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A closer look illustrates how light therapy with infrared diodes can promote the healing process in the body. At the basic level, all cells in the body have a miniature power plant with-in called the mitochondria. This is where our cell's energy is produced, the technical term for this is called Adenosine Tri-Phosphate or ATP. ATP is formed from oxygen and glucose, both of which are carried to cells by blood flow. Patients with neuropathy, often have decreased blood flow, which means all cells including nerves are not receiving adequate amounts of oxygen and glucose, therefore the Mitochondria, cannot manufacture normal amounts of ATP.
Nerves, most commonly in the extremities sense this lack of ATP production by sending pain signals to the brain, in some cases lack of sensation rather than pain is the chief symptom, and this is the main reason for falls. Because the Mitochondria are very sensitive to light, therefore infrared light therapy can stimulate ATP production in the Mitochondria that is if the nerves receive glucose and oxygen through the nerves.
Why Does Light Therapy Work?
Light Energy stimulates the release of nitric oxide from hemoglobin into the bloodstream. When nitric oxide is released from hemoglobin, it enters the muscle cells in the walls of the blood vessels. The muscle cells relax as the blood vessel diameter enlarges, allowing more blood to flow through the vessels.
Benefits of Increased Nitric Oxide
Increasing Nitric Oxide levels in the body, offers a host of benefits. These can include anti-inflammation. Inflammation occurs when oxygen levels are too low, so increasing blood flow via Nitric Oxide reduces inflammation.
Tissues that need to heal require oxygen and nutrients, ATP, and growth factors. Nitric Oxide provides an environment for enhanced healing. The key to accomplishing this is better blood flow.
Pain occurs when oxygen levels at the nerve are too low. Think how painful your finger is if you wrap a rubber band around it. The rubber band cuts off blood flow, thereby depriving nerves and other cells of oxygen. The pain reseeds when the rubber band is removed.
Increased Localized Circulation
Nitric Oxide is increased locally when light energy is applied to any specific sight, along with it, blood increases at the same point.
The depth of Light Penetration Light is composed of photons, photons are quantum units of energy, a photon emitted at a specific wavelength or color, contains the same energy, irrespective of the source.
The light near the blue end of the spectrum penetrates about 2 to 3 mm, the light at the red end of the spectrum penetrates about 8 – 10 mm and near-infrared light penetrates about 20 to 100 mm. Near-Infrared light is more energetic than visible light, less resistant to reflection and absorption therefore penetrates soft tissue to a deeper level. These are generalizations because the more red cells with hemoglobin in the path of the red photons the shallower the penetration, remember hemoglobin absorbs the near-infrared light energy thereby releasing nitric oxide.
Beneficial Effects of Light Energy
The net result of light therapy is a cascade of beneficial chemical reactions throughout damaged nerve cells that stimulate healing. This response can be directly attributed to increased blood flow. This enhanced localized blood flow improves tissue oxygenation, therefore, it plays a role in the following, improved sensation which offers better gate and balance when walking. Reduced pain can offer better sleep at night as well as reduced burning and stinging sensation in the extremities. Increased oxygenation, which acts to reduce inflammation. Increased circulation offers the body decreased wound incidences and shorter healing times.