Recently we’ve seen a lot of buzz in the media surrounding phototherapy (aka light therapy) as a promising therapeutic treatment for a wide range of conditions. Phototherapy, however, is nothing new: Niels Finsen won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physiology / Medicine for treating diseases, especially of the skin, with concentrated UV light radiation. Phototherapy has already been incorporated by dermatologists and estheticians alike into many therapeutic treatments aiming to remedy skin issues. Research suggests that it may also be beneficial for our mental health as well as offering pain relief.
Phototherapy for Mental Health
With winter in full force, it’s easy to fall into a mental rut – especially if you’re one of the half million people in the United States that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Bright light phototherapy has proven to be an effective treatment for SAD therapy due to its ability to mimic natural sunlight. According to Dr. Craig Miller of Harvard Medical School, when bright light enters the eyes it travels to the part of your brain responsible for keeping a normal circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle. Scientists suggest that this eases the symptoms of SAD by regulating mood and sleep-related neurochemicals in the brain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, bright light therapy has also shown to be beneficial for those with non-seasonal depression, dementia, as well as sleeping disorders.
Phototherapy for Pain Relief
What if we told you there’s a new method of pain relief on the block and it’s non-invasive, doesn’t require gulping down medication, and can easily be done from home? There is compelling evidence suggesting red light therapy may be your magic bullet. Researchers found that when patients with arthritis of the knee received infrared therapy, they reported an increased quality of life, significant pain relief, and better functioning of the joint.
Cleared by the FDA, red light therapy has been shown to help alleviate neck pain, back pain, carpal tunnel, and much more.
Phototherapy for Skin
Researchers from Harvard and the Wellman Center for Photomedicine have found a way to improve upon the skin-oriented phototherapy that won a Nobel prize 115 years ago. Similar to UV light but without the risk of harmful skin-cancer causing elements, blue light has an amazing ability to kill bacteria – making it a great option for those with problematic skin.
Red and near infrared phototherapy have been shown to reduce inflammation, protect against and reduce UV skin damage, and also diminish the appearance of wrinkles and scars. Though the mechanism is not fully understood, it is thought that when skin is exposed to red or near infrared light it essentially “wakes up” the cells by stimulating their mitochondria, or the “powerhouses” of the cell. Doing this stimulates a number of biochemical reactions that ultimately help with healing and inflammation among other things.
Whether you’re looking for clearer skin, effective pain relief, or a “pick-me-up”, phototherapy may be just what you need. It is noninvasive, convenient and easy to use, and it’s backed by science.
The BEing WELL Team