What Is Photobiomodulation Therapy?

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The term “photobiomodulation” is a blend of the words “photo”, which means light, “bio”, meaning “life” and “modulation”, meaning a change. So, photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) is essentially when light is used to bring about some change in human beings and animals. Photobiomodulation therapy was developed first in the 1960s and is basically therapy where light is used for therapeutic purposes.

Also known as red light therapy, low-level light laser therapy (LLLT), biostimulation, light box therapy or photonic stimulation, photobiomodulation therapy is a type of light therapy which makes use of non-ionizing harmless light sources such as LEDs, low-level lasers and broadband light such as halogen, incandescent and fluorescent lights, both in the visible, as well as the infrared spectrum.

The therapy makes use of specific wavelengths of light (red light in the range 630 nm to 880 nm) to treat the surface of the skin and achieve several health benefits. The light penetrates around 8-10 mm into the skin and depending on the area where the light is used, it affects all the layers of the skin and reaches the blood vessels, nerves, lymph pathways and hair follicles.

Understanding Photobiomodulation Therapy

Photobiomodulation therapy is a non-thermal process which involves the placement of a light source close to the skin or in contact with it. The light energy or photons penetrate the tissue and interact with the chromophores present in our cells, which absorb the light. When the light is absorbed by the cell, it triggers complex photophysical and photochemical reactions, which also extend to the cells that have not been exposed to the light.

These changes occur at the tissue, molecular and cellular levels of the body and the light results in physiological reactions and have many therapeutic benefits including:

  • Reduction of inflammation and pain
  • Stimulation of the immune system
  • Increasing circulation
  • Healing of wounds
  • Regeneration of damaged and diseased tissues
  • Healing of wounds
  • Enhancing the performance of healthy tissues and cells

Benefits of Photobiomodulation Therapy

It is scientifically proven that near-infrared light and red light help to activate the cytochrome c oxidase or CCO in the mitochondria, which in turn helps to increase the ATP or energy produced by the mitochondria, giving our cells more energy. This process is akin to photosynthesis. The increase in CCO and production of mitochondrial energy has several downstream effects. And, majority of the benefits of PBMT revolve around this.

Some of the benefits of PBMT are:

Reduction in Inflammation

Inflammation contributes to issues like brain fog, pain and several other chronic diseases. While applying infrared or red light directly to the inflamed area can help to heal the injury; however, just a simple application of the light to the body can change the markers of inflammation in the blood. A study revealed that 30 minutes of exposure to infrared light reduced the numbers of TNF-a (pro-inflammatory cytokines) in the blood. In fact, the inflammatory markers reduced by 34x, 12x and 1.5x the normal level.

Pain Relief and Treatment for Sports Injuries

PBMT has proven to be extremely effective for pain relief and management and is being used very commonly by athletes in major sports franchises in the US and also by several Olympic teams. Sports trainers claim that athletes recover from injuries faster after including PBMT as part of the treatment plan. PMBT has been found to be extremely effective for the treatment of common injuries like hamstring pulls, muscular sprains, plantar fasciitis, etc.

Anti-Aging Effects

PBMT Therapy can reverse the signs of aging dramatically, the effects of which can be seen on the skin. A study revealed that using 633 nm and 830 nm of light for around 20 minutes reduced wrinkles in 91% of the participants and also helped to improve the skin tone. Another study showed that infrared and red light therapy helped to stimulate the production of collagen and reduced skin aging significantly.

Cognitive Enhancement

While this has been studied much lesser than the other benefits of PBMT, light therapy can significantly affect cognitive enhancement. A study published in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery revealed that infrared light therapy can increase reaction time without any side effects. CCO plays an important role in neuronal physiology and is associated with an increase in memory, neuroprotection and learning.

Increased Testosterone Levels

Research reveals that PBMT helps to stimulate the Leydig cells, which helps to increase the production of testosterone. A study in Biomedical Research revealed that 30 minutes a day of exposure to 670 nm light increased testosterone levels in animals in just 4 days.


Low testosterone levels decrease the mood, cognitive performance and also accelerates the signs of aging. Increased testosterone levels can help to increase the muscle strength and size and also enhances mental performance.


Healing of Wounds

The fibroblasts present in the skin help to synthesize collagen and also maintain the connective tissue, which is very important for wound healing. PBMT helps to stimulate the fibroblasts and also increases the circulation enhancing the time for healing of wounds. PBMT is also used successfully to hasten the healing of amputation injuries, infected wounds, burns, skin grafts, etc.

PBMT has also been used for skin damage in the mucous membranes and the mouth due to cancer treatment. Dentists also use PBMT to heal abrasions and sores in the mucous membranes in the mouth and it also helps to prevent cold sores from occurring along the mouth.


Therapy for Skin Problems

PBMT has shown a lot of promise in the treatment of various skin problems. A study that was published in the Journal of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery showed the beneficial effects of light therapy for people who suffered from psoriasis. When treated with red light and infrared light, there was an improvement in skin plaques by 60 to 100%. While the infrared light helped to reduce inflammation, the red light helped to heal the surface of the skin.


PBMT helps to stimulate the production of ATP and collagen that makes it a promising remedy for skin ailments such as eczema, rosacea and acne. It also has other benefits like reduction of wrinkles and stretch marks.


Remedy for Hair Loss

PBMT may be an excellent remedy for reversing balding and stimulating hair growth. A 24-week research study showed that red light therapy improved the thickness and density of hair significantly without any side effects.


Other Benefits

Some of the other benefits of PBMT are:


So, as you can see, overall PBMT is great for improving beauty, general health and well-being and the list is growing. Followed properly, PBMT offers excellent benefits with almost no side effects.

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