What is Photobiomodulation?
Photobiomodulation is the Modulation of a Biological system with Photons.
Very specific wavelengths of light, measured in nanometers, have different absorption points and capacities in the cells. Green for example is absorbed into the blood, Reds and shorter Near Infrareds are absorbed into the Cytochrome C Oxidase in the Mitochondria of the cells, and longer near infrareds like 940nm are absorbed into the water in the cell membrane.
What this means is we can modulate biological responses to a degree with wavelengths, and then shape those responses with intensity, frequency and digital coding.
Photobiomodulation therapy or PBMt therapy is a wellness modality that uses non-ionizing light sources in the visible and infrared spectrum (lasers, LEDs, and broadband light).
Photobiomodulation therapy has beneficial therapeutic outcomes for the promotion of wound healing, tissue regeneration, and alleviation of pain. Photobiomodulation is used by healthy people as well for improving cognition, skincare, recovery after competition or intense training, and preconditioning.
Credited with the discovery of Photobiomodulation is the Hungarian physician Endre Mester, founder of the Laser Research Center at the Semmelweis Medical University, Budapest. The accidental discovery was made because of a faulty low-level ruby laser which was supposed to show improvement in reducing tumors. The original experiment failed but Mester noticed that the treated mice show faster hair regeneration than the control group and called his discovery “laser biostimulation” later became more popular as Low-Level Laser Therapy.
When mentioning Low-Level Laser Therapy we have to be sure to mention Low-Level Light Therapy which was introduced after LEDs started to be used as light sources in studies. Photobiomodulation has many names: LLLT, Laser Biostimulation, Laser Phototherapy, Low-Power Laser Irradiation, Low-Power Laser Therapy, Red Light Therapy, LED Light Therapy, LED Light Therapy. Different names were used in different medical studies over the years which caused confusion on the subject of light healing. The term “Photobiomodulation” was adopted to negotiate this confusion and in 2015 it was added to the National Library of Medicine MeSH database.
How does Photobiomodulation Work?
Research shows that if you illuminate the belly of a rat, the wound on the back will heal faster. It is kind of like saying if we treat the elbow, the knee will get better. We might for example see changes in brain function, even though we are not illuminating the brain.
The objective of whole body Photobiomodulation (PBM) then is to create systemic benefits of detoxification, improved circulation and improved energy throughout the entire body. Changing the health of the cells changes the health of the entire body. The effects may not be as immediate as a laser, but the long-term PBM therapy benefits of gradual whole body changes can be profound.
Traditional studies of Photobiomodulation (PBM) were based on localized treatments. Traditional research used LED probes to illuminate a small wound or treatment area. One of the larger studies posted on the NIH website used 10 LED modules to deliver a total of 41 joules per module or 410 total joules of energy, and the results were positive.
The human body may have 1600 – 2000 square cm’s of skin surface depending on the size of the individual. LED light therapy illuminates a huge surface area of the body with what should be safe yet effective doses of energy. The cumulative dose can be incredible, but the relative energy per cm2 can remain both stimulatory and safe.
The bench that the subject lays on may deliver 12 joules/cm2 to 500 cm2 of surface skin on the back as the focal point of the LED beam is correct. That means delivering 500/cm2 x 12 J = 6,000 Joules of energy.
The front of the body is farther away from the LED’s depending on the contours of the body. As the distance to the LED increases, the levels of irradiance on the skin decreases. If we assume 1/4th of the total irradiance or an average of 3 joules for the remaining 1200 cm2 of skin, then we have 1200 cm2 x 3 J = 3600 Joules.
6,000 + 3600 = 9600 Joules of cumulative energy delivered to the entire body. This is over 20 times to total energy delivered in one of the largest illumination studies completed.
A LED Light Therapy bed delivers a massive amount of cumulative energy but in lower doses of energy that stimulate cellular changes that benefit the entire body.
While there are over 6000 studies, the main effects that researchers seem to be sharing on the traditional approach to PBMt boils down to 4 cellular processes:
- Inflammation – A reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation has been shown in nearly every study and this seems to be the most recognized cellular benefit – Inflammation is the leading cause of disease, quoted as being the root cause of 70% of the mortality diseases in the US. These diseases include cancer, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, fibromyalgia, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.A full body PBMt system treats the entire body – including the largest organ, your skin and the largest mass, your muscles. The systemic benefits may help the body by reducing the load it currently devotes to inflammation and toxicity. Reduce that load and the body has more energy to fight disease and recover.The reduction in inflammation is enhanced by an analgesic effect on nerve fibers which reduces pain. Pain reduction with PBMt is a tremendous asset as PBMt is free of side effects, unlike opioids’ and pain meds.
The side effects of a PBMt session for pain relief are actually positive. Imagine taking an aspirin that actually heals everything else in the body with no side effects.
The entire body is illuminated by what we define as traditional Red/Near Infrared light. ARRC LED takes the benefits of traditional PBMt and expands them dramatically.
- Reduce Toxicity – Toxic threshold is a point whereby the body is overloaded with its ability to process internal and external toxicity. This is the point where most naturopath and integrative medical doctors suggest disease originates. What we want for peak performance is to minimize toxins and optimize nutrients and energy. Photobiomodulation research suggests helps detoxify the body of waste and free radicals. Adding a multiwave system (multiple wavelengths) to a full body chamber might prove to reduce toxicity in different ways, at different cellular depths, and present different healing signatures. This reduces the energy the body dedicates to fighting toxicity and reallocates it towards performance.Think of your body like a 1000-watt light bulb. You have 1000 watts available to manage trillions of processes. Stress and anxiety might steal 100 watts from that total, and stress can cause inflammation. Environmental and food toxicity may be a root cause for leaky gut which escalates into cellular toxicity and inflammation which might steal another 200 watts.
- An increase in cellular energy – The current theory of aging is based on the dysfunction of the energy producing mitochondria. The older we get the more oxidative stress we accumulate and the more damaged our mitochondria become, the less capable we are of producing cellular energy.Mitochondria to a cell, is like a motor to a car. ATP is like gasoline. The respiratory chain inside the mitochondria is kind of like a car motor.
When a 4 cylinder motor in a car has 250,000 miles on it, we may think that the life of that engine is at risk. Things begin to go wrong with the motor and a general rule might be that the car no longer runs.
Photobiomodulation rejuvenates the motor and fuses old worn out mitochondria into ‘giant’ mitochondria. This is analogous to replacing an old worn out 4 cylinder with a brand new V8.
The increase in energy production is coupled with the energetic draw the body invests into detoxifying itself and fighting inflammation. This new healthy energy trickles down into the tissues, organs and systems. The cells live longer, creating more healthy tissues, organs and systems.
The side effects are positive. You just get better. You have less toxicity to fight, less inflammation, and more energy to fight it with.
- Increased circulation – Research suggests that Photobiomodulation seems to stimulate the angiogenesis of new arteries which increases circulation of nutrients to the cells. Now your cells are fed with not just energy, but nutrients and done so within a less toxic cellular environment.In addition, PBMt floods the body with NO2 which relaxes the walls of the veins and arteries further improving circulation.
Photobiomodulation Therapy PBMt can be broken down into 3 aspects. Photo stands for photons of light, Bio stands for the human body and Modulation ties a Red Light Therapy Bed’s ability to modulate biological processes with light.
Photobiomodulation therapy might be broken down into applications made with Lasers (generally for deeper pinpoint augmentation or LED’s for scattered and broad ranges of treatment.
LED Light Therapy
In recent years, non-coherent light sources have become common, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs). LEDs vary from lasers by emitting non-coherent light. The advantages of LED photobiomodulation may include:
- No laser safety considerations.
- FDA approved for OTC and home use.
- The ability to treat a large area at once.
- The possibility of wearable devices.
- Much lower cost.
LED light therapy uses numerous wavelengths that correspond to different visible colors, and each color penetrates the skin at different depths.
Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy is a treatment that uses low wavelength red light and is often enhanced with Near Infrared. Studies suggest that red light may improve skin appearance, reducing wrinkles, scars, redness, and acne. The full effectiveness of red light therapy has not been determined.
Other names for RED Light Therapy (RLT) are:
- Low-level laser light therapy
- Low-power laser therapy
- Non-thermal LED light
- Soft laser therapy
- Cold laser therapy
- Biostimulation, photonic stimulation
- Photobiomodulation and phototherapy
- Infrared Light Therapy
Near-Infrared Therapy is on the spectrum of Infrared light, which is almost not visible. It is the shortest wavelength on the electromagnetic spectrum, and near-infrared light penetrates the deepest. Use of Near-Infrared Therapy generally includes wavelengths from 700 nm to 1000 mm.
LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation)
Lasers are light sources that employ the stimulated emission to create a monochromatic and coherent beam of light of low divergence. According to the research, LASER Photobiomodulation Therapy is a non-invasive and painless therapy method that may have both local and systemic effects on the patients. LASER PBM outcomes depend on wavelength, irradiation mode, pulse duration, pulse time interval, energy fluence, power output, and irradiance.
In addition to biostimulation, a few other names have included:
- Low-Intensity Laser therapy
- Low-Power Laser therapy
- Cold laser
- Soft laser
Laser treatment induces low energy density, but it’s high enough to stimulate the membrane or organelles of the target cell. Different laser light devices produce intense, coherent, monochromatic, and highly collimated light beams. Recent studies have shown that the best wavelength in laser therapy involves visible red and near-infrared (NIR) portions of the electromagnetic spectrum because the biological systems have absorbed these portions.
High-Intensity Laser therapy has been used more recently in the physiotherapy field. The difference between HILT and LLLT is that the light penetrates deeper, quickly bringing a high amount of energy to deep tissues. Also, application techniques, the treatment time, and the cost of the device are different between these two types of laser therapy.
Does Photobiomodulation Therapy heal disease?
No, we cannot and are not saying this.
Does a healthier and stronger body heal itself? This we firmly believe. Photobiomodulation therapy, through its cellular benefits, may augment medical treatments by making the body stronger and healthier.
People Feel, Think, Look, &
A full-body system like the ATP system delivers an enormous amount of healing energy to the entire body in the precise dose needed to stimulate changes.
PBM light therapy utilizing a full-body LED light therapy bed like the ARRC LED’s ATP system presents a tremendous mechanism to augment medical treatments. The benefits of PBMt are systemic and essentially what we want to achieve is a healthier body that is stronger with more energy devoted to optimizing performance. The benefits of detoxification of waste and free radicals, improved circulation, improved arterial connections, improved energy (mitochondrial function), reductions in inflammation, and energized heme strengthen the body. This strength creates energy to better fight health issues. Photobiomodulation Therapy augments medical treatments not by treating a specific issue but rather by helping the body move to higher levels of homeostasis.
Since the benefits begin at the level of energy, they pervade the cells. The benefits to the cells then cascades down into the tissues, organs and systems. As Dr. Hamblin states “benefiting nearly every tissue, organ and system in the body”. If the organs and systems benefit from the cellular cascade, then it follows that conditions with a root cause of inflammation, or toxicity will also resolve.
Product, Pricing, Technology?
Mitochondria, Aging & Photobiomodulation Therapy
Mitochondria are the motors in the body that produce ATP. ATP is the fuel that cells use to thrive. A current theory on aging suggests that as we age, the mitochondria become damaged by free radicals and toxicity. Photobiomodulation has been shown in research to slow, halt and even reverse Mitochondrial Dysfunction and improve the production of ATP.
A whole-body LED Light Therapy Bed delivers photons of different wavelengths throughout the body. The action of improving mitochondrial function improves cellular energy and slows cell death. Improving cellular health and longevity is considered a key factor in aging. The benefits cascade to create improvements in cognition, wellness, performance and aesthetics.
For additional information please visit our Mitochondria, Aging & Photobiomodulation page.
Photobiomodulation Therapy or Laser Therapy?
Lasers create focused coherent light and are extraordinary tools to pinpoint intense energy on an injury. Lasers are excellent tools to focus on localized pain and injuries.
LEDs are non-coherent light sources that instead disperse energy out onto the cells. A powerful light therapy bed delivers massive amounts of energy to the entire body, stimulating reductions in toxicity and inflammation while it improves cellular energy and circulation. The cells get healthier which cascades down into and benefits the tissues, organs and systems. A LED therapy bed helps the entire body get better. Photobiomodulation beds simultaneously affect aesthetics, cognition, pain, inflammation and performance.
Lasers are excellent at focusing on the injury. LED light therapy beds focus on the whole being. Everything gets better.
LED therapy beds that are dose-optimized will outperform beds that are either too weak or overpowered. We don’t take the entire bottle of aspirin – we take 2.
For additional information please visit our LED Light Therapy Bed or Focused Laser page.
Targeting, Dose Multiple Wavelengths, Optimum Dose
Like a multivitamin supplement, multiple photobiomodulation bed wavelengths may trigger different reactions in the cells. As the science of photobiomodulation research improves we believe that wavelengths, pulse and dose will become more specialized.
A Spa owner interested in skincare might be better suited with a mid-energy system. A doctor stimulating deeper healing might find more power is better due to the increased penetration. A business owner wants both effectiveness and shorter treatment times to ROI their investment. A professional athlete might find that Red/NIR is the best choice while someone with skin issues will benefit from adding green.
For additional information please visit our Photobiomodulation Targeting, Dose Multiple Wavelengths, Optimum Dose page.
Understanding The Physics Of Photobiomodulation
Different light wavelengths and intensities can create different outcomes in the body. If we know the wavelength and intensity, then we should be able to direct the system to create predictable reactions in the body. In this section, we offer a high-level explanation of the physics of light as applied to our systems
For additional information please visit our Understanding Light page.
Healthy People & Photobiomodulation
Athletes who break their own personal best records after supplementing with a full-body LED light therapy bed to have performance as a measurable benchmark. Professional sports franchises are building recovery centers that utilize full-body photobiomodulation beds to help their athletes prevent mechanical injuries of competition (preconditioning), speed recovery after competition and improve peak performance in the areas of strength, speed and endurance during competition.
People suffering from pain or illness have the reduction of pain or illness as a benchmark. In both cases, LED light therapy is triggering cellular changes that cascade down into and change the tissues organs and systems which improves how their bodies are performing.
For additional information please visit our Healthy People and Photobiomodulation page.
Light Is An Essential Supplement
Over 4000 studies suggest that light heals. Like a multivitamin, photo bio modulation stimulates key cellular reactions that improve the health, energy, and function of cells. These studies suggest the benefits of light as a supplement include reduced inflammation, detoxification of waste and free radicals, improved circulation, and improved energy.
An LED Light Therapy Bed illuminates the entire body with photons that trigger cellular reactions which may cascade down into and affect the tissues, organs and systems. You just get better.
For additional information please visit our Photobiomodulation as a Supplement page.
Photobiomodulation Therapy Beds
Whole Body Photobiomodulation beds are about luxury, precision and efficacy. A photobiomodulation bed allows for the correct dose, without overstimulation (damage) in the shortest time frame possible. Optimized intensities mean program times are reduced and comfort is increased. Regulation of distance to the LED source in a bed creates the precise distance required to optimize dose. This improves efficacy by maximizing penetration without overstimulating. The ARRC LED ATP system is optimized for 10 minutes or shorter treatment times in a continuous current format and 12 – 15 minutes or shorter utilizing the pulse.
The objective of whole body photobiomodulation beds or full-body LED light therapy is to create systemic benefits of detoxification, improved circulation and improved energy throughout the entire body.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Photobiomodulation therapy?
In traditional medicine issues that are generally caused by some sort of toxicity are often treated with toxic medications or invasive procedures. While the medication may reduce the symptoms and provide relief, it can also create a cascade of dysfunction in the cells which may create negative side effects.
Photobiomodulation detoxifies the cells of waste and free radicals, feeds the cells with nutrients, repairs and rebuilds arterial connections, nerve fibers, and the cellular mitochondria which provide energy that powers the cells. These significant changes cascade down into and affect nearly every tissue, organ, and system in the body.
Researchers suggest that the benefits accrue to nearly every system in the body.
Where does PBMt therapy fit into health and wellness?
Photobiomodulation therapy benefits span from aesthetics with skin and hair to performance with improved speed, strength, endurance and faster recovery to improved cognition with recovery from brain-related damage to wellness with improved health, reduced pain, and better overall energy.
What is Photobiomodulation used for?
Photobiomodulation therapy, when delivered by a powerful whole-body photobiomodulation bed is an energy medicine protocol that delivers precisely metered doses of specific wavelengths of light to be absorbed into and modulate the biological processes of the body. This whole-body treatment elevates the health of the cells, which as Dr. Michael Hamblin states, “trickles down into and benefits nearly every tissue, organ and system in the body”.
How often can you use Photobiomodulation therapy?
Photobiomodulation is dose-specific and the dose is essentially intensity times seconds of time. Overdosing occurs with any combination of 3 factors:
- Excessive frequency: Typically we recommend at least 1 day off in between sessions but most will benefit with as few as 1 treatment per week.
- Excessive light intensity: Dr. Michael Hamblin suggests optimal dose is between 30 – 60mw/cm2 per wavelength and under 100mw/cm2 cumulative (ATP system is perfectly dosed
- Excessive treatment duration: Different assessments have different dosing parameters and we recommend no more than 50 Joules per cm2 of surface area. A Joule is irradiance x seconds. Irradiance is energy on the skin, not off of the LED. The ARRC LED’s cumulative irradiance (the third party verified) is 83.9 on the bench and slightly lower on the canopy. 83.9 x 600 seconds is 50 Joules, which means the optimum dose for most conditions – no pulse added on the ATP system is 10 minutes. Pain relief can be higher and athletic performance lower (30 Joules).
Generally overdosing will not damage the cells but what will occur is the benefits lessen in relation to the amount of overdose. Point is, More is Not Better. Right is Right. ATP is perfectly dosed for 10-minute sessions continuous current.