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LLLT for Pain Management

The therapeutic effects of Low Level Laser therapy for modulating pain and inflammation.

Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) for Pain Management 

Light has been a tool in healing in many cultures throughout history. In the United States, LLLT was put aside with the invention of antibiotics. However, light therapy has been making a strong comeback in the last 50 years as chronic disease increases, antibiotics fail, and people demand alternatives to drugs and surgery. The term, “photobiomodulation” (PBMT)¹ marks the formal acceptance of light therapy into modern conventional medicine. However, LLLT is not new. Research on LLLT goes back decades, published by major universities all over the world.

Table 1: Light Spectrum 

Name Wavelength Health Effects
Gamma Ray < 0.01 nm Can cause cancer
X-ray 0.01 nm – 10 nm Can cause cancer
Ultraviolet 10 nm – 380 nm Can cause skin cancer
Visible 380 nm – 700 nm Phototherapeutic effect on biological tissue2
Infrared 700 nm – 1 mm Human eye cannot detect IR; prolonged exposure is hazardous to eyes
Microwave 1 mm – 1 meter Absorbed by human tissue; severe thermal damage

Photobiomodulation Therapy is a form of light therapy that utilizes non-ionizing³ types of light sources, including LASERS, LEDs, and broad-band light, in the visible and infrared spectrum. It is a process that results in beneficial therapeutic outcomes including but not limited to the alleviation of pain or inflammation, promotion of wound healing, and tissue regeneration. Since 19674, PBMT has been used to treat a variety of conditions – including pain relief, hair loss prevention, and hair regrowth, acne treatment, anti-aging (collagen production and wrinkle reduction), fat loss, and stem cell production. Efficacy for the treatment of these various conditions lies in the wavelength and the treatment protocols.

The physical differences between the various devices currently available focused on the method of delivery. Now, designs range from devices requiring a medical professional to apply to smaller home use, handheld, small point application devices. Each of these designs features light elements that are either LASER or LED, and unique configurations of these elements. Effectiveness is determined by the amount of light energy delivered; design, if it encourages compliance through the ease of use and portability, may optimize results through diligent use.

Technical characteristics are similar across all devices in FDA product code ILY, and indications for use all require topical warming to affect temporary pain relief. Currently, there are no published, peer-reviewed works that unequivocally refute the benefits of photobiomodulation.

¹ “Photo” means “light”; “Bio” means “life”; “Modulation” means “a change” in something; Therefore, in photobiomodulation, light is used to cause a change in living organisms.   
² A Protective Mechanism of Visible Red Light in Normal Human Dermal Fibroblasts: Enhancement of GADD45A-MediatedDNA Repair Activity; Journal of Investigative Dermatology(2017)137,466-474   
³ Non-ionizing radiation cannot disrupt the atoms and molecules within the body, and therefore cannot damage tissue in living organisms.
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