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What to Expect From Your Full Body Photobiomodulation Treatment
Maybe you’ve heard of this photobiomodulation therapy thing, or you’ve seen red light beds at your local wellness or fitness center, but you’re not sure what it is or how it works. Photobiomodulation (PBMT) is a process that happens at the cellular level, but it has a big impact on how you feel.
If you’ve been interested to try but unsure what it’ll feel like, this article is for you. Learn what PBMT is, what kinds of issues it can address, and step-by-step how your treatment session will go.
What is PBMT?
Photobiomodulation is a bit of a mouthful, but it breaks down nicely:
- Photo = Light
- Bio = Life
- Modulation = Change
A photobiomodulation device, either as a bed, panel, or even laser device, uses light to activate a change in the body. Photobiomodulation most specifically refers to red light and near-infrared light that actives that mitochondria, which you may remember as the powerhouse of the cell. Mitochondria are important for the synthesis, or production, of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which provide energy to our cells, and ultimately our bodies.
What is PBMT Used For?
Photobiomodulation therapy has a number of effects on the body, such as reducing inflammation and boosting collagen production.
Sleep & Mood: Using PBMT in the evening can help you correct your circadian rhythm that can be easily disrupted by fluorescent light from your place of work and blue light from computer and phone screens. Sleep is also closely linked to our mood, so improved sleep can help improve mood and combat winter blues.
Skin Care: Increased collagen production from PBMT helps improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles, and decreased inflammation can bring down the redness and swelling from acne.
Wound & Scar Healing: Collagen production also helps repair damaged skin, including scar tissue. PBMT also increases the presence of inflammatory mediators to heal wounds faster. This is especially beneficial for slow-healing wounds.
Sports Performance: Using PBMT before a workout can improve the quality of your warmup by helping the body increase circulation and decrease muscle fatigue. After a workout, PBMT can prevent delayed-onset muscle soreness by repairing minor tissue damage that is normal from exercise.
Reduce Pain & Inflammation: Through increased cell energy that increases cell proliferation (replication) as well as a vasodilation effect that temporarily increases circulation in the body, PBMT can resolve pain and inflammation from an injury or chronic condition like arthritis or tendonitis. Additionally, full body photobiomodulation can help combat oxidative stress that can cause inflammation throughout our body.
Before Your Treatment Session
Before your treatment session, you’ll be able to talk to a clinician who can answer any questions you have about the process. This person will also go over your goals for the treatment. Are you looking for something specific, like to improve signs of aging in your skin, or are you looking to use red therapy in the benefit of your overall wellness? It’s important for the clinician to understand what you’re looking to achieve to determine the wavelengths of light as well as any pulsing light settings, the length of the session, how many sessions you’ll need.
There are a few things to be cautious of before starting PBMT. PBMT might not be the best option for you if your skin is sensitive to light or you are taking any medications that affect your skin’s sensitivity to light. Additionally, individuals with tattoos may find tattooed skin is sensitive to PBMT. Individuals who are pregnant, have had an organ transplant, or have cancer should not use PBMT.
During Your Treatment Session
Your treatment session inside the light bed will last between 3 and 15 minutes. Do not exceed 15 minutes in the light bed at one time.
The benefit of photobiomodulation therapy in a light bed, such as a TheraLight bed, is to expose as much of the body as possible to the therapeutic red light. During the treatment session, men should wear shorts, and women should wear shorts and a sports bra to maximize the skin exposed to the light. You will also be provided with protective eyewear.
While the light panels are on, you’ll likely feel warm, but you shouldn’t feel hot. Laying in the bed is a relaxing experience. Your clinician will be able to control the bed from a remote device to turn it on, set the treatment protocols, and set a timer for the duration of the session, so you won’t need to worry about controlling the bed.
After Your Treatment Session
When the light panels turn off, you can exit the bed. PBMT has a vasodilation effect, which is a widening of the blood and lymphatic vessels that temporarily increases circulation. Because of this, some individuals may feel lightheaded after a PBMT treatment. We recommend sitting up slowly and, if you feel lightheaded, wait for a moment to let the feeling pass before standing. This is especially important for your first PBMT treatment.
Outside of this temporary lightheadedness, most individuals don’t feel any side effects. Some of the benefits of PBMT can be felt immediately, such as reduced pain and swelling in an injured area. You may also feel an improved mood or sleep better after a PBMT. If you’re using PBMT before a workout, you may not feel muscle fatigue as early in your exercise.
PBMT Treatment Plans
Photobiomodulation therapy is a dose dependent treatment; that is, multiple treatments will be necessary to achieve your desired sustained results. Your exact treatment plan will be tailored to you and something you work on with the staff at your wellness or fitness center. Plans generally take the following shape, however:
- 3 sessions per week for 2 weeks
- 2 sessions per week until outcomes are achieved
- 1 session per week to maintain results
The length of the sessions as well as the treatment protocols (the wavelength and continuous or pulse settings) will vary based on your goals, but you should be in and out of the center in under an hour.
Ready to try out PMBT? Click the link below to find a TheraLight provider near you.
What is Photobiomodulation Therapy & How It Works With LEDs
Photobiomodulation is more than a fancy buzzword—it’s a therapy that improves the lives of the people who use it. Keep reading to discover how photobiomodulation therapy works and its applications for wellness.
What is Photobiomodulation Therapy?
Photobiomodulation—it might be a mouthful to say, but it’s not as complicated as it sounds. The word can be broken into three parts: photo, bio, and modulation. Photo refers to light, bio means life, and modulation is another way to express change. Photobiomodulation, then, is the use of light to initiate a change in life.
More specifically, photobiomodulation refers to the use of red light, concentrated at certain wavelengths, that targets the chromophores in cellular mitochondria. Mitochondria are cellular organelles often called the “powerhouse of the cell” because of their role in energy production. These powerful little structures break down nutrients and turn them into energy, or adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
When mitochondria absorb concentrated red and near-infrared light, they produce more ATP, which boosts energy transportation within cells and causes increased cell proliferation. Cell proliferation is the process whereby cells divide and replace damaged or dead cells. In damaged tissue, photobiomodulation helps increase the body’s natural healing process.
What is an LED?
LED stands for “light emitting diode.” An LED is a semiconductor device that emits light when an electric current is passed through it. What makes LEDs different from other light bulbs is that they are solid-state devices, meaning they don’t use heated filaments, and therefore don’t rely on thermal radiation to produce light.
LEDs can also be set to specific wavelengths of light, making them ideal for light therapy. The color of light is determined by its wavelength, and LEDs produce different wavelengths of light depending on the distance between the energy bands in the semiconductor material. Different materials used as the semiconductor have different energy bands to produce different colors, but the precise wavelength can be tuned by altering the active region of the material. The semiconductor in TheraLight LEDs, for example, is gallium-aluminum-arsenide, but other semiconductors are gallium-phosphide, gallium-arsenide, and gallium-arsenide-phosphide.
Why LEDs for Photobiomodulation?
LEDs are used for photobiomodulation therapy because they can produce monochromatic light attuned to the specific wavelengths needed for absorption by the chromophores in the mitochondria.
LEDs are different from laser light, another method of photobiomodulation, because they provide a wider treatment area than a tight laser beam. Laser light is good for pinpointing specific areas or penetrating light energy deeper into the body. But LEDs offer a full-body approach to photobiomodulation that’s good for overall wellness and producing photochemical effects in the skin.
Safety Concerns with LED Light Beds & Panels
All types of photobiomodulation are relatively risk free, provided the sessions are directed by a trained technician with a registered medical light therapy device. When using an LED light bed or panel for photobiomodulation, it’s important to be aware of a few things:
- Make sure the device is a medical device registered with the FDA for the use of red light photobiomodulation therapy
- Wear the proper protective eye gear, such as goggles or glasses, provided by the facility
- Do not exceed 15 minutes in a light bed in one session
What is Photobiomodulation Therapy used for?
Because PBMT increases cellular energy, it has a wide variety of applications. One of the most popular applications of PBMT is to reduce inflammation, but it’s also used in pain relief, skin care, and sports performance.
Inflammation has a lot of causes, and it’s actually a normal part of the body’s immune response. The problem is when inflammation is chronic or long-lasting, such as from oxidative stress or a disease like arthritis or tendonitis. Lasting inflammation can cause permanent damage. PBMT reduces inflammation through increased cellular energy and activity that promotes the transport of inflammatory mediators and repair of damaged tissue.
PBMT decreases nerve sensitivity by decreasing levels the pain-eliciting chemical, bradykinin, and it has a pain-blocking effect on certain nerve fibers. PBMT also helps to reduce pain by normalizing ion channels and releasing endorphins and enkephalins from the brain and adrenal gland that reduces pain.
PBMT increases circulation and promotes the creation of collagen, elastin, and fibroblasts. These components are important materials that make up our skin and other connective tissues. Increased circulation combined with the production of these materials helps improve skin quality and elasticity, which helps fight the formation of wrinkles, speed up wound healing, and repair damage from scarring.
PBMT is used in a few ways to help with sports performance. Increased circulation from PBMT helps achieve a better warmup. Additionally, increased production of ATP provides more energy for cells to spend, leading to lower muscle fatigue. Lastly, using PBMT after a workout helps prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) by repairing the minor tissue damage caused during a workout that likely contributes to soreness.
Benefits of PBMT
PBMT is an alternative treatment to traditional methods for pain and inflammation because it activates the body’s natural healing cycle to repair damage. Traditional methods of pain relief such as over-the-counter or prescription medications only mask symptoms. For example, ibuprofen blocks the production and release of prostaglandin from damaged cells, which means the brain just doesn’t get as strong of a pain signal from the damaged part of the body.
PBMT has minimal side effects, while medications can cause more damage, especially when taken long-term. Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is difficult for the liver to process, and prolonged use with high doses can cause liver damage. Most people who have a PBMT treatment don’t experience any adverse side effects. Some experience temporary lightheadedness from vasodilation, or widening of blood vessels that is a part of increased circulation.
PBMT is also a noninvasive treatment with no downtime. After a PBMT treatment, a person can go about their normal day. Some methods, like cold therapy, require multiple applications per day to be effective. PBMT is comfortable and isn’t exceptionally warm, and certainly doesn’t involve needles or harmful chemicals like some skin treatments. Sessions shouldn’t exceed 15 minutes, either, so you could have a PBMT session on your lunch break and go right back to work.
Are you a practitioner thinking about adding photobiomodulation therapy to your business? TheraLight offers two unique LED light beds to help your patients achieve their wellness goals. Click the link below to learn more.