Unique Use of Near-Infrared Light Source to Treat Pain – repurposing a cosmetic device
Low-energy lightwaves have been used successfully for 40 years to speed healing of wounds, decrease pain, and decrease inflammation.
This article evaluates the use of a near-infrared (IR) light source (StarLux-IR Deep Dermal, Fractional Heating from Palomar Medical Technologies, Inc., Burlington, Massachusetts) in ameliorating non-fracture foot and ankle pain.
The device produces a non-coherent light source that was developed as a “skin-tightening” cosmetic device with output wavelengths of 850 to 1,350 nm and contact cooling.
Patients were followed for up to 9 months. Conditions treated included acute and chronic non-fracture musculoskeletal injuries, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, shin splints, acute hand and wrist sprain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and chronic knee injury pain.
Most of the pain described is acute , which is very different from chronic pain, but the mention of “chronic knee injury pain” seems to imply it could work for long term pain as well.
All but one patient reported a significant decrease in pain, ranging from 40% to 100% reduction. In most cases, the pain reduction started within hours after the first treatment (34 patients) or second near-IR treatment (39 patients).
See Tables at:
Pain reduction appeared to be long lasting. Weeks and even months later, all patients with pain reduction were still either pain free or had markedly reduced pain. Many were able to return to exercise or wearing high heels.
The mechanism of “photobiostimulation” by low-level visible and/or IR “light” is still not completely resolved and higher-level irradiation can have the opposite effect at the same wavelength—a biphasic dose response.
This promising response to “light” stimulation intrigued me to research it further. I searched PubMed, first for “photobiostimulation” and then the more commonly used term “low level laser treatment”. I found 2 articles from 2004 using the term “photobiostimulation”, and 8 articles from the last 5 years on LLLT that seem to indicate this treatment has a potential for pain management.
I’ve posted the annotated articles and links on the page:
Low Level Laser Therapy