Light Therapy

Why It Works For Pain And Injuries

Light Therapy. Healthy Living Magazine

Light Therapy. Healthy Living Magazine

Every object that exists in the material world is comprised of matter. But when matter is broken down beyond the atomic level it is made of condensed light energy.

Your body is made of matter and, therefore, at its core, condensed light—all of which pretty much explains why photobiomodulation, a term adopted by NASA and US military scientists, also known as low level laser or photon light therapy, is considered as a therapeutic medical tool—especially for recurrent injuries and chronic pain.

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Photobiomodulation uses light emitting diodes (LEDs) or low energy lasers, which emit light in the visible red to near infrared range. Light in this range penetrates tissue but lacks the dangerous cancerous and mutagenic effects of UV light to which we are accustomed from sunbathing.

Laser or light therapy is used for sports injuries, chronic pain syndromes and non-healing wounds such as venous and diabetic ulcers. New applications are being used and tested for smoking cessation, weight loss, addictions, nerve regeneration for spinal cord injuries and infectious diseases, arthritis, hepatitis C, low white blood cell counts, adrenal fatigue, low back pain and muscle atrophy on extended space missions.

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Although apparently less well known or relied on than ultrasound and whirlpools, some 40 years of research shows the effects of light therapy in the management of acute or chronic injuries and post-operative wounds are largely positive. Light therapy is quick, low cost and easy to administer. What’s more it can become part of selfmanaged health care and result in patient cost savings.

how light therapy works

Every eukaryotic (non-bacterial) cell in the human body has one or many power plants called mitochondria that are responsible for providing energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for physiological functions including cell renewal, injury repair and pain relief. Unfortunately, injuries and diseases damage our energy factories. When scientists look at the damage through high powered electron microscopy they see that the mitochondria literally are curled up like hedgehogs. ATP production is nearly gone.

But when the body’s cells are exposed to bands of infrared light, the mitochondria regenerate and begin producing adenosine diphosphate (ADP), which then links with free oxygen singlets within the energy factories to produce ATP.

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Light therapy devices offer frequencies of infrared and visible light with different settings tested and designed to target specific health conditions such as inflammation, wounds, acute and chronic pain, stress, soft tissue injuries, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, sinus problems, headaches and scars.

Other products additionally offer tissue specific pulsation settings that enhance and increase the light therapy effects. Pulsation settings, however, are not usually included in units being sold today, so it is up to the shopper to ask. Additionally, LEDS vary in potency delivered. Clinical potency is preferred.

what to expect

Light therapy causes nitric oxide to be released from hemoglobin, the protein molecule that transports oxygen to the tissues, and temporarily increases localized circulation and reduces pain. With a 30-minute treatment researchers have documented increases in localized circulation of 350% and greater (up to 3,200%).

“In some situations, such as osteoarthritis with pain and limited range of motion, we often see people notice a difference with only a 20 to 30-minute treatment,” says Pamela Patterson of Lumen Photon Therapy. “In most situations we recommend daily usage for a week to 10 days and expect changes within that time.”

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We also know that photon light therapy increases RNA and DNA synthesis so damaged cells can be replaced more promptly; stimulates fibroblast cells to form collagen fibers for skin renewal; and can aid bone recovery.

Light therapy devices can be purchased for in-home use to avoid the cumulative costs and time of frequent visit to the physical therapist.

Dr Martin is host of the nationally syndicated radio health talk program, the Dr Bob Martin Show.

References Chung H, Dai T, Sharma SK, Huang YY, Carroll JD, Hamblin MR. The Nuts and Bolts of Low-level Laser (Light) Therapy. Ann Biomed Eng. 2012 Feb; 40(2): 516–533. Published online 2011 Nov 2. doi:10.1007/s10439-011-0454-7 PMCID: PMC3288797 NIHMSID: NIHMS339992 Poyton RO, Ball KA. Therapeutic photobiomodulation: nitric oxide and a novel function of mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase. Discov Med. 2011 Feb;11(57):154-159. Sasaki S. Determination of altered mitochondria ultrastructure by electron microscopy. Methods Mol Biol. 2010;648:279-290. doi: 10.1007/978-1-60761-756-3_19.
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