Red light therapy for back pain scientific research

Red Light Therapy For Back Pain - Review Of Scientific Studies

Many of us know the pain and discomfort caused by a sore back too well. Here's an interesting fact: Red light therapy has been scientifically proven to reduce chronic low back pain effectively. 


This blog post will explore the scientific research on how red and infrared light therapy, in science often referred to as low-level laser therapy or photobiomodulation, can help relieve back pain at home using light energy.


In fact, the American College of Physicians recommends low-level laser therapy as a noninvasive treatment of low back pain. [1]

Key Takeaways


1. Red light therapy is a scientifically proven and non - invasive treatment that effectively reduces chronic low back pain. Whether your back pain is caused by degenerative changes like osteoarthritis, herniated disc or the breakdown of cartilage, or your back pain is a result of nerve compression such as spinal stenosis and sciatica, deep healing red light therapy can help relieve your pain and repair tendons, cartilage, and nerves.


2. It offers several benefits, including reducing inflammation, increasing blood flow and capillary formation, as well as accelerating healing and providing pain relief.


3. Red light therapy works by stimulating cellular energy production, activating anti - inflammatory responses, and modulating pain signaling pathways in the body.

Benefits of Red Light Therapy for Back Pain 

Red light therapy (RLT) helps lessen long-term back pain. This treatment shines red and near-infrared light on your body, which in turn stimulates various biological processes that help ease (lower) back pain.

Repair of degenerative changes

Deep healing therapy helps repair degenerative changes in tendons, cartilage and bones in 2 ways:


1) Through enhancing cell proliferation that activate signaling pathways to up-regulate growth factors.

2) Increasing the production of mesenchymal stem cells.


This stimulates the repair and re-growth of tendons, cartilage and bones.

"These low doses of light have demonstrated the ability to heal skin, nerves, tendons, cartilage and bones." [2]

Reduction of inflammation

Red light therapy has been found to activate anti-inflammatory responses in the body, which helps reduce pain and inflammation. It works through modulation of inflammatory pathways.


This means that red light therapy can help decrease an excessive and uncontrolled inflammatory response in the body such as swelling. This is especially beneficial for elderly individuals who may experience chronic inflammation.

"Laser therapy is a non-invasive method that contributes to pain relief and reduces inflammation, parallel to the enhanced healing and tissue repair processes." [3]

Nerve Regeneration

Deep healing supercharges cellular energy and restores normal mitochondrial functioning. This speeds up nerve regeneration and supports nerve repair. 

"Red to near-infrared LEDs have been shown to promote mitochondrial oxidative metabolism. In this study, LED irradiation improved nerve regeneration and increased antioxidation levels in the chamber fluid. Therefore, we propose that antioxidation induced by LEDs may be conducive to nerve regeneration." [4]

Increased blood flow and capillary formation

Another biological process the light stimulates is that it boosts the flow of blood and makes more capillaries. More blood means more oxygen, nutrients and water get to where they need to go.


This speeds up healing and lowers pain in your back. Also, new capillaries allow for better delivery of what your body needs to heal fast. 

"A significant increase in blood flow was noted in the treated group" [5]


"The results indicated that LLLT accelerated collateral circulation and enhanced microcirculation" [6]

Accelerated healing and pain relief 

This LED therapy can accelerate the healing at the cellular level, helping to promote faster recovery.


LED light therapy devices stimulate the production of energy in our cells.  This extra energy helps our cells function better and can lead to reduced pain and faster healing. Red light therapy can be used on large areas or even for our whole body, making it a convenient option for managing pain.

“The laser causes hyperpolarization of the cell membrane and activation of the resynthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides free energy for the regenerative bioprocesses through hydrolysis.” [7]

Modulation of pain signaling pathways

Red light therapy can help alleviate back pain by modulating pain signaling pathways in the body. By targeting these pathways, red light therapy offers a non-invasive and drug-free method to manage and reduce back pain for elderly individuals.

“In addition to the demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects, LLLT may have benefits provided by its ability to act on nerves by reducing pain transmission and activating endogenous opioid receptors” [8]

Scientific Evidence for Red Light Therapy Low Back Pain

Scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of red light therapy for back pain relief, reducing inflammation and pain. Below is a table of randomized controlled trials and clinical studies demonstrating the positive effects of low-level light therapy.

Clinical studies and trials

Study

Link

Findings

Chronic Low Back Pain

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the IR wrap has clearly demonstrated that it is easy to use, safe and effective, and reduced chronic back pain by 50% over six weeks.

Osteoporosis

LLLI can effectively improve osteoporosis, increase BMD, improve bone structure and improve bone biomechanical properties

Spinal Cord Injury

LLL therapy was able to reduce inflammation and also attenuate neuronal damage after spinal cord damage.

Non Specific Chronic Low back Pain (NSCLBP)

Our findings indicate that LLLT is an effective method for relieving pain in NSCLBP patients. However, there is still a lack of evidence supporting its effect on function.

Total Hip Arthroplasty

We conclude that PBMt is effective in decreasing pain intensity and post-surgery inflammation in patients receiving total hip arthroplasty.

Application of Red Light Therapy for Pain

Red light therapy can be applied to effectively target and treat specific areas of back pain, providing relief and promoting healing.

Effectiveness compared to other treatments

This comparison signifies the potential of red and near-infrared light therapy as a safe and effective alternative, especially for elderly individuals who are looking for non-invasive and risk-free options to manage their back pain.

Treatment Type

Effectiveness

Benefits

Red Light Therapy

Highly Effective

Non-invasive, drug-free pain management, stimulates collagen production, reduces inflammation, accelerates healing, improves skin condition

Pharmacological Intervention

Effective

Quick relief, but potential for side effects and dependency

Physical Therapy

Effective

Can be beneficial, but may require longer, strenuous sessions. Can be costly.

Massages

Variable

Can be beneficial in the short-term, depending on the type of back pain. Can be costly.

Surgery

Highly Effective

Can provide relief, but involves invasive procedures and extended recovery time.

Targeted treatment for specific areas

Red light therapy via a red light therapy belt can be used for targeted treatment on specific areas of the body, including the back. This means that you can focus the therapy directly on the area where you are experiencing pain or discomfort.


By using red light therapy on a specific area, such as your lower back, you can maximize its benefits and potentially reduce pain more effectively. This targeted approach allows for a more personalized and tailored treatment experience, which may be particularly beneficial for elderly individuals who may have specific areas of concern or localized pain.

Recommended treatment protocols

To receive the maximum benefits of red light therapy for back pain, it is recommended to follow these treatment protocols:

  • Follow a consistent treatment schedule: Red light therapy works best when used consistently over a period of time. Aim for daily treatments or as advised by your healthcare provider.

  • Positioning: To be effective for pain management, the light source should be as close to the skin as possible for deep tissue penetration. A wrap/ belt product provides significant advantages over panels.

  • Be patient and persistent: Red light therapy takes time to show its effects, so it's important to be patient and persistent with your treatments. Results may vary depending on individual factors such as severity of back pain and overall health condition.

Side effects and risks

Red light therapy is considered safe to use, especially for elderly individuals. It has virtually no risks or serious side effects. In fact, a study found that red light therapy was effective in reducing chronic low back pain with no adverse effects observed.


This means that it can be a safe and non-invasive treatment option for managing back pain without any major risks involved. Additionally, red light therapy is also considered safe for cancer patients, making it a viable option for those undergoing cancer treatments who may experience back pain as a result.

Conclusion: Red and Infrared Light Therapy For Pain Management

Scientific studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in relieving pain and promoting healing. With its non-invasive nature and minimal side effects, red light therapy offers a promising treatment option for individuals suffering from back pain.

FAQs

1. What is red light therapy?

Red light therapy uses red and NIR light to stimulate cellular metabolism, collagen production, manage pain and increase blood circulation.

2. Can I use red light for other types of pain?

Yes, you can use it for a range of pains as it helps manage different chronic pain conditions.

3. Is there scientific backing on the effectiveness of Red Light Therapy?

Yes, many studies show that red light therapy can help with chronic pain conditions, including back pain! These studies have been discussed above. You may refer to the references below to further read into these studies.


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References

[1] Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, McLean RM, Forciea MA; Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians; Denberg TD, Barry MJ, Boyd C, Chow RD, Fitterman N, Harris RP, Humphrey LL, Vijan S. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Apr 4;166(7):514-530. doi: 10.7326/M16-2367. Epub 2017 Feb 14. PMID: 28192789.


[2] Cotler HB, Chow RT, Hamblin MR, Carroll J. The Use of Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) For Musculoskeletal Pain. MOJ Orthop Rheumatol. 2015;2(5):00068. doi: 10.15406/mojor.2015.02.00068. Epub 2015 Jun 9. PMID: 26858986; PMCID: PMC4743666.


[3] Dompe C, Moncrieff L, Matys J, Grzech-Leśniak K, Kocherova I, Bryja A, Bruska M, Dominiak M, Mozdziak P, Skiba THI, Shibli JA, Angelova Volponi A, Kempisty B, Dyszkiewicz-Konwińska M. Photobiomodulation-Underlying Mechanism and Clinical Applications. J Clin Med. 2020 Jun 3;9(6):1724. doi: 10.3390/jcm9061724. PMID: 32503238; PMCID: PMC7356229.


[4] Ishiguro M, Ikeda K, Tomita K; Effect of near-infrared light-emitting diodes on nerve regeneration. 2010 doi.org/10.1007/s00776-009-1438-4


[5] Frangez I, Cankar K, Ban Frangez H, Smrke DM. The effect of LED on blood microcirculation during chronic wound healing in diabetic and non-diabetic patients-a prospective, double-blind randomized study. Lasers Med Sci. 2017 May;32(4):887-894. doi: 10.1007/s10103-017-2189-7. Epub 2017 Mar 25. PMID: 28342007.


[6] Ihsan FR. Low-level laser therapy accelerates collateral circulation and enhances microcirculation. Photomed Laser Surg. 2005 Jun;23(3):289-94. doi: 10.1089/pho.2005.23.289. PMID: 15954817.


[7] Ivandic T. Low-Level Laser Therapy. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2021 Feb 5;118(5):69. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.m2021.0034. PMID: 33785126; PMCID: PMC8188418.


[8] Hamblin MR. Can osteoarthritis be treated with light? Arthritis Res Ther. 2013 Oct 29;15(5):120. doi: 10.1186/ar4354. PMID: 24286607; PMCID: PMC3978432.


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