Within the medical field, the term photobiomodulation (PBM), previously known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), refers to any medical treatment based on targeted application of non-thermal, non-ionising light sources to a particular body area. The word photobiomodulation itself is somewhat self-explanatory, referring to the basic process of light (photons) entering cells (bio) and modifying the output of the body’s cellular machinery (modulation). But what is happening on a cellular level?

Cellular process of photobiomodulation

When a light source with a specific wavelength and irradiation intensity is delivered to the tissue, the light energy penetrates into the tissue, where it activates photosensitive receptors on the cell membrane (as well as extracellular activation of latent TGF-s1) and also interacts with various molecules located inside the cells (for example, cytochrome c oxidase activation in mitochondria).

“PBM is performed by red or near-infrared lasers with irradiation intensities that do not induce temperature increases.”

This triggers a complex sequence of events that ultimately leads to an increase in cellular metabolism. The consensus in the scientific community is that the application of carefully controlled therapeutic doses of light to diseased and damaged tissue stimulates physiological reactions that result in a healthy cellular response. Studies in recent years have shown that such changes can help restore normal cellular function by increasing circulation, reducing inflammation, accelerating wound healing and stimulating tissue regeneration.

In the majority of cases, the end result of PBM treatment is also a substantial reduction in acute and chronic pain. In addition to helping considerably with normal cases involving pain such as sports-related injuries, there are also other more difficult-to-treat conditions, such as fibromyalgia and neuralgia, which can benefit substantially from PBM therapy. Patients with such disorders may be experiencing serious pain for months or even years, and if their conditions can be treated early then long-term suffering can be avoided.

PBM is performed by red or near-infrared lasers with irradiation intensities that do not induce temperature increases. Additionally, some newer therapies have been developed that induce temperature changes of several degrees celsius, and these high-intensity level therapies (HILT) are increasingly being used for pain management. Typical applications of higher-intensity laser treatments would include temporary relief of muscle and joint pain and stiffness, arthritis pain or muscle spasm, increasing local blood circulation and promoting muscle relaxation.

Handheld cell regeneration and pain reduction

The manufacturer Fotona has recently developed a novel class of handpieces with a range of spot sizes that are designed to enable a special PLLT (piano low-level light therapy) modality that is characterised by the ability to deliver both low-level (cold) PBM treatments and high-level (warm) HILT treatments in a very controlled manner. These new MarcCo laser handpieces have been specially engineered to produce a highly collimated and homogeneous beam profile with uniform intensity when using large spot sizes. This allows practitioners to perform PBM treatments over larger body areas in a much shorter period of time. The MarcCo handpieces can be used with a number of laser wavelengths including 1,064nm, 810nm, 980nm and 670nm.