What : In 2003, NASA needed a cool light source for plant growth experiments on space missions. Red LEDs (light-emitting diodes) were found to be beneficial in promoting plant growth. NASA scientists and colleagues decided to further experiment on wound healing in laboratory rats and on humans. “Biologists have found that cells exposed to near-infrared light from LED grow 150 to 200 percent faster. The light arrays increase energy inside cells that speed up the healing process.” Red light therapy uses an infrared light to penetrate into the body’s tissues. Higher frequencies move deeper into the body, but generally the light penetrates the skin approximately two to ten millimeters deep.
Why : The biggest benefit of RLT is the increased healing rates, mentioned above. However, the full list of benefits is long, but I’m choosing to share a few that are directly related to Ward’s condition and healing.
- Studies cite that LEDs stimulate the production of collagen, the most common protein found in the body. It has been reported that by increasing collagen production, less scar tissue is formed at the damaged site.
- Helps relax muscles.
- Increases lymphatic system activity. Edema has two basic components, liquid and protein. Research has shown that the lymph vessel diameter and the flow of the lymph system can be doubled with the use of light therapy. This means that both parts of edema can be eliminated at a much faster rate to relieve swelling.
- Stimulates trigger and acupuncture points.
- Reduces the excitability of nervous tissue. The light energy stimulates the release of endorphins which are the body’s own long term pain fighting chemicals.
- Increases RNA and DNA synthesis which helps damaged cells to be replaced more quickly.
- Increases the process of scavenging for and ingesting dead or degenerated cells by phagocyte cells for the purpose of clean up. This is an important part of the infection fighting process. Destruction of the infection and clean up must occur before the healing process can take place.
- Stimulates fibroblastic activity that aids in the repair process. Fibroblasts are present in connective tissue and are capable of forming collagen fibers.
- Stimulates tissue granulation and connective tissue projections, part of the healing process.
- Increase circulation by increasing the formation of new capillaries. New capillaries speed up the healing process by carrying more oxygen as well as more nutrients needed for healing and they can also carry more waste products away.
How : Red Light can come in many forms. The most common are lasers and pads. For easiest treating, I purchased a pad from According to Gospel Equine Light Therapy, and got the “Itty Bitty” pad. It’s the smallest that they sell, and perfect for the task at hand. I can use it up and down to treat his entire triceps, or wrap it around his front to get all of his injuries at once. I treat for 15 minutes, twice a day. Treatment time and frequency will vary depending on the injury. The dog feels nothing during treatment, just a warm heat and relaxation.
Out of all the therapies we’re using to help Ward heal, this is his favorite. I’ve personally used the pad on myself, and it does relax you, which I think Ward definitely feels during his sessions.