Photobiomodulation is the term used for how near-infrared helps the body heal and relieve pain.
What is Photobiomodulation (PBM Therapy)?
Photobiomodulation (PBM Therapy) previously known as Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is the application of red and near infra-red light over injuries or lesions to improve wound and soft tissue healing, reduce inflammation and give relief for both acute and chronic pain. First developed in 1967, it is now commonly referred to as PBM.
Photobiomodulation is used to: increase the speed, quality and tensile strength of tissue repair; resolve inflammation and relieve pain (analgesia).
The red and near infrared light (600nm-1000nm) commonly used in PBM can be produced by laser or high intensity LEDs. The intensity of PBM lasers and LED’s is not high like a surgical laser. There is no heating effect.
The effects of PBM are photochemical (like photosynthesis in plants). When the correct intensity and treatment times are used, red and near infrared light reduces oxidative stress and increases ATP. This improves cell metabolism and reduce inflammation. These effects can be enhanced with pulses however when analgesia is required there is a second mechanism which works best when a strong continuous beam is applied.
PBM devices are typically delivering 10mW – 500mW (0.01 -> 0.01 Watts). The power density typically ranges from 0.005W/Cm² -> 5 W/Cm².
PBM is popularly used for soft tissue injuries, joint conditions, neuropathic pain, non-healing leg and pressure ulcers.
Introduction to PBM Video
Introduction to PBM and dose response by Prof. Michael Hamblin, Wellman Centre for Photomedicine, Harvard Medical School
Source: International Dose Response Society
This paper from Harvard Medical School reviews the PBM mechanisms and the biphasic dose response. It summarises the molecular and cellular mechanisms of PBM, gives a scientific explanation for the biphasic dose response (why a low dose has a stimulatory effect and why a high dose inhibits). Low power densities tend to get better healing and anti-inflammatory effects where higher power densities are more likely to inhibit (which may be useful if you just want an analgesic effect). I have to disclose an interest in this paper because I am a co-author. James Carroll CEO THOR Photomedicine.
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