Light Therapy Research – Pain Management

A collection of light therapy research articles on the benefits of light therapy use for managing all types of pain.

NOTE: Researchers use several terms to describe “light therapy”. Photobiomodulation, low level light therapy (LLLT), phototherapy, photon therapy, photo energy, heliotherapy, and sometimes red, blue or (near) infrared radiation are synonymous; they all refer to light therapy.

For a greater understanding of the mechanism behind ‘pain’, be sure to read this!


Comparison of photobiomodulation therapy and suprascapular nerve-pulsed radiofrequency in chronic shoulder pain: a randomized controlled, single-blind, clinical trial.

May 25, 2017

This randomized study compared photobiomodulation therapy and suproascapular nerve-pulsed radiofrequency and determined that photobiomodulation therapy is an effective – and superior – treatment for chronic shoulder pain.

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Low-Level Laser Therapy After Wisdom Teeth Surgery: Evaluation of Immunologic Markers (Secretory Immunoglobulin A and Lysozyme Levels) and Thermographic Examination: Placebo Controlled Study.

May 16, 2017

This study investigated the effect of LLLT on pain & inflammation connected with surgical removal of impacted molars. It found that light at 830nm (infrared) penetrates to deep tissues and had a positive effect on pain & inflammation.

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Evaluation of the effectiveness of the photobiomodulation in the treatment of dentin hypersensitivity after basic therapy. A randomized clinical trial.

May 1, 2017

This randomized clinical trial found that red light (660nm) significantly reduced dental discomfort immediately after treatment, and continued to demonstrate a decrease for the duration of the study without detrimental side effects.

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Immediate and short-term effects of phototherapy on pain, muscle activity, and joint mobility in women with temporomandibular disorder: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial.

June 11, 2017

This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial found that a single session of phototherapy can reduce pain intensity in patients with TMD, indicating that light is an effective modality in the intervention of pain symptoms and increasing the comfort of patients immediately.

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LED Light Therapy is here to stay for wound healing, pain control, inflammatory acne and skin rejuvenation

This study published by the Department of Dermatology in Kangbuk Samsung Hospital cited that if low level light therapy was delivered with an appropriate wavelength and energy density, then the potential for a significant effect exists. It was also noted that infrared light is associated with improved blood flow and neovascularization (new blood vessel growth or angiogenesis). Based on these factors, the following are the clinical applications:

  1. Accelerated wound healing, particularly non-healing wounds through collagen formation, with ‘quicker and better’ wound healing
  2. Pain and inflammation, including pain that occurs post-surgery and particularly where edema and inflammation are involved and where many states of inflammation can be significantly reduced. Human patients were presented to show the benefits on treatment-resistant inflammatory disorders

L.E.D. Low Level Light Therapy “as an adjunct to conventional surgical or nonsurgical indications is an even more exciting prospect. LED-LLLT is here to stay”.

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Light therapy demonstrates pain reduction following surgery

This study followed mice that were exposed to light therapy following plantar incision. The results demonstrated an analgesic effect from the application of light therapy and the authors went over some of the pathways involved in gaining this response.

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Light therapy may help older individuals with muscle degeneration

Following muscle damage, older rats were subjected to light therapy and this procedure demonstrated to be effective for muscle regeneration. The researchers of this study concluded, and showed evidence, that this effect occurred directly through its anti-inflammatory effects.

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Light therapy helps preserve muscle activity following nerve damage

In this study, part of the sciatic nerve was removed and the affected muscle area was observed for 30 days with the addition of light therapy. This area where the light therapy was applied, showed a significant reduction in muscle breakdown that would normally be observed following the innervation to the muscle. It was then concluded that light therapy would benefit by in the early stages of muscle atrophy, preserving the denervated muscle.

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Low power light therapy for osteoarthritis

This study took a group of rats and injected them with a cartilage-degenerating protein to replicate the degenerative changes that are normally seen in osteoarthritis patients. They then added ONE single application of low level light therapy (infrared light spectrum) and found that there was a significant reduction in inflammatory proteins. They also noted that low power light therapy had a greater effect than high power.

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Light therapy benefits sciatic nerve injury

After researchers evaluated using light therapy following injury to the sciatic nerve, they concluded that “based on these results, it is recommended that Low level light therapy should be started as soon as possible after peripheral nerve injury”.

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The Role of Nitric Oxide in the Modulation of Pain

2008, Clinical Journal of Pain, Review Article

Pain reduction is a primary goal for people with chronic pain, including patients with osteoarthritis (OA). Progressive loss of movement function and disability, which are directly related to the pain associated with OA, are major reasons for lost work time, eventual exit from the workplace, permanent disability, and large medical costs. Many pain-relieving medications are either not effective and/or have significant side effects. Nitric oxide (NO)-based intervention seems at this time to produce substantial pain relief without undesirable side effects.

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Infrared energy may reduce neuropathic pain

2007, Practical Pain Management, Research Article

Near infrared light therapy, together with physical therapy, may be able to reduce pain in neuropathy patients and possibly reduce medication dosage levels of those undergoing drug therapy.

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Effects of photobiomodulation therapypharmacologicaltherapy, and physical exercise as single and/or combined treatment on the inflammatory response induced by experimental osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) triggers increased levels of inflammatory markers, including prostaglandin (PG) E2 and proinflammatory cytokines. The elevation of cytokine levels is closely associated with increased articular tissue degeneration. Thus, the use of combination therapies may presumably be able to enhance the effects on the modulation of inflammatory markers.

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Efficacy of Low-Level Laser Therapy in the Management of Neck Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Placebo or Active-Treatment Controlled Trials.

Neck pain is a common and costly condition for which pharmacological management has limited evidence of efficacy and side-effects. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a relatively uncommon, non-invasive treatment for neck pain, in which non-thermal laser irradiation is applied to sites of pain. We did a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to assess the efficacy of LLLT in neck pain.

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The Effect Of Low-Level Laser In Knee Osteoarthritis: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is thought to have an analgesic effect as well as a biomodulatory effect on microcirculation. This study was designed to examine the pain-relieving effect of LLLT and possible microcirculatory changes measured by thermography in patients with knee osteoarthritis (KOA).

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Amelioration of oral mucositis pain by NASA near-infrared light-emitting diodes in bone marrow transplant patients.

This study seeks to investigate the use of extra-orally applied near-infrared phototherapy for the reduction of oral pain secondary to chemotherapy- and radiation therapy-induced mucositis in adult and pediatric hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) patients.

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