Photobiomodulation (light therapy for pain) is improving patient quality of life, with research showing infrared therapy effective in reducing chronic low-back pain
According to the American Chiropractic Association, approximately 31 million Americans experience low-back pain (LBP). And worldwide, back pain is the single leading cause of disability and one of the most common reasons many people miss work. And LBP doesn’t discriminate — people of all ages from adolescents to the elderly are sufferers, with the combination of chiropractic and light therapy for pain offering relief.
While many people recover from the cause of the pain, for others it becomes a chronic condition, and the financial impact of LBP is staggering — at least $50 billion in health care costs each year. And that figure rises sharply to $100 billion when you factor in lost wages and productivity decline. That is a lot of hurting bodies looking for relief on your adjustment table.
Chiropractors are prime candidates for back pain issues. While healing others, performing adjustments day-in and day-out can be hard on the body. We will look at chronic pain and how it impacts the lower back. Whether for a patient or for yourself, learn how the combination of photobiomodulation, also known as low-level light therapy, can help you prolong your career as a chiropractor and help your patients by prolonging the benefits of their care.
Think about all you put your body through, not just giving an adjustment but just in preparation for your patient’s arrival. Next to your hands, your back is probably the most important tool you use to effectively work on your patients and give them the results they expect. But if you are sidelined with a sprain, strain or worse, a ruptured disk, you are potentially looking at weeks or months of recovery and possibly surgery. And you certainly will not be seeing any patients.
Preventative care is key
Keeping your back and core healthy are going to be critical to your ability to keep working on patients. You know the anatomy of the body and you understand the strain and stress put on your back as you work on patients because you are treating those same issues in your patients.
Preventative care is the key to longevity. Getting regular exercise and stretching out those muscles will help, but once inflammation sets in, you are in the thick of battle. With just a 20-minute session of LED light therapy for pain, you are keeping inflammation at bay and those stretches, and exercises, will help keep your back strong and healthy.
Remember, low-level light or LED therapy uses the distribution of light and frequencies to accelerate therapeutic chemical processes in the cells of the human body that ultimately support the body’s ability to promote healing and pain relief. Unlike the highly focused light of a laser, low-level light therapy for pain uses LED diodes with the most commonly used wavelengths of red and near infrared light to deliver diffused light over a larger area of the body. As this light spreads out over the lower back muscles, circulation increases. When circulation increases, more nutrient-rich blood is delivered to nerves, muscles, joints and tissues. When blood flow and circulation increase, there is a natural reduction in pain and inflammation, allowing the body’s natural healing processes to run their course.
All it takes is placing a medical-grade, flexible LED pad containing powerful multiple infrared and visible red diodes directly on your lower back, choosing your pre-programmed setting and relaxing for 20 minutes while the light does all the work. As the light penetrates your tissues, the increase in circulation helps vasodilate the microscopic vascular system while new capillaries form and replace those that are damaged.
These new capillaries carry nutrients and oxygen, in addition to carrying waste products away. Increasing your own circulation and reducing inflammation will help you preserve mobility and reduce your risk of injury so you can keep working on patients.
Help hurting patients
Low-back pain is an incredibly common complaint and you probably spend a good deal of time addressing this issue with your patients.
As a chiropractor, you know that there are typically two major muscles associated with back pain: the quadratus lumborum and the gluteus medias. If those muscles are strained or tight, especially to the point that blood flow is inhibited, then you are going to be putting in some serious work to loosen things up and get the needed blood flow back to those areas to relieve the pain. However, if your patient has a job that requires a lot of time sitting or a lot of time lifting, they might find themselves back on your table if they are unable to keep the muscles loose and the inflammation to a minimum.
Having your patient utilize low-level light therapy prior to your treatment session would help to open those blood vessels, thus reducing the inflammation before you even begin the care session. Getting that blood flow restored and then working on those muscles will help you save some wear and tear on your own back as you work on theirs. It also prolongs the benefits of the excellent adjustments you’ve provided your patient — and when they get results on your table, they will be back.
A 2006 study in the Pain Research and Management journal found that the use of infrared light therapy for pain was effective in reducing chronic low-back pain with no adverse side effects.1 A 2017 study found that low-level light therapy “induces a variety of stimulating processes at the cellular level affecting cell repair mechanisms, the vascular system and lymphatic system.”2
This same study also reported, “recent studies of increasing quality proved the efficacy of LLLT in the treatment of multiple musculoskeletal pain syndromes like neck or lower back pain, tendinopathies (especially of the Achilles tendon) and epicondylopathies, chronic inflammatory joint disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or chronic degenerative osteoarthritis of the large and small joints. In addition, there is recent evidence that LLLT can have a preventive capacity and can enhance muscle strength and accelerate muscle regeneration.”
Science confirms low-level light therapy for pain as a safe, cost-effective and noninvasive option for your patients, as well as your own preventative care.
DAVID CHRISTENSON is the founder and CEO of Neurocare Pro, which serves medical practices across North America. He regularly consults with health care professionals on photobiomodulation advanced modalities with an emphasis on business development for medical practices. He speaks nationally and internationally on the many uses of PBM light therapy, highlighting the research done in the areas of brain health, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and chronic pain relief. He has also been a contributing author on the subject of PBM light therapy in various health care publications, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Pain Res Manag. 2006 Autumn; 11(3): 193-296. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2539004/)
- 2. Z Rheumatol. 2017 Nov; 76(9):806-812. Doi:10.1007/s00393-017-0309-1. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28466181)
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