Photobiomodulation therapy, or red light therapy, is one of the fastest-growing trends in health and wellness.
This form of therapy uses red and near-infrared light to promote healing, alleviate pain, and lower inflammation. And it is now offered at clinics, healthcare centers, and fitness facilities throughout the U.S.
However, although it’s grown in popularity, many still aren’t sure of what to expect during a photobiomodulation therapy session.
A red light therapy session is typically a short, 10- to 20-minute procedure, that’s similar to going to a tanning salon. You lay on a light therapy bed and your body absorbs the healing red lgiht. Generally, after undergoing PBM therapy, you’ll feel relaxed and energized, and you may begin to notice the health benefits of photobiomodulation therapy after just one session.
Have your first red light therapy appointment coming up? We’re dymystifying PBM therapy to help you learn what you can expect, how to prepare for a session, and what you’ll feel during and after treatment.
Preparing for a Red Light Therapy Session
In the majority of cases, you will need to do little, if any, preparation. However, before the session begins, there are a few preparatory steps you’ll take. They include:
1. Initial Consultation
Photobiomodulation therapy sessions – especially your first – typically begin with a consultation. During this brief meeting, your practitioner will inquire about your medical history and current health concerns. They’ll want to understand why you’re seeking red light therapy and how it can be customized to meet your needs. This conversation is also your chance to express any apprehensions, ask questions, and gain a better understanding of the therapy process.
2. Health Check-ups and Assessments
In some cases, additional health information may be required. For example, blood tests, physical examinations, or an evaluation of the treatment area may be necessary. If you’re pursuing red light therapy for general health and wellness, however, these tests and/or assessments will be brief.
3. Understanding Contraindications
While photobiomodulation is generally safe, people with certain health conditions may want to avoid red light therapy. For example, patients with certain skin conditions, those taking photosensitive medications, or pregnant women may need to avoid photobiomodulation therapy or modify their treatment plans. Your practitioner should discuss these contraindications and any other precautions with you during the preparation phase.
How Does a Photobiomodulation Therapy Session Work?
If you’re new to red light therapy, a session may seem mysterious. However, the process is generally fairly quick – with sessions lasting 10-20 minutes. Here’s what you can expect during a session:
1. Equipment Setup
Generally, the equipment, like a PBM light therapy bed, will be ready, before your session begins.
2. Patient Positioning
Red light therapy beds are designed to work, regardless of positioning. Therefore, you can choose to lay on your stomach or back. Some smaller handheld devices, though, may require you to be sit in a chair or lay down to access the area.
3. Duration and Frequency
A typical red light therapy session lasts up to 20 minutes with 2-4 sessions recommended per week. In general, these treatments may last up to 6 weeks; however, the length of your therapy is typically dependent on a number of factors.
What Do You Feel During Red Light Therapy?
During a photobiomodulation session, physical sensations vary, but the process is generally painless and comfortable.
- Warmth or Heat: The most commonly reported feeling is a mild warmth or heat on the skin where the light is applied. This is due to the light energy being absorbed by the body’s tissues.
- Comfort: The procedure is non-invasive and doesn’t involve any painful stimuli. Many people find the therapy session relaxing and comfortable.
- No Sensation: Some people may not feel anything at all during the treatment. The light used in photobiomodulation does not cause the tingling or prickling sensations associated with some other types of therapy.
- Temporary Changes in Sensation: Immediately following the treatment, some people report temporary changes in sensation in the treated area. This might be a slight numbness, tingling, or a sensation of lightness, but it’s usually mild and short-lived.
The sensation you feel, or lack thereof, does not indicate the effectiveness of the therapy. Whether you feel a lot, a little, or nothing at all, the light is still interacting with your cells and helping to promote healing and wellness.
After a session, you might feel relaxed. Drinking water and/or rest is typically advised.
Red Light Therapy: Potential Side Effects
Red light therapy, including photobiomodulation, is generally considered safe with minimal side effects. However, some people might experience the following:
- Mild Discomfort: The heat from the red light can cause some discomfort or irritation on the skin, especially for those with sensitive skin.
- Redness: There could be slight redness on the skin exposed to the therapy, but this usually subsides quickly.
- Eye Strain: Direct exposure to the bright red light can potentially cause eye strain or discomfort. It’s typically recommended to avoid looking directly at the light or to use eye protection during sessions.
- Change in Sleep Patterns: Some individuals might experience changes in their sleep patterns if the therapy is used close to bedtime, as light exposure can influence the body’s circadian rhythm.
Factors That Can Influence the Success of PBM Therapy
The success of photobiomodulation therapy can be influenced by several factors:
- Treatment Parameters: The parameters of the treatment, such as the wavelength, power density, pulse structure, and duration of exposure, all play a crucial role in the effectiveness of photobiomodulation. Each parameter must be correctly set to stimulate the desired cellular response.
- Patient’s Health Status: The health status of the patient can significantly influence the results. Chronic conditions, skin sensitivity, level of inflammation, and overall health can affect how the body responds to the treatment.
- Treatment Compliance: Regular and consistent treatment sessions are usually necessary to achieve the best results. Skipping sessions or not following the prescribed treatment protocol can lead to less effective outcomes.
- Lifestyle Factors: Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, stress levels, and sleep can also impact the effectiveness of photobiomodulation. A healthy lifestyle can enhance the body’s response to the treatment.
- Practitioner Experience: The knowledge and experience of the practitioner administering the therapy can greatly affect the results. A well-trained practitioner can correctly set treatment parameters, properly position the light, and adjust treatment plans as necessary.
- Patient’s Expectations: Lastly, patient expectations can influence perceived success. Understanding that photobiomodulation is generally a gradual process rather than a quick fix is crucial. Patience and realistic expectations often lead to higher satisfaction levels.
By considering and managing these factors, one can maximize the effectiveness of their photobiomodulation therapy and achieve the best possible outcomes.
How to Try PBM Therapy
Photobiomodulation therapy can be tried in-home with devices like our red light therapy pad, our red light therapy pad for breast pain, or a whole-body pbm bed. However, photobiomodulation is being offered at numerous spas, clinics and fitness facilities across the country.