Photobiomodulation and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

As of 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of emergency room visits resulting from traumatic brain injury (TBI), stood at 715.7 per 100,000 of population. That may not sound like very many, until you realize that it constitutes an increase of more than 70% over what it was in 2001. That is a substantial increase in less than a decade. The CDC doesn’t speculate as to why this increase has happened, and I won’t do so, either. But I want to point out that TBI can occur in almost any human activity, especially those that include the risk of falling. And as the population ages, TBI may increase.  

The mildest form of TBI is concussion, which is often called mild traumatic brain injury, or mTBI. According to Wikipedia, “Symptoms may include headaches, trouble with thinking, memory or concentration, nausea, blurry vision, sleep disturbances, or mood changes. Some symptoms may begin immediately, while others may appear days after the injury.” Most people who suffer from a single concussion recover well with a couple days’ physical and cognitive rest. But those at risk of repeated concussion can be in a precarious position because after the first, the next concussion seems to happen more easily. Multiple concussions increase the risk of long-term brain damage, and can result in a kind of dementia called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has symptoms like Parkinson’s Disease.

Is there hope for those suffering from TBI, mTBI, and CTE? Until recently, the standard procedure was to treat symptoms. But there is new research now showing that photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy, formerly known as low-level laser therapy, may be able to repair some of the damage. This is particularly exciting, because drugs have not been shown to help very much with TBI. PBM, incidentally, is non-toxic and non-invasive, and it has no side effects.

A 2016 article in BioOptics World reports on the work of researchers who have proved “PBM prevents the inhibition of respiration (and subsequent decrease in energy storage) in a stressed cell by dissociating nitric oxide (NO) and reversing the displacement of oxygen from CCO.” In other words, PBM reduces oxidative stress at the cellular level, which gives the cells a chance to repair themselves, which can facilitate recovery from TBI.

PBM therapy is in its infancy. But there are currently over 400 clinical trials and 4000 laboratory studies on PBM Therapy, with 30 new research papers a month being reported on Pub Med. For an overview of how PBM works, see our video. Can PBM relieve the symptoms of TBI?There is no human-level research yet, but users of PBM report pain relief and relaxation of muscle spasms. In the words of the BioOptics World article, “The list of applications for PBM, ranging from pain relief and wound healing to heart attack reduction, is astonishing.” To learn if PBM can help with your TBI, book a session at Peak Recovery & Health Center. If PBM can help, it will probably require regular treatments for a time. They take 10-12 minutes, which is a fairly small investment for long-term health.

About the Photo. Sensors attached to a translucent replica skull are used to measure explosive shock velocity and pressure at the .S. Army Research Laboratory of the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland March 9, 2016. (DoD News photo by EJ Hersom)