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Thread: Infrared light to treat spinal cord injuries

  1. #1
    Senior Member Jeff's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Argao, Cebu, Philippines

    Infrared light to treat spinal cord injuries

    The Bearable Lightness of Healing
    By Kendra Mayfield

    2:00 a.m. March 14, 2002 PST
    The San Diego Padres are seeing -- and feeling -- the light.
    As the Padres prepare for the major league baseball season of 162 games in 180 days, some of the players are treating their aches and pains with a therapy that uses light.

    The Padres use a hand-held device called the Photonic Stimulator, which emits infrared light that penetrates the skin to stimulate blood flow and circulation in targeted areas. The device, from Computerized Thermal Imaging (CTI), provides temporary relief of minor aches and pains where heat is indicated.

    Infrared light "is one of the only physical therapies that acts to create a healing effect," said Curtis Turchin, CTI's director of clinical sciences. "Cells that are injured can actually be brought back to life by light."

    This form of light therapy can be used to treat ankle sprains as well as nerve cells damaged from spinal cord injuries.

    "This is the single biggest breakthrough in healthcare I've seen in 30 years," said Len Saputo, an internist who is also the founder and director of the Health Medicine Forum.

    "This is a tremendous addition to our arsenal of treatments that can be used to manage sports injuries of any kind," Saputo said. "This will be something that will be mainstream therapy for professional athletes around the world."

    While infrared light has been used in Europe and Asia for almost three decades, the therapy is relatively new in the United States, only recently gaining FDA approval.

    Infrared light "is one of the safest therapies on the market today," Turchin said. "It has almost no side effects with various positive benefits."

    Athletes can use infrared light therapy before a competition to loosen up muscles and after a game to reduce soreness, pain and swelling.

    A practitioner holds the Photonic Stimulator where treatment is needed, just above the skin's surface. One can adjust the frequency, or the amount of light the device will emit, depending on the patient's age, weight and muscle mass. When infrared laser light is administered, it reduces sensitivity of neural pathways and causes the body to release endorphins that provide a nontoxic, natural form of pain relief.

    The USA Track and Field team used the Photonic Stimulator during the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and the Olympic Trials in Sacramento, California. Over 50 athletes were treated with this light therapy technology.

    Currently, the Padres are the only major league baseball team to use the Photonic Stimulator. CTI has just begun proactively marketing the product, and the company hopes to enlist other pro teams, including baseball, basketball, football and hockey.

    Other companies are also marketing infrared light therapy products to athletes. For example, BioScan markets portable Light Patch, Spinal Pad and Knee Saver products that deliver heat through infrared light diodes. The Knee Saver was originally designed for players from the Philadelphia Eagles and then used by other pro football teams.

    Unlike ultrasound and electrical stimulation, infrared technology is so gentle that athletes can use it frequently without causing more damage to injuries.

    That competitive edge is critical in sports such as baseball, where just a few days or weeks of photonic stimulation can mean the difference between riding the bench and completing the season.

    Light therapy has broader implications beyond sports medicine.

    Using the Photonic Stimulator, hip fractures can heal faster and full motion can be restored within just a few treatments, Saputo said. People with back problems, nerve damage, muscular diseases, tennis elbow, burns and other ailments have all shown marked signs of improvement using infrared light therapy.

    The technology can also offset the long-term costs of surgery, steroid injections, pain medicines and physical therapy visits.

    "You will be seeing infrared light used for all kinds of pain control in the future," Turchin said. "There will always be a place for ultrasound and electrical stimulation. But there are many situations where doctors will start using light for treatment."

    Infrared light therapy "is really a breakthrough in healthcare and pain management," Saputo agreed. "In sports medicine it will be a panacea as soon as people recognize it."

    NASA has plans to use infrared lights in space within the next five years to heal astronauts' wounds or injuries, Turchin said.

    CTI has also introduced thermal imaging technology that produces instant color-enhanced pictures that show real-time differences in body temperature where pain occurs.

    CTI's Breast Cancer System 2100 is designed to help doctors detect breast cancer by differentiating between benign and malignant lesions, without performing invasive breast biopsies. The system is still awaiting FDA approval.

    Light and heat therapy can be used separately or together, or they can be combined with other treatments, such as acupuncture, physical therapy and chiropractic work.

    Both these technologies will undoubtedly play a critical role in the next few years.

    "In the 20th century, people were looking at sound as being a powerful tool," Turchin said. "The 21st century will be a century of the photon, of fiber optic cable and the Internet. You will see lasers and fiber optics play a bigger part in therapy.",1286,50853,00.html

    ~See you at the SCIWire-used-to-be-paralyzed Reunion ~

  2. #2
    This form of light therapy can be used to treat ankle sprains as well as nerve cells damaged from spinal cord injuries.
    How so and with what results? I ran a cursory search for abstracts on this but couldn't find anything.

  3. #3


    I know well the benefits of laser therapy. I could only afford ten sessions a few years ago at the chiropracter and it temporarily gave me bladder control. If I could use it longer, it could do more good. I'm trying to find an affordable laser system for home use now, so will check phototonic out. :-)


  4. #4
    Senior Member Jeff's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Argao, Cebu, Philippines

    I wish I knew, Seneca

    Sports injuries are obviously the focus, right now.

    Somewhere they've gotten a pretty good indication that it will help heal neurons and SCI. Be nice to know what, where, how and why.

    ~See you at the SCIWire-used-to-be-paralyzed Reunion ~

  5. #5

    If I recall correctly, irradiation with infrared light increases blood flow to the area and increases the available local cyclic-AMP. Search for posts by James Kelly.


  6. #6
    I should perhaps recount an experience that I had in the 1980's. There was a doctor by the name of Judith Walker (yes, that is the name) who ran a clinic in Los Angeles, offering infrared laser acupuncture, intense rehabilitation, and GM1 therapy for people with spinal cord injury. It was rather expensive and it claimed that it could restore function. CBS 20/20 did an exposé of the clinic in the early 1990's. I was sufficiently intrigued by the technique that I got one of the units and applied the pulsed infrared laser to the skin. I was unable to find any effect of the laser on peripheral nerve excitability, which was understandable because I could not feel the laser or its effects when I applied it to myself. It was not sufficient to heat tissue and I really do not understand how it could affect neural activity or influence spinal cord injury at all.

    I try very hard to be open-minded about alternative therapies, knowing that there is so much about the nervous system that I don't know. However, I cannot imagine how that application of surface infrared has any beneficial effect on the body other than through heating of the skin. The light is very unlikely to penetrate more than a mm or two. I doubt if this therapy has ever been subjected to controlled clinical trials.

    I have read as much as I can about possible effects of light on the nervous system and don't find any of it believable. To my knowledge, infrared light does not increase local blood flow unless it heats the tissue. I have not seen any credible data that suggests that it increases cyclic AMP. In any case, there is no evidence that heating the skin or increasing cAMP to a peripheral site does much, if anything, for the spinal cord. A mosquito bite would just as effectively increase skin blood flow and increase cAMP locally but I don't think that this would have much effect on the spinal cord. There are much better and cheaper ways of applying heat to the skin, including putting on a hot towel.


    [This message was edited by Wise Young on Mar 14, 2002 at 10:45 PM.]

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Jul 2001
    Granbury, Texas, USA

    You don't remember correctly. It's pulsed electromagnetic fields (Diapule) that increase local blood flow and raise levels of cAMP. However, it nice to hear from ya and thanks for thinking of me!!! Take care and be well!

    James Kelly

  8. #8


    All I know is that the laser acupuncture I got was the only thing in 8 years that gave me temporary bladder control. I think it works by stimulating chai which is an eastern idea thousands of years old. Who in the west can understand it??


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