How does light therapy work?
History of Light Therapy
Laser light therapy was first used clinically in 1902, when Danish researcher Niels Finsen showed that light stimulated the immune system and could help treat infections. In 1903, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research, having developed a lamp that could successfully treat lupus. Over the years, laser light therapy has been used to treat tuberculosis, sepsis, polio, encephalitis, and oral mucositis.These days, laser light therapy is still commonly used in hospitals to treat a range of pain conditions, lymphoedemas, wounds and scars. Babies who are also born with jaundice are still treated under blue lights.With the development of safe, medically-approved laser light therapy devices, it's now being used to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, some mental health disorders, Fibromyalgia, muscle and joint problems, gut disorders including leaky gut syndrome, cardiovascular issues, and even multiple sclerosis. Laser light helmets are also used to treat a range of brain conditions, including concussion, as well as improve cognition, sleep quality, and mood. Laser light therapy and infrared saunas have also become a key component for sporting recovery and performance.
Mechanism of action
Light therapy (or photobiomodulation) is the application of non-ionizing electromagnetic energy to trigger photochemical cellular reactions. The current, widely accepted mechanistic model is that red and infrared light is absorbed by the mitochondria to produce cellular energy, or ATP. Hence the popular phrase that laser light therapy "energises the cell". In unhealthy cells, cytochrome oxidase c, a mitochondrial enzyme, accepts light energy at specific wavelengths to stimulate the electron transport chain, leading to an increase in ATP. As well as an increase in ATP, this cellular process also triggers a series of reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as intra-cellular calcium, which regulates cell growth and homeostasis; cAMP, a powerful anti-inflammatory; and nitric oxide (NO), which promotes vasodilation and circulation. The net result is cellular healing and repair.
One of the most important parameters in photobiomodulation is wavelength. The correct wavelength for the target cell and reaction must be employed, otherwise optimum absorption will not occur. Research has shown that this tends to be between 633-970 nm, depending on the intended effect of treatment. Infrared light is generally considered anything over 800-1000nm, while red light is considered 620-800 nm. We refer to this spectrum of light as non-ionizing, and it is the opposite end of the light spectrum to harmful UV light, which ionizes human cells to cause sunburn and skin cancers.Our clinical lasers come with multiple red and infrared wavelength options. Simply follow our professional protocols, and select the recommended handset. Sometimes, you may wish to combine different wavelengths to the same injury site, to stimulate different cellular processes. Instructions on how and when to do this are provided to you as part of your training with our devices.
Frequency refers to the speed that the electromagnetic waves travel, written in Hertz. Brain waves typically have a frequency up to 100 Hz, while research is identifying healing effects driven by other Hz ranges up to 852 Hz. All our devices come with recommended Hertz presets, however can also be adjusted by the clinician depending on their intended effect.
Dose refers to the total amount of energy applied to the body, and is provided by J/cm2 (also referred to as fluence). The correct dose must be applied to ensure optimal results. Laser therapy has a biphasic dose response, meaning that when a dosage is too high it can be ineffective and even detrimental to the therapeutic response. The difference between Class 3b and Class 4 lasers is largely dependent upon the dose that can be applied to the body. A higher dose will more likely result in photothermal cellular effects, heating up the tissues until a burn occurs. This is why Class 4 lasers are often used surgically: they are intended to ‘burn off’ pathological cells. Class 3b lasers have enough power to stimulate cellular processes required for healing, while still being classed as 'cold' laser, meaning that they won't excessively heat the body. All SYMBYX lasers are Class 3b and super-pulsed, which allows them to provide a higher dosage without overheating. Our clinical lasers are fully adjustable to modulate dose based upon total number of joules, time, handset, and output power.
SYMBYX lasers are the first, ARTG-listed Class 3b medical lasers approved for application of photobiomics in a neurodegenerative condition such as Parkinson's. Photobiomics is the application of photobiomodulation to influence the gut and the its microbiome. This is an emergent field of research, with some of the first studies in the world published by SYMBYX and its consultant scientists. Research has shown that, as well as promoting tissue healing and repair, PBM can also positively influence the gut microbiome. This mechanism, to treat conditions such as Parkinson's, Fibromyalgia, Alzheimer's, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Cardiovascular Disease, and other metabolic conditions via gut-organ axes, is one avenue of research that SYMBYX is heavily invested in.