Five Possible Reasons Why Photobiomodulation Relieves Low Back Pain

Is there any scourge of modern life more widespread than low back pain? More than two-thirds of the population suffer from it in their lifetimes. While a lot of us just grin and bear it, every six months, one in four people finds it distressing enough to seek medical help for it. It is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders, and it is the leading cause of disability worldwide. I learned these facts from a 2015 paper in Arthritis Research and Therapy. The authors provided this background to justify their research project, which was titled “The effectiveness of low-level laser therapy for nonspecific chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”

Yes, there is a major effort in the research community to evaluate photobiomodulation (PBM) — previously known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) — as a means of treating low back pain. The authors of this particular study evaluated 221 randomized controlled trials in which PBM was compared to placebo for sufferers of low back pain and found seven — comprising 394 patients altogether — that met their criteria for inclusion in the analysis. Five of those seven studies (i.e., more than 70%!) found that PBM was significantly better than placebo in alleviating low back pain.

The authors were unable to explain how PBM achieves this small miracle, but they offered five hypotheses to explain the mechanism by which PBM alleviates low back pain:

      1. it increases the internal production of opioid neurotransmitters
      2. it raises the pain threshold and enhances blood circulation
      3. it causes the cellular mitochondria to increase their oxygen consumption
      4. it increases the production of anti-inflammatory proteins
      5. it increases the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) within cells.

If you want to know what we at Peak Recovery & Health Center believe about the pain relief mechanism, you can find an explanatory video on this page. I strongly suspect that in the end, researchers will one day discover that more than one of these mechanisms is at work.

On the other hand, you don’t need to know the “why” in order to enjoy the “how.” PBM is noninvasive and nontoxic. Unlike pain medications, it has no side effects. It poses no risk to your health, and it doesn’t even take very long. The sessions we offer run to 30 minutes.

The authors, who refer to low back pain as NSCLBP (for nonspecific chronic low back pain), concluded, “The results of our systematic review and meta-analysis have provided the best current evidence on LLLT for the treatment of NSCLBP. It suggests that LLLT is an effective method to relieve low back pain in patients who present with NSCLBP.”

We don’t treat low back pain at Peak Recovery & Health Center. We’re not a medical operation. But we offer sessions with a technology — namely, photobiomodulation — that has been clinically proved to reduce low back pain. If you have low back pain and want to try PBM and see for yourself whether it relieves your pain, book a few sessions. We have regulars who come here 2-3 times a week for it and report their lives have improved as a result.

Image: “Lower back pain” by Injury Map. Creative Commons license.