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Light Therapy

What Effect Red and Near Infrared Light Therapy Have On The Body

  • Light therapy speeds the healing time of tendons, muscles, and nerves.
  • Light therapy has been shown to speed the recovery of wounds, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and scar tissue.
  • Light therapy has been proven to grow hair.
  • Light therapy has been shown to restore hormone balance.
  • Light Therapy raises testosterone levels naturally.
  • Light Therapy increases blood flow.

That is an amazing list of claims. I was very skeptical as I am with all new healing modalities. I have been using a 635 Nanometer Red Light Laser for the last 14 years of practice for an Allergy Elimination protocol. The results I have obtained are nothing short of amazing. I have been following the research on the potential of this modality and developed new protocols we implement in many ways in my clinic.

What is Light Therapy

Light Therapy uses the principle of photobiomodulation in the wavelengths of 400-1000 Nanometers. Red Light contains wavelengths between 620-700 Nanometer ranges. Near Infrared light contains wavelengths between 700-1000 Nanometers. Photobiomodulation is the use non-ionizing (will be discussed later) optical radiation in the visible and near infrared spectrum to exert an effect on living tissues. Certain wavelengths of light are absorbed by compounds called chromophores to elicit photophysical and photochemical effects on tissues. Research has shown that the effects of photobiomodulation can be seen in the mitochondria the power house in our cells. The mitochondria converts glucose from the blood into ATP. ATP is the compound our cells use for the energy needed to perform the function that the cell is specialized to perform. During the process of ATP production in the mitochondria chemical messengers are released within the cell which travel to the nucleus of the cell. These chemical messengers activate the process of protein transcription from the DNA. This results in cells exposed to wavelengths within the 400-1000 nanometer wavelength spectrum perform the tasks they are designed to perform more effectively. A muscle cell will build internal proteins faster to heal damage. Nerve cells will recover faster from injury and produce more neurotransmitters and local connections to communicate better. High collagen producing tissues such as tendons, ligaments, skin and hair will produce collagen faster. Endocrine glands will produce hormones properly. Immune system cells will clean up damaged tissues decreasing inflammation and build immunity. Every cell in our body either directly or indirectly will function better. Direct effect is the absorption of energy at the tissues depth on the surface. The indirect effects are less understood. Studies show changes occur in tissues much deeper than penetration of energy given. Later we will discuss a possible explanation for this indirect benefit.

Red Light vs. Near Infrared Light Therapy

Red light is part of the visible light spectrum at 620-700 Nanometers. Near Infrared light is just outside of the visible light spectrum at 700-1000 Nanometers. The eye can detect wavelengths from 380-700 Nanometers putting near infrared light outside the visible light spectrum.

The infrared spectrum is divided into 3 subclasses

  • Near Infrared 700-1000 Nanometers
  • Middle Infrared 1000-3000 Nanometers
  • Far Infrared 3000-1,000,000 Nanometers

Wavelengths in the optical, near infrared range, and middle infrared range will be absorbed by the tissues resulting in Photomodulation by exciting electrons at the cellular level. Far Infrared wavelengths have a dual effect with a mild photomodulation effect on cells and a secondary effect of heating the tissue by its vibrational effects on water.

Near Infrared, Middle Infrared and part of Far Infrared exhibit photomodulation effects in the tissues. Remember photomodulation is the effect exhibited at the mitochondrial level of the cell which is responsible for the therapeutic effects of light therapy. The only difference between wavelengths is depth of penetration. It would make sense that the longer the wavelength the deeper the tissue penetration but this is not true. As the graphic below will show as the wavelength gets longer in the near infrared spectrum we get a peak of penetration. As the wavelength gets longer in the Middle Infrared and the Far Infrared range the depth of penetration decreases. The reason for this is water has an absorbance at 970 Nanometer wavelengths. At this wavelength the electrons of a water molecule get excited and the molecules begin moving faster creating heat. This is the concept behind a microwave oven. This is why infrared saunas heat up our skin just as sunlight heats us up.

What Dose of Infrared Energy is Effective

Dosage is critical to getting the desired benefits of photobiomodulation. If your tissues get to low of a dose you get no effect if it is too high a dosage it negates the effects. Dosage is based on Joules per centimeter squared, this refers to how much energy from the light is absorbing into your tissues. Research has shown 1 to 4 Joules per cm squared is the effective range. What most people offering light therapy in a clinical setting do not understand is all the research performed uses a direct to skin contact method. The types of lights used for research purposes are covering small areas of tissue with specialized lights that do not create heat therefore can make direct contact. All of the commercial produced light therapy units use lights such as LEDs which cannot make direct contact with the skin. When the light is not in direct contact we lose much of the energy as a result of tissue reflection.

To properly account for the reflection we need to anticipate some loss of energy and use lights with a higher energy output to deliver an effective dose. Many products on the market only claim they are using the proper frequency but lack the correct output for an effective dose.

How Does Light Therapy Have an Indirect Effect?

As a skeptical Physician as I stated above I had a major issue with this new therapy. How can it possibly benefit anything deeper than the skin? In my practice I am treating deep soft tissue injuries. Companies marketing red light laser would claim to have high enough power to reach the muscles but I understood the power only controls the dose of energy not the depth. I owned a 635 Nanometer 5 mw/CM2 red light laser that worked very well for an allergy elimination protocol over acupuncture points. I experimented with this laser treating pain by using it on acupuncture points but did not find it to work better than acupuncture needles. I tested the laser by altering the allergy protocol slightly by placing it over superficial nerves and not acupuncture points I found it still worked. This ruled out the meridian systems direct involvement in the treatment success.

My theory on indirect effect lies with the body’s ability to absorb wavelengths of energy and share it to the rest of the body. Is it thru our Nervous System, Lymphatic System, Circulatory System, Acupuncture System, Chakra System? My gut feeling is the Nervous System due to its shared embryologic connection to the skin. This is why I chose to alter my Allergy Protocol to superficial nerves. For this reason I believe large areas of the body need to be treated to give a maximum energy absorption.

What Technology Does Our Office Use?

We use Platinum LED Biomax panels with 600 3-watt LEDs with an irradiance of 185 mW/cm2 at six inches. This light has 5 wavelength 630 Nanometers, 660 Nanometers, 810 Nanometers, 830 Nanometers and 850 Nanometers covering the best of the Red and Near Infrared therapeutic ranges. The coverage is 72” x 12” sufficient to give up to a full body treatment or spot treat a problematic area. The unit is mounted on a motorized stand so you can comfortably lie on a massage table and the lights can be raised and lowered with ease. We also recommend removing clothing in the areas being treated for maximum absorbance. The session time is 20 minutes with a frequency of 3-5 times per week depending on the desired result.

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