammation may very well be the key drivers of aging and disease.
Studies have even shown that PBM Therapy can have anti-inflammatory effects on par with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are the anti-inflammatory drugs routinely prescribed and typically, the over-the-counter drugs people buy when in pain.
One of the most common uses for PBM Therapy in clinics is for injuries and tendonitis. Because red light stimulates collagen production, speeds wound healing, and is highly anti-inflammatory, it has been shown to bring great relief to people suffering from tendinopathy and tendonitis. A systematic review of the research concludes that PBM Therapy has proven highly effective in treating tendon disorders in all 12 studies conducted.
Improve Joint Health and Combat Arthritis
The first major symptom of arthritis is pain, often excruciating and debilitating as the condition progresses. Numerous studies have shown that PBM Therapy can profoundly help people with osteoarthritis (often called just “arthritis”). It works by increasing natural energy (ATP) production in joint cells, which helps to reduce inflammation and normalize the joints biology and function.
Enhance Muscle Gain, Strength, Endurance, and Recovery
PBM Therapy with exercise makes a potent combination. Not only does red/NIR light help you recover faster, it seems to amplify everything that happens with exercise – increased muscle gain, fat loss, performance, strength, and endurance.
How does red and near-infrared light affect muscles – what is it doing to cause these benefits? It works through several important mechanisms in the body:
- Red and near-infrared light help promote the production of internal antioxidants by your cells, which prevents oxidative stress and damage to the muscle tissue (when light is applied before exercise).
- Red and near-infrared light help reduce inflammation that will lead to cellular damage (and fatigue) in the muscle tissue as well.
- Protect damaged muscles from secondary damage from further exercise.
- Pre-conditioning: By using the light prior to exercise, it creates a “pre-conditioning” effect where the muscle cells suffer less damage from the exercise, as well as display higher strength/stamina in subsequent exercise following the initial bout of exercise.
- Red and near-infrared light decrease lactic acid production by muscles.
- Red and near-infrared light improve mitochondrial function during exercise.
- Increases acetylcholine receptors on muscles (this is the neurotransmitter released from nerve cells that stimulates muscle contraction).
- Red and near-infrared light increase the production of specific types of heat shock proteins that protect cells from oxidative damage, stress, and apoptosis (early cell death).
- Red and near-infrared light also enhance muscle growth, as well as increasing strength significantly.
- Red and near-infrared light therapy promotes the development of muscle stem cells, myosatellite cells, which develop into specific varying types of muscles.
- Red and near-infrared light also have the profound benefit of increasing mitochondrial adaptations and mitochondrial biogenesis (the creation of new mitochondria) following exercise.
In a recent study, researchers concluded that PBM Therapy has proven “beneficial for many individuals suffering from pain, regardless of the condition that is causing it.”
Here are several conditions where red/NIR light has proven effective:
|Acute Pain||Low Back Pain|
|Carpal Tunnel Syndrome||Osteoarthritic pain|
|Chronic Pain in the Elbow, Wrist & Fingers||Orthopedic Disorders|
|Chronic joint disorders||Plantar Fasciitis|
|Chronic tooth pain||Post-Surgical Pain Relief|
|Epicondylitis||Sacroiliac Joint Pain|
|Fractures||Sprains & Strains|
|Geriatric Conditions||Tendinitis & Myofascial Pain|
|Knee pain||And More...|
PBM Therapy: A Powerful Aide
Because of the drug-free, non-invasive nature of PBM Therapy it is often used as a powerful aide to other and/or existing treatments. It can be used before, during, or after surgical procedures, alongside prescription, and in conjunction with rehabilitation programs. Since PBM Therapy has a wide range of physiological effects, especially in the reduction of pain and inflammation and increasing the speed of healing, it is a versatile tool as part of a holistic approach to treating MANY common conditions in human medicine.