Written by: Alicia M. Brown, DC, DACNB
What is photobiomodulation?
Photobiomodulation (PBM) employs red or near-infrared (NIR) light (600-1100nm). The current and widely accepted proposal is that low level visible red to near infrared light (NIR) energy is absorbed by mitochondria and converted into ATP which means there is more energy for cells to use. In addition, the process of light therapy creates mild oxidants (ROS), which leads to gene transcription and then to cell repair and healing. The process also releases nitric oxide into the bloodstream and helps to dilate the blood vessels and improve blood circulation.
What does it do?
Photobiomodulation is used to stimulate healing, protect tissue from dying, increase energy production, improve blood flow, and tissue oxygenation. PBM can also act to reduce swelling, increase antioxidants, decrease inflammation, protect against apoptosis, and modulate microglial activation state. All these mechanisms of action strongly suggest that PBM delivered to the head should be beneficial in cases of both acute and chronic TBI. Most reports have used NIR light either from lasers or from light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Many studies in small animal models of acute TBI have found positive effects on neurological function, learning and memory, and reduced inflammation and cell death in the brain. There is evidence that PBM can help the brain repair itself by stimulating the brain to create new neurons and synapses between neurons. In healthy human volunteers (including students and healthy elderly women), PBM has been shown to increase regional cerebral blood flow, tissue oxygenation, and improve sleep, memory, mood, and cognitive function.
Who does it help?
Photobiomodualtion can be used nearly anyone looking to improve blood flow to their brain, increase energy production and decrease inflammation in the brain. In our clinic, we use it with patients who have traumatic brain injuries, post-concussion syndrome, post-stroke symptoms, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzhiemer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders, headaches, migraines, dysautonomias (POTS, Orthostatic Hypotenstion, syncope, etc.), ADHD, Autism, depression, anxiety and many other neurological disorders. Even our staff uses it to maintain good brain health!
What does treatment look like?
While providers use a variety of brands of lasers, all the treatments are painless and non-invasive. Most treatments include contact to the skin with a wand, headband, cap, nasal probe or nasal clip. Other treatments include red light or light therapy panels that hover over the skin which help provide similar benefits in increasing cell energy. Typically, treatments range from 10-20 minutes. While standardized treatment protocols are still being researched, many studies have shown effectiveness with three visits a week for six weeks, for a total of 18 visits.
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