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What is photobiomodulation?

Photobiomodulation is a form of red light therapy that produces a biochemical reaction within blood cells. This biochemical reaction stimulates healing, decreases inflammation and stiffness and reduces pain. The increased function allows you to get back to doing the things you love.

It uses harmless LEDs (light emitting diodes) in two specific red light frequencies (660nm and 850nm) to penetrate to different depths of human tissue. These light frequencies boost energy production in the mitochondria, especially in cells when energy production is depleted due to arthritis or hand joint ailments.

It does not work by infrared heat. It works because our cells contain “chromophores” that absorb light. Once the light is absorbed, the chromophores produce a biochemical effect in cells that strengthen the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell—it’s where the cell’s energy is created.

Photobiomodulation helps hand pain

The energy-carrying molecules found in the cells of all living things is called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is the fuel your cells need for all of their varied functions, including ion transport, synthesizing and metabolism. Remarkably, your body produces your bodyweight in ATP every day. And, while you can survive for several minutes without oxygen, were all ATP production to suddenly stop, you'd die within 15 seconds. Thanks to the transportation capabilities of ATP, the positive biochemical reactions between chromophores, mitochondria and ATP can then extend to cells that have not even been exposed to the light.

The dual light frequencies used by Triumph LTD Hand Therapy increase the function of the mitochondria, allowing a cell to make more ATP. With additional energy, cells can function more efficiently, rejuvenate themselves and repair damage.

How does photobiomodulation (red light therapy) compare to ibuprofen for pain relief?

When photobiomodulation is compared to a similar rate of pain attenuation using anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (NSAIDs), the users treated with photobiomodulation were free from any side effects, while 20% of patients treated with NSAIDs suffered unacceptable side effects from their medication.

If the photobiomodulation science is so effective, why doesn’t everyone know about it?

Prescription drug companies spend over $3 billion per year on consumer advertising, and prescription drug spending in the United States is forecast to hit $610 billion by 2020. The healthcare system is driven by Big Pharma. Every time you take a pill, you put money in the pockets of the drug companies. Prescriptions need to be written by your doctor. So, the more drugs you take, the more office visits you have, the more money the clinic makes. The more prescriptions you have, the more the pharmacies sell.

One Triumph device lasts a lifetime and replaces thousands of dollars in patent visits and arthritis drug prescriptions. This is not good news for Big Pharma and disincentivizes the market from touting the benefits of red-light therapy.

In addition, many photobiomodulation studies have yielded mixed results due to the variables in delivering the red-light treatment. Most companies try to sell a one-device-treats-all unit, which doesn’t work due to varying tissue thickness of different areas of the body. An effective treatment device must be designed specifically for an individual treatment site like we do with Triumph LTD Hand Therapy.

Technically speaking, what is the science supporting photobiomodulation (red light therapy)?

Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation, is defined as a form of light therapy that utilizes non-ionizing light sources—including light emitting diodes, and/or broadband light—in the visible (400 – 700nm) and near-infrared (700 – 1100nm) electromagnetic spectrum.

In technical terms, it is a non-thermal process involving endogenous chromophores eliciting photophysical (linear and nonlinear) and photochemical events at various biological scales. This process results in beneficial therapeutic outcomes, including but not limited to the alleviation of pain or inflammation, immunomodulation and promotion of wound healing and tissue regeneration. 

The fundamental principles that define photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy, as currently understood in the scientific literature, are relatively straightforward. There is consensus in the scientific community that the application of a therapeutic dose of light to impaired or dysfunctional tissue leads to a cellular response mediated by mitochondrial mechanisms that reduce pain and inflammation and speed healing.

The primary target (chromophore) for the process is the Cytochrome C complex which is found in the inner membrane of the cell mitochondria. Cytochrome C is a vital component of the electron transport chain that drives cellular metabolism.

As light is absorbed, Cytochrome C is stimulated, leading to increased production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule that facilitates energy transfer within the cell. In addition to ATP, light stimulation also produces free nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species. Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator and an important cellular signaling molecule involved in many physiological processes. Reactive oxygen species have been shown to affect many important physiological signaling pathways including the inflammatory response. In concert, the production of these signaling molecules has been shown to induce growth factor production, increase cell proliferation and motility and promote extracellular matrix deposition and pro-survival pathways. Outside the cell, nitric oxide signaling drives vasodilation, which improves microcirculation in the damaged tissue, delivering oxygen, vital sugars, proteins and salts while removing wastes.

The power plant of cells is located in the mitochondria, which are able to produce cellular energy or adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from pyruvate and oxygen. When tissues are stressed or suffer from a reduction of oxygen due to swelling, mitochondria make their own mitochondrial nitric acid (MtNO), which competes with oxygen. The MtNO bind to Cytochrome C oxidase (CcO) that displaces oxygen. This subsequently reduces ATP synthesis and increased oxidative stress, which leads to inflammation and pain.

Hypoxic, or stressed, tissues are affected by photobiomodulation in four stages: (1) light energy is absorbed by cytochrome c oxidase, triggering several downstream effects; (2) nitric oxide is released; (3) ATP is increased; and (4) oxidative stress is reduced. These biochemical intermediates affect components in the cytosol, cell membrane and nucleus that control gene transcription, cell proliferation, migration necrosis and inflammation. Light-activated lymphatic cells and blood cells can travel throughout the body for enhanced systemic benefits.

Clinical trials of a variety of single- and mixed-wavelength LED lamps have been taking place in hospitals in the U.S. and elsewhere. Results indicate that near-infrared light therapy accelerates cell growth at 150 to 200% compared to non-treated cells. Target wavelengths are 630-680nm, 730nm and 850-880nm, although research is continuing to determine what wavelengths are the most effective at stimulating cell growth. The Triumph LTD Hand Therapy device incorporates both 660nm and 850nm light frequencies and is the only product known to use high power, deep penetrating, 1watt LEDs.