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When patients are new to natural healing alternatives, we sometimes find they have to overcome a sense of skepticism built by a lifetime of being told that western medicine is the only answer to their health problems. Some take a leap of faith—perhaps because they’ve been referred to us by a friend or family member who has already experienced the transformative effects of our therapies—and become convinced by the results. But others don’t feel completely comfortable until they fully understand the science behind the treatments we recommend.
Because of this, we often get questions about photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy, which we provide through a treatment called NovoTHOR. How can the application of light in the red and near-infrared range be an effective way to reduce inflammation and pain, promote healing, reduce edema, improve skin elasticity, and more? The answer lies in how these wavelengths of light, appropriately administered, affect fundamental cellular processes.
Inside our body’s cells, the food we eat and the air we breathe are combined to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an energy-carrying molecule that captures the energy from the breakdown of food molecules and then uses it to fuel other cellular processes. The complex steps that culminate in the production of ATP take place inside the mitochondria, organelles within the cell. The key part to understand in relation to photobiomodulation is the end of the electron transport chain (ETC), where an enzyme called Cytochrome C Oxidase (CcO) is located. When oxygen attaches here, ATP is produced, with water as a byproduct.
If our cells undergo stress—from things like an injury, poor diet, or smoking—they produce damaging molecules called free radicals. One type of these, nitric oxide (NO), has a strong affinity for CcO and will bond there, making it impossible for oxygen to attach. The cell then can’t produce enough ATP to function properly. This additional stress causes the cell to produce another extremely volatile free radical called reactive oxygen species (ROS). If the cell is unable to fully neutralize the ROS, oxidative stress results.
Why is that a problem? Oxidative stress is the underlying trigger for a wide range of diseases and degenerative conditions. It’s also part of the inflammatory phase of both acute and chronic injuries, as well as playing a role in the aging process. Stopping it and restoring the cell’s ability to create enough ATP improves cell metabolism and reduces inflammation.
When light of the right color and intensity is applied to areas where cells are undergoing stress, it displaces the NO molecules from the CcO receptor site, which results in local vasodilation (increased blood flow). The removal of NO and enhanced circulation allows oxygen to attach and resume production of ATP. When that occurs, the production of ROS is also halted. The treated cells can start returning to normal function and healing. While there are other wavelengths of light that can produce this effect, red and near-infrared light are used for PBM therapy because they penetrate the body more deeply, benefiting more cells.
Photobiomodulation, which was previously called Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT), has been around for a long time. The idea of using red and near-infrared light to treat injuries was first developed in 1967. It has been extensively researched since then, with hundreds of double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials published over the years studying its effects and exploring the necessary parameters for an appropriate treatment protocol. PBM’s ability to speed healing, reduce inflammation, and reduce pain is well established.
NovoTHOR, the therapy we offer at the Natural Healing Center, is a whole-body photobiomodulation treatment. The patients who have benefited from NovoTHOR as part of their care with us cover a wide spectrum—from athletes wanting to improve their performance and speed recovery to patients seeking pain relief and healing after an acute injury. We also use it to treat those grappling with chronic illnesses that sap their strength and energy, as PBM helps to give them back vigor they may not have experienced in years. If you’re struggling with inflammation, pain, slow healing, and/or low energy, ask us about NovoTHOR. We’ll be happy to evaluate how PBM can fit into your individualized wellness plan. To schedule a consultation, contact us here today.