The Pain & Injury Doctor ONLINE Newsletter
Here is your latest pain relief tip. If it doesn’t apply to you, still take note because life is full of surprises. If you know someone who is dealing with this type of pain, please forward this email to that person– thanks!
Yes, Red Light Can Speed Healing — Studies Confirm!
Last year I wrote a post about the healing and pain relief qualities of red light. It has been known for over 50 years that “something good” happens when light in the red portion of the electromagnetic spectrum strikes living tissue. Just how sunlight can trigger plants to create sugar and energy when it is absorbed into a plant leaf, red light seems to increase cellular energy when it gets absorbed by cells.
One theory is that red light, due to its wavelength characteristics, gets absorbed by mitochondria (the energy producing structures in all cells) and in the nucleus of cells which initiates increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. ROS are oxygen molecules missing an electron and are also known as “free radicals.” They are harmful in large amounts, but are helpful in tiny amounts as they initiate what is called “signaling” in the cell. This is the process that speeds up energy production, DNA transcription and protein synthesis, i.e. cellular regeneration.
In the process of all this activity, inflammation is dampened, as the cell’s metabolic activity works to move things along. This results in pain relief.
So, with red light treatment you get increased metabolic activity of cells, increased energy production, increased protein synthesis (repair) and decreased inflammation. Do you think this might be helpful in speeding up healing of an injury or acute low back pain? This is why red light therapy is being used in physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture and medical spas.
Red light can be administered via laser, light emitting diodes (LEDs) and infrared lamps. Lasers penetrate deeper, but are limited to one wavelength (such as 800 nm laser) so absorption into the target tissue is not as broad. LED devices emit a range of wavelength such as 600-750 nm so the light gets absorbed more broadly at varying tissue depths.
Infrared light has a longer wavelength and can therefore penetrate deeper into tissues; it is considered more appropriate for deeper structures such as a hip joint or inflamed lumbar disc. LED devices are good for more superficial treatment such as the wrist and ankle since they don’t penetrate as deeply.
When you use an LED device, I recommend you press it into your tissues as much as you can tolerate, to blanch the blood out of your flesh because you don’t want most of the light to be absorbed by the red blood cells and taken away; you want it to get absorbed by the injured muscles, tendons and cartilage underneath.
830 nm light-emitting diode (led) phototherapy significantly reduced return-to-play in injured university athletes: a pilot study
Laser Ther. 2016 Mar 31;25(1):35-42. doi: 10.5978/islsm.16-OR-03.
Over a 15-month period, a total of 395 injuries including sprains, strains, ligament damage, tendonitis and contusions were treated with 1,669 sessions of 830 nm LED phototherapy. Effectiveness was measured with pain attenuation on a visual analog scale (VAS) — basically, test subjects rated their before treatment and after treatment pain level on a scale of 1-5– and the Return To Play (RTP) period compared with historically-based anticipated RTP with conventional therapeutic intervention.
A full set of treatment sessions and follow-up data was recorded in 65 athletes who achieved pain relief on the VAS of up to 6 points. The average LED-mediated RTP in the 65 subjects was significantly shorter at 9.6 days, compared with the mean anticipated RTP of 19.23 days. A subjective satisfaction survey was carried out among the 112 students with injuries incurred from January to May, 2015. Eighty-eight (78.5%) were either very satisfied or satisfied, and only 8 (7.2%) were dissatisfied.
So what this says is that injured athletes who were treated with red light LED therapy achieved significant pain relief and were able to return to playing their sport in a shorter time.
If you have musculoskeletal pain; perhaps low back, neck, shoulder or other pain involving joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons, I highly recommend you try red light therapy. You don’t have to visit a doctor to get it, because many devices are FDA approved for consumer use. However, if you are known to develop pigmentation from light exposure, it may cause your skin to darken somewhat. But overall, red light is quite safe and effective for treating pain.
The devices I use and recommend in practice are the TendLite hand held device (good for small areas); the TDP Infrared Lamp (again, great for deep joints such as hip and low back; also thick muscles); the Personal Infrared Sauna (mostly for rejuvenation and easing body wide aches, such as after a long hike); and the Far Infrared Floor Mat with light emitting diodes (good for large areas– back, legs).
Don’t worry; they are easy to set up and use. I especially like the TendLite due to its portability. It’s a great thing to have while traveling; break it out for instant pain relief when needed!
The information contained in this email and on www.PainandInjuryDoctor.com is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as a medical directive. It is provided as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dan Perez, D.C. Every person is unique, and individual cases of pain are therefore unique. Dr. Perez encourages readers of PainandInjuryDoctor.com to use available sources of information to help them make a more educated and informed decision regarding their health, in partnership with one or more qualified health care professionals.
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