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Discover the Science of Light Therapy; Part 2 - The Science Behind Photobiomodulation

Welcome back to the second installment of our "enlightening" three-part series on Photobiomodulation (PBM).

In our previous post, we distinguished between the characteristics of laser and LED light. We also discovered the color spectrum through light wavelengths and how they are measured. Now we'll dig a little deeper and look at the real-world benefits, scientific evidence, and some practical uses of this groundbreaking therapy. As we keep shedding light on this powerful therapy, we hope to help you find practical ways to use Photobiomodulation to improve your health.

What Is Photobiomodulation?

Imagine harnessing the power of sunlight, zeroing in on its most beneficial wavelengths, and using that energy to activate your body’s natural healing powers. It sounds like a superpower, doesn't it? Welcome to the world of Photobiomodulation (PBM), a revolutionary treatment that is lighting the way to optimal health.

Photobiomodulation, or PBM, is a mouthful to say, but the concept is simple: it involves using specific wavelengths of light to stimulate cellular activity in the body. This ground-breaking therapy might sound futuristic, but it's actually rooted in a principle as old as life itself: the power of light.

Sunlight  shining through the tops of trees making the shape of a heart.

All life on Earth needs sunlight to grow and stay alive, from the smallest microorganisms to the tallest trees. PBM takes this a step further by focusing on the therapeutic effects of red and near-infrared light, which have been found to be the wavelengths most beneficial to human health.

I don't know about you, but it's getting harder and harder for me to find the time to be in the natural sunlight for the amount of time needed for my own optimal health. Not only that, but as I get older, I want to avoid the damage that UV rays from the sun or a tanning bed can cause to my skin.

Which leads to another great benefit of Photobiomodulation therapy because it does not utilize ultraviolet (UV) rays. It primarily uses light in the red and near-infrared wavelengths. This is a really big factor in its safety because, unlike UV rays, these wavelengths do not cause DNA damage that can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.

How Does Photobiomodulation Work?

Before we dive into the fascinating world of Photobiomodulation (PBM) and how it works, let's take a quick trip back to biology class and brush up on a few key terms.

Cytochrome c Oxidase (CcO), Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), Nitric Oxide (NO), Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), and mitochondria play crucial roles in the therapeutic process of PBM.

A graphic showing a picture of a cells mitochondria

At the heart of all these processes are the Mitochondria, the energy factories of our cells. Mitochondria are tiny structures within our cells, and they're often called the "powerhouse" of the cell. This is because their main job is to produce energy.

A graphic showing the chemical molecule of Cytochrome c Oxidase

Cytochrome c oxidase (CcO) is an important protein found in the Mitochondria, that helps produce the energy in our cells.

A graphic showing the chemical molecule of ATP

ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, is the energy currency of our cells. It is often called the "powerhouse" of the cell because it plays such a vital role in energy transfer. ATP is responsible for storing energy as well as providing it for a wide range of cellular processes.

A graphic showing the chemical molecule of Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide (NO) is a small but very important molecule in our bodies. It's a gas that is used as a signaling molecule, which means it helps cells communicate with each other. One of the main roles of NO is to help relax and widen our blood vessels, which improves blood flow.

A graphic showing the chemical molecule of Reactive Oxygen Species

Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are molecules in our bodies that contain oxygen and are very reactive. This means they can interact with other molecules in our bodies and can signal cells to kickstart beneficial processes. They play important roles in our bodies, like helping us fight off infections, maintaining homeostasis, or signaling cells to do certain things.


How It Works...

A graph showing the steps in the process of photobiomodulation

Now that we've refreshed our memory on these terms, we can investigate how PBM works with them to promote cellular repair and renewal.

Red and near-infrared light are the real heroes of Photobiomodulation. These light wavelengths penetrate through the skin layers, reaching into blood vessels, nerves, lymphatic pathways, and even directly into cells. Here is a VERY simplified explanation of the PBM process:

Step 1

Light Application: PBM begins with the application of a specific wavelength of light, usually red or near-infrared, to the target area of the body. This could be a wound, an area of pain, or any other area that could benefit from the therapy.

Step 2

Cellular Absorption: Once the light is applied, it penetrates the skin and underlying tissues. The light is then absorbed by the cells in the target area. The main cellular component that absorbs the light is a protein within the mitochondria called Cytochrome c Oxidase (CcO).

Step 3

Cellular Stimulation: The absorption of light by CcO increases its activity. This is important because CcO plays a crucial role in the process of cellular respiration, which is how cells generate energy.

Step 4

Increased ATP Production: As CcO's activity increases, so does the production of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), the main energy currency of the cell. This provides the cell with more energy to perform its various functions.

Step 5

Production of Nitric Oxide (NO) and Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS): The light also stimulates the production of NO and ROS. NO is a molecule that helps improve blood flow and cell communication, while ROS are molecules that can act as signals to start various beneficial processes within the cell.

Step 6

Cellular Effects: With increased ATP, NO, and ROS, the cells can function more effectively. This can result in a variety of effects, such as increased cell growth and survival, reduced inflammation, and increased tissue repair and regeneration.

Over time, these cellular effects can translate into overall therapeutic effects, such as accelerated wound healing, reduced pain, or improved function in the treated area.

Remember, these steps can vary slightly depending on the specific parameters of the PBM treatment (like the wavelength of light used) and the specific tissue being treated. But in general, this is the process that occurs during PBM treatment.

What Are the Benefits of Photobiomodulation?

PBM is like the Swiss Army knife of wellness, offering a multitude of health benefits. Some of the common benefits that Proactive clients are seeking include:

  • Pain Management: PBM has shown promising results in reducing chronic and acute pain by reducing inflammation and promoting healing.

  • Enhanced Recovery: From sports injuries to post-surgery rehabilitation, PBM accelerates the healing process.

  • Skin Health: Red light therapy, a form of PBM, is popular in skincare for its ability to stimulate collagen production, reduce wrinkles, and improve skin tone.

  • Mental Wellness: Preliminary studies suggest PBM may improve mood and cognitive function.

  • Skin rejuvenation: PBMT can improve skin texture, elasticity, and collagen synthesis, as well as reduce wrinkles, acne scars, and signs of sun damage 1.

  • Acne vulgaris: PBMT can reduce the inflammation and bacteria associated with acne, as well as modulate sebum production and enhance wound healing.

  • Wound healing: PBMT can accelerate the healing of various types of wounds, such as diabetic ulcers, burns, surgical incisions, and pressure sores, by stimulating angiogenesis, granulation tissue formation, and epithelialization.

  • Body contouring: PBMT can reduce subcutaneous fat and cellulite by inducing lipolysis and increasing blood flow and lymphatic drainage.

  • Androgenic alopecia: PBMT can stimulate hair growth and prevent hair loss by increasing blood flow, oxygen delivery, and nutrient supply to the hair follicles, as well as enhancing mitochondrial activity and reducing inflammation.

  • Osteoarthritis: PBMT can reduce pain and stiffness and improve joint function and quality of life in patients with osteoarthritis by modulating inflammatory cytokines, matrix metalloproteinases, and cartilage degradation.

  • Tendinitis: PBMT can reduce pain and inflammation and improve tendon healing and function in patients with tendinitis by enhancing collagen synthesis, fibroblast proliferation, and vascularization.

  • Nerve regeneration: PBMT can enhance nerve repair and regeneration and improve functional recovery in patients with peripheral nerve injuries or neuropathies by increasing axonal sprouting, myelination, nerve conduction, and neurotransmitter release.

  • Dementia: PBMT can improve cognitive function, memory, mood, and sleep in patients with dementia by increasing cerebral blood flow, oxygenation, and metabolism, as well as modulating neuroinflammation, amyloid-beta clearance, and neurogenesis.

  • Dental pain: PBMT can reduce pain, swelling, and trismus in patients with temporomandibular dysfunction syndrome (TMD) by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis, bradykinin release, and nerve conduction.

As you can see, this is a truly promising treatment with a long list of advantages. You can find a comprehensive list of research articles supporting the therapeutic benefits of Photobiomodulation here.

Does Photobiomodulation Really Work?

The wellness world is no stranger to fads and false promises, so it's only natural to ask, "Does Photobiomodulation really work?"

With more and more scientific research backing it up, the answer is a clear "yes."

From NASA studies investigating PBM for wound healing in space to clinical trials exploring its use in treating conditions like arthritis and depression, PBM is not just a wellness trend but a scientifically validated therapy that is here to stay.

Photobiomodulation: Customized Just For You

At Proactive Massage + Bodywork, we offer Photobiomodulation in several different formats to cater to your specific needs. Each of our treatments are carefully chosen to give the maximum benefit possible.

Next week we are going to look at the different wavelengths we offer and how to choose the treatment that is right for you.

Four pictures of people laying in a Red Light Therapy Bed

Full-Body LED Light Therapy Bed:

Experience the comprehensive, whole-body wellness boost of our Full-Body LED Light Therapy Bed. This immersive treatment bathes your entire body in beneficial light, using carefully chosen wavelengths to stimulate your cells. Whether you're looking to speed up muscle recovery, boost your mood, or simply indulge in a relaxing wellness session, our full-body light therapy bed caters to your needs. Step into a world of soothing light and emerge feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.

Three picture collage of people getting light therapy from LightStim Pro Panel.

LightStim Pro Panel:

Harness the power of professional-grade light therapy with our LightStim LED Pro Panel Treatment. This advanced technology delivers therapeutic light energy designed to stimulate your body's natural regenerative processes. Ideal for addressing various skin concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, and acne, this treatment leaves your skin looking smoother, healthier, and more radiant. Experience the glow of well-being with our LightStim LED Pro Panel Treatment. Targeted therapy for localized issues.

Four pictures of a client receiving Celluma light therapy.

Celluma Pro Panel:

Elevate your wellness routine with our Celluma Pro Treatment. This versatile light therapy device uses a unique blend of blue, red, and near-infrared light to address a wide range of health and aesthetic concerns. From managing pain and accelerating wound healing to improving skin texture and reducing acne, the Celluma Pro adapts to your unique needs. Step under its comforting light and let the Celluma Pro guide you on your path to optimal wellness.

Four picture collage of a client receiving deep tissue therapy on her back and knee.

Deep Tissue Laser:

Penetrating beyond the surface, our Deep Tissue Laser Treatment targets the root of your discomfort. This therapeutic approach uses laser technology to reach deep into tissues, promoting healing and reducing inflammation. It's an excellent choice for chronic pain, sports injuries, or persistent muscle or joint issues. Embrace a pain-free life with our Deep Tissue Laser Treatment, designed to restore your body's balance and function.


Ignite Your Health with the Science of Photobiomodulation

Photobiomodulation is more than just a wellness trend; it's a scientifically proven approach to enhancing your health and wellbeing. Whether you're dealing with chronic pain, recovering from an injury, looking to improve your skin health, or just searching for a general wellness boost, PBM might just be the answer you're looking for.

Remember, while the science behind Photobiomodulation is promising, it's always important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment.

The effects of PBM can depend on various factors, including the specific condition being treated, the individual's overall health status, and the precise parameters of the light therapy used (such as power density, duration, and frequency of treatments).

But don't just take our word for it; experience the power of light for yourself. Connect with us at (804) 559-7990 or to schedule your appointment for PBM therapy.

Collage of service pictures from Proactive

Glass G. E. (2021). Photobiomodulation: The Clinical Applications of Low-Level Light Therapy. Aesthetic surgery journal, 41(6), 723–738.

How it works — Photobiomodulation Therapy. (2023). Retrieved 1 June 2023, from

Photomedicine, T. (2023). THOR Photomedicine. Retrieved 1 June 2023, from

Join us next week for Part 3 - Shedding Light on Photobiomodulation: Decoding the Wavelengths and Their Therapeutic Uses


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