Photobiomodulation (PBM)

Photobiomodulation (PBM) or photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) has become synonymous with what we use to call Low level light therapy or “Red light therapy”. PBM or PBMT is now the accepted terminology used to describe the medical therapeutic application of infrared or near-infrared light. Originally developed in the 1960’s, PBM is very rapidly proving to become a clinically effective form of alternative medicine.

Description of treatment

Photobiomodulation or PBM utilizes light sources such as LASERS, LEDS and Broadband lights that provide light within the infrared or near infrared light spectrum. The treatment process elicits a photochemical and a photophysical reaction within the targeted cells of the treated area. Clinical studies have shown significant pain relief in clients suffering from both inflammatory processes and specific musculoskeletal injuries.

The therapy essentially involves applying a PBM light source directly to a target area. The PBM light source puts light energy directly into the target tissue.  This energy then gets absorbed by the cells within the tissue. Research has shown to date that this energy, once absorbed, elicits a photochemical and photophysical reaction within the absorptive cells. The result is an increase in cellular activity which translates into an increase in tissue healing and regeneration. Therapeutically, there is also an increase in circulatory perfusion within the target tissue and a significant reduction in tissue inflammation and an associated reduction in acute and chronic pain. The ultimate effect is to restore a normal cellular function within damaged tissue or to enhance tissue performance in normal tissue.

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When Can PBM be used?

As we learn more about PBM, it is becoming increasing apparent that potential applications of PBMT appear endless. Current clinical uses in medical therapeutics, center around the treatment of pain and inflammation especially in the athletic arena. reside in the areas of pain and inflammation relief and in the treatment of sports injuries although some PBM devices have been FDA approved for use in hair growth stimulation and in helping to decrease fat deposits. Early clinical studies are starting to show efficacy in helping to minimize psoriasis, and in helping to accelerate wound healing. That said, some of the most common applications for PBM are as noted below:

Anti-Inflammatory Treatment

PBM has been show clinically to be highly effective in helping to decrease inflammation caused by a multitude of reasons ranging from chronic medical conditions to acute injuries. The mechanism by which PBM is able to decrease inflammation is thru its vasodilatory effects. What this means is that PBM promotes the release of a chemical called nitrous oxide or ‘NO’ for short. Nitrous oxide is a gas that causes a person’s blood vessels to dilate in size. This is a process called vasodilation. The result is an increase in blood flow to the affected area. It is this increased flow that helps to accelerate the clearance of any swelling, and pro-inflammatory cells within the injured area which allows for an increase in the treatment’s anti-inflammatory response. The Vasodilation effect also impacts the lymphatic circulatory drainage within that area which promotes an increased rate of tissue healing. Some clinical studies even suggest that PBM can increase tissue healing by as much as 50% in some cases.

Pain Relief

PBM in the setting of acute and chronic pain relief, has really been the bread and butter for photobiomodulation therapy. Shown clinically time and time again to be highly effective in promoting pain relief, PBM is a wonderful treatment option for most individuals. No surgery  or injections are required.

In the majority of cases, the appropriate treatment protocol for a given individual really depends on the location and cause. The number of PBM treatment sessions also depend on the severity of the injury. The more severe the injury, the more sessions normally required to achieve the desired results. Normally, more than one treatment is required to obtain optimal pain relief. A typical treatment protocol for some individuals might be 2 treatments per week for 2-3 weeks or more.

Sports Injuries

If you have ever wondered what professional sports organizations use to help get their players back on the field so quickly, PBM is the answer. Professional team trainers know that PBM helps their elite athletes heal and recover much faster than without PBM. The majority of Major league baseball pitchers use PBM as part of their normal warm-up routine, while many athletes use PBM as a part of their rehabilitation following injury. PBM has been shown clinically to be beneficial in the treatment of common sports injuries such as hamstring injuries, plantar fasciitis, and numerous other forms of muscle injury.

Success Rate and Complications

We have learned over the years that the effectiveness of PBM treatments can vary depending on the laser therapy device being used. Through research and clinical experience, we now know that the wavelength of the laser device can and will impact the depth of penetration. When treating deeper structures, we know that it is best to use a wavelength approaching near-infrared levels. Shorter wavelengths of light such as red light, are unable to penetrate deeper structures and are thus relatively ineffective in the treatment of deeper issues. One wavelength and one set of treatment parameters will not be effective for all conditions. The complication profile for PBM, however, is extremely positive with little to no complications reported.


PBM or photobiomodulation is a highly effective and safe treatment modality that is quickly gaining steam in the medical community. Entirely non-surgical and non-invasive, PBM is very rapidly becoming a legitimate adjunctive therapy for those suffering from a multitude of different medical conditions that result in acute/chronic inflammation and discomfort. So, if you are suffering from musculoskeletal discomfort due to a sports injury, chronic arthritis or have androgenic hair loss, PBM may be the way to go. Call Sheen Vein and Cosmetics today at 314.842.1441 to schedule your free consultation.