My spine and I have been at each other’s throats for 60 years. The spine laughs at me and says, “You will suffer back and hip pain!” I reply, “I will investigate every pain therapy, and I will beat you.” Like me, you might want to know what happens when you use red light therapy for chronic pain.
Red light therapy can really help with chronic pain. It reduces inflammation, blocks pain receptors, increases blood flow, repairs soft tissue, and increases ATP, the energy carriers that power these actions. Red light therapy helps with chronic conditions such as back pain and arthritis.
Red Light Therapy for Chronic Pain: Safe and Drug-Free
Red light therapy (RLT) can reduce and even eliminate chronic pain. My physical therapist uses photobiomodulation (the scientific term for red light therapy) every day. RLT is non-invasive, drug-free, and available without a prescription. It is safe, tested, and effective.
This is what happens when you use red light therapy for chronic pain:
- increased cellular energy promotes healing
- blocking of pain sensitivity in the nerves
- increased blood flow reduces inflammation and promotes healing
- reduced inflammation lessens the harmful biological activity
- increased collagen and elastin help rebuild soft tissue
Chronic Pain Ruins Lives
- disrupts sleep
- causes emotional problems
- reduces social activities
- changes the appetite
- can cause anxiety and depression
- should be addressed and not ignored
Chronic pain is an insidious condition that can wreak havoc on an individual’s life. It is a persistent discomfort or agony that endures for more than 12 weeks, and it can linger long after an injury has healed or an underlying medical condition has been treated.
Unlike acute pain, which is temporary and usually subsides within a few days or weeks, chronic pain is a constant companion. It can affect any part of the body and can range from mild to severe, leaving individuals struggling to carry out even the simplest of tasks.
Living with chronic pain can be an unrelenting burden that takes a toll on a person’s physical, emotional, and social well-being. It can disrupt sleep, diminish appetite, and lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. The impact of chronic pain on a person’s quality of life can be profound, leaving them feeling isolated, frustrated, and hopeless.
Despite the availability of treatment options, many individuals with chronic pain struggle to find relief. The complexity of chronic pain and its underlying causes can make it difficult to manage effectively, leaving individuals feeling helpless and alone. As such, it is important for those living with chronic pain to seek out support and treatment options that can help them regain control of their lives.
Types of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is a complex and multifaceted condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Understanding the different types of chronic pain is crucial to finding the right treatment and managing symptoms effectively.
Neuropathic pain is a type of chronic pain that is often described as a burning, tingling, or shooting sensation. It is caused by damage or dysfunction of the nervous system and can be particularly challenging to treat.
Musculoskeletal pain, on the other hand, affects the muscles, bones, and joints. This type of pain can range from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating pain that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.
Finally, visceral pain is caused by damage or dysfunction of the internal organs. This type of pain is often described as a deep, aching sensation and can be particularly challenging to diagnose and treat.
While each type of chronic pain is unique, they all share one common characteristic – they can be incredibly disruptive to a person’s life. With proper treatment and management, however, it is possible to reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life for those living with chronic pain.
Causes of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is a complex condition that can arise from a variety of factors, ranging from physical injury and medical conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia to psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
While some cases of chronic pain may be the result of a specific injury or medical condition, others may have no clear cause, making it difficult to pinpoint an exact source of the pain.
In addition to physical and medical factors, chronic pain can also be influenced by a variety of environmental and lifestyle factors. For example, a sedentary lifestyle or poor nutrition may contribute to the development of chronic pain. Similarly, exposure to environmental toxins or pollutants may exacerbate existing pain symptoms.
Symptoms of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is a complex condition that manifests itself in a variety of ways, depending on the underlying cause and the type of pain being experienced. It is not uncommon for individuals with chronic pain to report a range of symptoms, such as a dull, aching pain or a sharp, shooting pain that can be difficult to describe.
Alongside this, individuals may also experience stiffness, soreness, or a burning sensation in the affected area, which can be accompanied by feelings of fatigue or exhaustion.
Moreover, the effects of chronic pain can extend beyond the physical realm and impact an individual’s emotional and mental well-being. This can manifest in various mood changes, such as irritability, anxiety, or depression, that can make it challenging to maintain a positive outlook. Chronic pain can also cause disruptions to sleep patterns, leading to feelings of exhaustion and a decreased ability to perform daily activities.
Pros and Cons of Conventional Chronic Pain Remedies
Medications, physical therapy, and surgery are effective at reducing pain. Ibuprofen certainly helps my chronic hip pain, but I worry about the severe stomach bleeding that it can cause.
Pros and Cons of Medications for Chronic Pain
Medications can be a quick and accessible way to alleviate pain symptoms. However, it is essential to understand the potential risks associated with using medication to manage chronic pain.
Opioids, for example, can be highly effective in reducing pain and inflammation, but they also carry a high risk of addiction and overdose. Similarly, NSAIDs and acetaminophen can be helpful in managing pain, but they can also lead to side effects like drowsiness, nausea, and stomach bleeding.
One medication that is often used to manage pain is Tylenol, also known as acetaminophen. While it can be effective in reducing pain, it is also a leading cause of liver failure in the United States. This highlights the importance of carefully considering the potential risks and benefits of using medication to manage chronic pain.
Pros and Cons of Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain
I am a huge fan of physical therapy. I’ve spent many hours getting help from amazing physical therapists throughout my life. Physical therapy is a traditional approach to managing chronic pain. It is this non-invasive and drug-free, but requires a doctor’s referral.
Physical therapy can improve mobility and flexibility, strengthen muscles, and reduce pain. Physical therapy can also help to identify and address the underlying causes of pain, such as poor posture or muscle imbalances. However, physical therapy requires the time and effort required to attend sessions, as well as the potential for discomfort during treatment.
Pros and Cons of Surgery for Chronic Pain
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat chronic pain. Surgery can provide long-term pain relief and can address underlying issues such as nerve damage or joint deterioration.
However, surgery includes the risk of complications such as infection, bleeding, or nerve damage. Surgery is also an invasive and expensive option that requires a significant amount of recovery time and may not always be effective in reducing pain.
What is Red Light Therapy (also known as Photobiomodulation, Low-Level Laser Therapy, and About 70 Other Names)
Red light therapy (RLT) is the low-energy delivery of visible and infrared light to trigger healthy responses. RLT is non-invasive, drug-free, and has no side effects. It is available without a prescription, and you can do red light therapy at home.
RLT is used to treat skin conditions, wounds, and chronic pain. Its effects on energy, blood, and inflammation work on the entire head and body.
How Red Light Therapy Works
Red light therapy works by delivering low-level light wavelengths to the body’s tissues. Specific wavelengths of light penetrate deep into the skin to the cells inside the body.
The light stimulates cellular energy production, increased blood flow, and “transcription factors” that reduce inflammation. The increase in blood flow helps to reduce inflammation and swelling, which in turn reduces pain. Red light therapy also blocks the nervous system’s ability to sense pain.
Benefits of Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy offers several benefits for chronic pain relief. It is a non-invasive and drug-free treatment option that is safe and painless. The FDA allows manufacturers to market red light therapy for hair growth, dental procedures, and pain relief.
Red light therapy can also be used in combination with other treatment methods to enhance their effectiveness and speed up the healing process. Additionally, red light therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and promote tissue repair, all of which contribute to pain relief.
Studies Supporting the Effectiveness of Red Light Therapy for Chronic Pain
To start, here is a good search string for pubmed.gov, the U.S. National Institute of Health’s science database: pubmed.gov. This allows you to view the studies in their natural environment. Because red light therapy goes by so many names, the results are missing dozens of studies. But it’ll get you started.
A 2016 study in Acupuncture in Medicine[i] analyzed 15 randomized clinical trials of RLT for chronic back pain. Authors found reduced pain outcomes 100% of the time using RLT compared to a placebo. The results they compiled included those in the table below.
|13 Studies Showing Red Light Therapy Helps with Chronic Back Pain|
|1||52 men with non-specific lower back pain that started an average of 13 months before the trial||Reduced pain, decreased standardized disability score, increased range of motion, with immediate results lasting at least 12 weeks|
|2||Reduces pain and disability score immediately after therapy||Reduced pain, increased range of motion, and participants self-rated their condition as better after the first treatment|
|3||63 men and women with degeneration in the lumbar who were taking pain relievers||Reduced pain, decreased disability score, increased range of motion, with immediate results lasting at least 4 weeks|
|4||41 men and women with lower back pain||decreased pain, increased range of motion, objectively improved immediately and at 6 weeks|
|5||100 men and women with low back pain||decreased pain, improved self-assessment immediately and 6 months after treatment|
|6||144 men and women with low back pain||decreased pain, improved self-assessment immediately and 1 year after treatment|
|7||20 men and women with low back pain||Reduced pain, decreased disability score, increased range of motion, with immediate results|
|8||56 geriatric men and women with degenerative issues causing low back pain||Reduced pain, decreased disability score, increased range of motion, with immediate results|
|28 men and women with lower back pain||Improved self-assessment immediately after therapy|
|9||111 men and women experiencing back pain for an average of the last 10 years||Improved self-assessment immediately after therapy and again at 12 weeks later|
|10||85 men and women with low back pain||Improved self-assessment immediately after therapy|
|11||60 men and women with low back pain||Improved self-assessment immediately after therapy|
|12||100 men and women||Reduced pain immediately after therapy|
|13||41 men and women||Reduces pain an disability score immediately after therapy|
How Red Light Therapy Helps with Chronic Back Pain
Back pain is a common chronic pain condition that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Red light therapy has shown promising results in reducing back pain through its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
The therapy works by penetrating the skin and stimulating the production of cellular energy in the affected area, promoting tissue repair, and reducing inflammation. Red light therapy has also been shown to increase blood flow to the affected area, which can improve mobility and decrease pain. Studies have shown that red light therapy can provide significant relief to those with chronic back pain, making it a potential alternative to conventional treatments.
|How Red Light Therapy Helps with Chronic Back Pain|
|Red Light Therapy Mechanism||How this Helps Reduce Chronic Back Pain|
|anti-inflammatory||Reduces pain from swelling, prostaglandins, and stiffness|
|collagen production||Collagen provides structure and support to connective tissues.|
|elastin production||Elastin helps tissues stretch and return to their original shape after movement.|
|blood flow||Blood flow delivers necessary nutrients and oxygen to healing tissues; reduces inflammation; promotes tissue repair; removes toxins; and stimulates endorphin release.|
|ATP production||reduces muscle fatigue; provides energy for tissue repair|
Red Light Therapy Blocks Inflammatory Prostaglandins
Prostaglandins, those curious hormone-like substances, play a significant role in our body’s response to injury. They are responsible for the inflammation, pain, swelling, and fever that we experience when we get hurt. Prostaglandins act on nerve endings, sensitizing them and making them more receptive to pain stimuli.
But what if there was a way to interrupt this cycle of pain and discomfort? Enter red light therapy, a promising approach that has been shown to block prostaglandin production. By targeting the COX-2 enzyme, red light therapy effectively prevents prostaglandins from causing pain, swelling, and sensitivity.
Increased Collagen and Elastin Production
Red light therapy promotes the production of essential proteins such as collagen and elastin. These proteins play a vital role in providing structural support to connective tissues, particularly in the back.
Collagen, which acts as a scaffolding for tissues, helps to maintain their strength and stability. Elastin, on the other hand, enables tissues to stretch and return to their original shape after movement.
When red light therapy is applied, it stimulates the body’s natural production of collagen and elastin. This, in turn, helps to repair damaged tissues and improve the overall health and function of the back. This can lead to a reduction in inflammation and pain, as well as an improvement in mobility and range of motion.
Increased Blood Flow
Red light therapy increases blood flow to the painful area. The blood flow delivers necessary nutrients and oxygen to the affected tissues. This can help to reduce inflammation and promote tissue repair.
Improved blood flow can also help to remove waste products and toxins that may contribute to pain and discomfort in the affected area.
Increased Adenosine Triphosphate
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the primary energy currency of the cell, serving as a vital component for various cellular processes such as muscle contraction and tissue repair.
Red light therapy has been found to significantly increase ATP production, leading to enhanced cellular energy levels and improved tissue repair, consequently providing relief from low back pain.
Depletion of ATP can contribute to back pain, muscle fatigue and impairment.
Red light therapy can stimulate ATP production, giving energy to the muscle and allowing it to work correctly again.
How Red Light Therapy Helps with Chronic Arthritis Pain
Red Light Therapy has been shown to help alleviate the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. By reducing inflammation and promoting tissue regeneration, red light therapy can improve joint mobility and function. It can also help to reduce the need for pain medication, which can have harmful side effects.
Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints and can cause chronic pain and inflammation. Red light therapy has the potential to be a safe and effective treatment option for arthritis, particularly for reducing inflammation, increasing blood flow, and promoting the production of collagen and elastin.
|How Red Light Therapy Helps with Chronic Arthritis Pain|
|Red Light Therapy Mechanism||How this Helps Reduce Chronic Arthritis Pain|
|reduced cytokines||reduces pain, swelling, and stiffness|
|increased blood flow||reduces stiffness, aids in repair|
|increased collagen and elastin||cushions and protects joints|
|increased ATP||promotes joint repair|
Reduced Cytokine Production Reduces Arthritis Swelling
Inflammation is a common factor in arthritis, and red light therapy can help reduce it. When the body experiences inflammation, it releases cytokines, which are proteins that signal immune cells to the affected area. This can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Red light therapy has been shown to reduce cytokine production, which can lead to a decrease in inflammation and an improvement in arthritis symptoms.
Increased Blood Flow Reduces Joint Stiffness
Red light therapy can also increase blood flow to the affected joints, which can help promote healing and alleviate pain.
Blood carries nutrients and oxygen to the joints, and when there is insufficient blood flow, the joints can become stiff and painful. Red light therapy has been shown to increase blood flow by stimulating the production of nitric oxide, a molecule that helps dilate blood vessels and improve circulation.
Increased Collagen and Elastin Cushion Arthritic Joints
In some cases, arthritis can lead to the breakdown of connective tissues, including collagen and elastin, resulting in further damage to the joints.
Cartilage is the connective tissue that cushions the joints. Collagen forms the structure of cartilage. Elastin gives cartilage its elasticity and shock absorption.
By promoting the production of collagen and elastin, red light therapy can help maintain the health and integrity of the joints, which can reduce arthritis pain and prevent further damage. This activity provides cushion and protection to arthritic joints.
Increased ATP Promotes Arthritis Repair
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a molecule that provides energy for cellular processes in the body, including those involved in joint function and maintenance. Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints and can result in reduced ATP production due to inflammation and damage to joint tissues.
Increasing ATP production may help to improve joint function and reduce arthritis pain by providing the energy necessary for cellular repair and maintenance. ATP is also involved in regulating inflammation, and higher levels of ATP may help to reduce inflammation in the joint, which can contribute to pain and stiffness.
Red light therapy (photobiomodulation) is a non-invasive, drug-free therapy available without a prescription that helps with chronic pain. It reduces inflammation, increases cellular energy, produces proteins to support soft tissue, and increases blood flow. Many studies have excellent results testing red light therapy to reduce chronic pain. Results were immediate and lasted for weeks and months, depending on the study.
[i] Glazov G, Yelland M, Emery J. Low-level laser therapy for chronic non-specific low back pain: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Acupunct Med. 2016 Oct;34(5):328-341. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2015-011036. Epub 2016 May 20. PMID: 27207675; PMCID: PMC5099186.