How Physical Therapists Can Use LED Light Therapy

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, thanks to all the aging baby boomers, physical therapy may be the fastest growing occupation in America: “Employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 18 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.”[1]   In light of this extremely favorable outlook for growth in the physical therapy field, just how does a doctor of physical therapy stand out above the ever-increasing competition?  What can you offer patients that will maximize their pain relief, assist them in managing chronic conditions, and accelerate their speed on the road to greater wellness and a happier, healthier, and more active lifestyle?  NIR (infrared/red light) Therapy can be your answer!

 

NIR Therapy and Physical Therapy

Physical therapists utilize different health modalities to benefit their patients. So it is no surprise that NIR Therapy is rapidly growing in acceptance and popularity in the PT community.  NIR Therapy is non-invasive, and can assist therapists to achieve their goal of helping patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility without expensive and risky surgery, or the need for long-term use of potentially addictive pain medications. Because pain relief and increased circulation come so quickly by NIR Therapy’s ability to release nitric oxide, ATP, and other therapeutic chemicals, it partners perfectly with physical therapy.  NIR Therapy can provide support and pain relief for dysfunctions and restrictions that a physical therapist may routinely encounter in muscles, joints, ligaments, nerves, bones, and tissues.

 

NIR Therapy Is Safe

Like physical therapy, NIR Therapy can be used on any area of the body (except the eyes).  It is easy to administer, is highly effective, is dependable, and, most importantly, it is painless and extremely safe. NIR Therapy can be utilized without concern about harmful side effects. NIR Therapy is also known as “photobiomodulation,” or “PBM.”  A 2017 study by Dr. Michael R. Hamblin, a pioneer in light therapy, concluded that, “PBM has an almost complete lack of reported adverse effects…”[2]

NIR Therapy effectively relieves pain, increases circulation, relaxes muscles, relieves muscle spasms, and relieves the aches and stiffness caused by arthritis. Increasing circulation can help tissues to heal and nerves to eventually regain sensation, which aids in the recovery of functionality and mobility.

NIR Therapy is very helpful to muscles. According to Dr. Hamblin, “It is not therefore surprising that PBM can also help to heal muscle injuries, not to mention reducing muscle pain and soreness after excessive exercise.”[3] Also, both types of the most common forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid, which PTs see regularly in their practice, have proved to be amenable to light therapy. According to Dr. Hamblin, “Both types have been successfully treated with PMB.” [4]

 

Put NIR Therapy on Your Treatment Menu

NIR Therapy sessions have been described by patients as gentle, relaxing, soothing, and comforting.  The pain relief and cellular benefits experienced during a NIR Therapy session can last for several hours afterwards.

NIR Therapy may augment the benefits of hands on physical therapy. NIR Therapy can be administered before manual therapy to make your patients’ pain relief faster and more effective. It can increase circulation in limbs and joints; relieve soreness and stiffness in the upper and lower back, neck, and shoulders; or help support hips and knees.  This may allow for greater flexibility and range of motion, which will potentially make stretching and exercising easier and less painful.

If NIR Therapy is administered after manual therapy, NIR light penetration may help the increase in flexibility and range of motion to be maintained for a longer period, due to the benefits of increased circulation.  Also, pain, stiffness, or soreness lingering after the exercises and stretches may be relieved.

 

Choosing the Right Pads

To be most effective, the pad(s) in your system should cover the entire area where pain relief and increased circulation are needed.  The largest pads, such as the Large 264 Pad in HealthLight’s Clinical Line, would be the most helpful to treat upper or lower back, hip, shoulder, or knee pain; while small rectangular-sized pads such as HealthLight’s Small 90 Pad would be helpful to relieve pain in the neck, TMJ area, or wrist. HealthLight’s 132 Medium Pad is helpful for pain in the hands and elbows. Long thin pads such as HealthLight’s 180 Pad can be wrapped around joints, or small pads with more diodes like the Focus 64 Pad can be used to more intensely treat localized areas. For leg and foot issues, the 122 Foot & Ankle Boot and the 131 Foot & Calf Boot are available as either a single or dual boot system.

 

Sales to Patients

Because NIR Therapy is so easy to administer, therapy sessions can be performed by the patient on their own, or with the assistance of family members.  Most manufacturers of NIR Therapy equipment, like HealthLight, offer healthcare professionals the option of purchasing systems at wholesale and then reselling them to patients. Physical therapists can encourage patients with chronic conditions that need daily treatment to purchase their own systems for in-home use. Patients recovering from surgery or accidents may wish to have their own therapy systems at their disposal, especially for pain relief.

 

Benefits of Adding NIR Therapy

NIR Therapy can be a very beneficial part of your patient’s treatment plan, and hold an important position in your treatment tool box. And by offering NIR Therapy, your practice will stand out from the competition.  But most importantly, NIR Therapy will bring quicker and better pain relief and increased circulation to your patients to improve their quality of life.  So consider adding NIR Therapy to your treatment menu.  HealthLight’s Clinical Line of pads and controllers offer many system options.  And HealthLight’s Express At-Home Line of systems with conveniently attached controllers is perfect for in-home use by your patients.

 

[1] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (modified September 1, 2020) Physical Therapists. [Online]  Available from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm (visited November 10, 2020).

[2] Hamblin, Michael R. “Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation.” AIMS biophysics vol. 4,3 (2017): 337-361. doi:10.3934/biophy.2017.3.337, p. 14.

[3] Ibid., p. 9.

[4] Ibid., p. 13.