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Red Light Therapy Improves the Healing of Bone Injuries and Osteoporosis

Red light therapy is already widely used to treat joint pain, arthritis, and inflammation. Now clinical research is also showing positive results for red light and bone health, especially for the treatment and healing of bone injuries, and the reduction of pain and swelling. Even better, red light therapy is a natural, noninvasive, and drug-free treatment that doesn’t come with the risks and side effects of prescription drugs and surgeries.

If you’re not familiar with red light therapy, this article gives a good overview of what it is and how it works.

Research Shows Red Light Therapy Improves Healing of Bone Injuries

In recent years, several initial human trials have been conducted on red light therapy and various aspects of bone healing, with extremely positive results. Patients in these placebo-controlled trials have demonstrated significantly less pain from their injuries, improved bone function, and faster overall healing.

One of the first human trials to be completed and published, in 2014, assessed 50 patients with closed bone fractures in their wrist or hand. Some of these patients received red light therapy treatments at the site of their injuries, while others received a placebo treatment. [1]

The red light therapy group “exhibited significant changes in all of the parameters,” while the placebo group did not. Improvements in the red light therapy group included:

  • Reduced pain and discomfort from wrist and hand injuries
  • Enhanced hand and wrist function
  • Improved grip strength
  • X-ray imaging demonstrated noticeable improvements [1]

Proven Clinical Benefits of Red Light for Bone Health

Red Light Therapy Reduces Facial Swelling from Bone Injuries

A placebo-controlled trial published in 2017 analyzed red light therapy’s effectiveness for healing facial fractures and edema (swelling) in 40 patients with a wide range of serious facial injuries. These patients had suffered everything from falls, assaults, traffic accidents, sports injuries, and gunshot wounds, and had a great deal of painful facial swelling as a result.

Using 3D imaging, researchers measured the patients’ faces before and after a week of targeted red light treatments or placebo treatments. Compared to the placebo group, the people whose faces were treated with red light therapy saw nearly double the reduction in swelling. [2]

A Natural, Noninvasive, Drug-Free Option for Pain Relief and Bone Healing

Numerous human studies on bone healing and red light are in progress or being developed, and look to build on this positive data. Red light therapy is appealing to patients and physicians dealing with bone injuries because it’s proving it can reduce pain and swelling while speeding the healing process. And unlike most strategies for healing and rehabbing bone injuries today, red light therapy is 100% natural, noninvasive, and drug and chemical free. That’s a big advantage for patients looking to avoid all-too-common complications from pain meds and surgeries.

Red light therapy hasn’t been specifically cleared by regulatory authorities for the treatment of bone injuries at this point, but it is a proven anti-inflammatory treatment that’s been indicated by the FDA. You can read more on red light therapy and natural inflammation relief here.

How Does Red Light Therapy Improve Bone Health?

Wavelengths of near infrared light are able to penetrate into deep tissue and bone to achieve all kinds of healing effects. Concentrated natural light stimulates the mitochondria in your cells, reducing oxidative stress, and helping your body produce more usable energy to power itself, regenerate, and heal. Laboratory research has demonstrated better microvascular circulation in models treated with near infrared light. [3,4]

Several studies have also clearly shown that models treated with natural light produce significantly more osteoblasts (bone cells) and osteocytes (advanced osteoblasts that have become embedded in their own bone matrix). [4,5,6]

What almost all of these bone healing studies have isolated is that treatments increase natural (endogenous) collagen production. [3,4,5,6]

Red Light Therapy Increases Your Natural Collagen Production

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, and it’s critical for bone, joint, and skin health. It’s hard, fibrous, and extremely strong. It literally holds us together, and the more you can produce naturally, the better. Many people take collagen supplements or use creams, but there’s no substitute for your body making more of the real thing.

In study after study on red light therapy and bone health, researchers have measured much higher natural collagen levels in the models and patients treated with light, especially near infrared light. [3,4,5,6] These collagen results are matched by numerous human trials and laboratory studies on red light therapy and skin health that also show a big boost in natural collagen stimulation. [7,8]

Laboratory Research Shows Significant Bone Healing Results for Red Light Therapy

The encouraging human results we mentioned above build on a much larger base of in vitro and animal studies that have been showing impressive bone healing results for many years. In 2012, researchers published a meta-analysis of 13 in vitro studies and 12 animal studies concerning red light therapy and bone health. They found that 11 of 13 in vitro studies showed a significant increase in cell proliferation with light treatments. They also found that all 12 animal studies showed improved bone healing in sites treated with light therapy.

The team concluded that red light therapy can “accelerate bone healing in extraction sites, bone fracture defects, and distraction osteogenesis.” [9]

A separate team, analyzing red light therapy and bone healing in animal studies, found that treatments can “enhance biomechanical properties of bone during fracture healing in animal models.” Researchers also noted that maximum bone tolerance, a measure of overall strength, was increased with red light therapy across several studies. [10]

Numerous in vitro and laboratory studies have also shown that bone treated with red and near infrared light exhibits significantly more new growth than bone treated with a placebo. [3,4]

Red Light Therapy Speeds Healing of Tibia Injuries

The tibia, or shinbone, makes up the lower half of the leg, and connects to the femur at the knee. Tibia fractures are a common injury that require a gradual and often painful healing process that can severely limit mobility. In 2015, researchers analyzed red light therapy’s effectiveness at healing tibia fractures in a lab rodent model. Using radiologic and histopathologic analysis, they found that rats treated with red light therapy experienced much faster rates of tibia fracture healing. [11]

These results aligned with an earlier study of fracture healing in rats, which found the healed tibias of rats treated with red light showed greater stiffness and maximum endurance before breakage. [12]

Red Light Therapy Heals Bone Injuries

Red Light Therapy Shows Potential as a Natural Osteoporosis Treatment

More than 200 million people worldwide struggle with osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weaker and brittle, limiting function and eventually reducing activity and quality of life. Roughly 9 million fractures result from osteoporosis every year, or an average of one every three seconds. [13] As with acute fracture healing, red light therapy has shown very positive results treating osteoporosis in rodent models.

A 2017 study analyzed age-related rat osteoporosis treated with red light. Researchers found the treatments can “effectively improve osteoporosis, increase bone mineral density (BMD), improve bone structure, and improve bone biomechanical properties in old rats.” [14] A separate 2016 study showed red light therapy can preserve vertebrae strength against the detrimental effects of osteoporosis in rats, and increase the stress load of bones with osteoporosis. [15]

The properties of rodent bone structure are not fundamentally different than humans or other mammals, so these recent lab results are very encouraging for the future of human osteoporosis treatment.

Improved Bone Graft Results with Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy is also showing major healing properties in bone graft studies of lab rats. After examining ninety rats that received bone grafts, researchers in a 2018 study concluded that the animals treated with red light therapy saw improved graft potential, and even improved bone formation in ungrafted areas. [16]

Red Light Therapy for Stronger Bones

Most of the studies on red light therapy and bone healing address specific bone injuries and conditions, like fractures, grafts, osteoporosis, and the pain and decreased function that come with all of them. But red light therapy is also being used proactively in many clinical settings to strengthen non-injured bones and prevent future injuries from occurring.

An analysis and protocol published in the Journal of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery found that bone tissue receiving near infrared light therapy treatments had “increased osteoblastic proliferation, collagen deposition, and bone neoformation” when compared to bones not treated with red light. [4]

As a recent example of red light therapy’s clinical use in bone strengthening, Joovv has teamed up with OsteoStrong, a leading national bone health clinic, to provide our modular red light therapy treatments to patients trying to strengthen their bones and treat or prevent osteoporosis.

Conclusion: Red Light Therapy is a Safe and Effective Treatment for Bone Health

Red light therapy treatments have been shown to improve bone health and enhance the healing of bone injuries in numerous clinical and laboratory studies of humans and animals. Across a wide range of injuries, light therapy has proven effective at reducing pain and swelling from bone injuries—improving function and movement, and strengthening the bone itself. Now red light therapy and Joovv’s full-body devices is being used proactively to strengthen healthy bones and prevent future injuries in clinics and training facilities around the world.

Red light therapy is especially appealing for treating bone injuries because the treatments are natural, noninvasive, chemical and drug-free, and without the risks or side effects common to prescription drugs and surgical procedures.

Medical Sources and Scientific References:

[1] Chang WD, Wu JH, et al.Therapeutic outcomes of low-level laser therapy for closed bone fracture in the human wrist and hand. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2014 April.

[2] Baek WY, Byun IH, et al. The effect of light-emitting diode (590/830 nm)-based low-level laser therapy on posttraumatic edema of facial bone fracture patients. Journal of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery. 2017 November.

[3] Brassolatti P, de Andrade ALM, et al. Photobiomodulation on critical bone defects of rat calvaria: a systematic review. Lasers in Medical Science. 2018 Dec;33(9):1841-1848.

[4] Pinheiro AL, Gerbi ME. Photoengineering of bone repair processes. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2006 April.

[5] Heo JH, Choi JH, Kim IR, et al. Combined Treatment with Low-Level Laser and rhBMP-2 Promotes Differentiation and Mineralization of Osteoblastic Cells under Hypoxic Stress. Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. 2018 Nov 17;15(6):793-801.

[6] Tschon M, Incerti-Parenti S, Cepollaro S, et al. Photobiomodulation with low-level diode laser promotes osteoblast migration in an in vitro micro wound model. Journal of Biomedical Optics. 2015 Jul;20(7):78002.

[7] Avci P, Gupta A, et al. Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. Mar 2013; 32(1): 41-52.

[8] Wunsch A and Matuschka K. A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. Feb 2014; 32(2): 93-100.

[9] Ebrahimi T, Moslemi N, et al. The influence of low-intensity laser therapy on bone healing. Journal of Dentistry. 2012 Fall.

[10] Bashardoust Tajali S1, Macdermid JC, et al. Effects of low power laser irradiation on bone healing in animals: a meta-analysis. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research. 2010 January.

[11] Briteño-Vázquez M, Santillán-Díaz G, et al. Low power laser stimulation of the bone consolidation in tibial fractures of rats: a radiologic and histopathological analysis. Lasers in Medical Science. 2015 January.

[12] Luger EJ, Rochkind S, et al. Effect of low-power laser irradiation on the mechanical properties of bone fracture healing in rats. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. 1998.

[13] International Osteoporosis Foundation, Facts and Statistics.

[14] Zhu CT, Li T, et al. Beneficial effects of low-level laser irradiation on senile osteoporosis in rats. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. 2017 November.

[15] Bayat M, Fridoni M, et al. An evaluation of the effect of pulsed wave low-level laser therapy on the biomechanical properties of the vertebral body in two experimental osteoporosis rat models. Lasers in Medical Science. 2016 February.

[16] de Oliveira GJPL, Aroni MAT, et al. Effect of low-level laser therapy on the healing of sites grafted with coagulum, deproteinized bovine bone, and biphasic ceramic made of hydroxyapatite and β-tricalcium phosphate. In vivo study in rats. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. 2018 Jan 13.

The information provided in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It's not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with your healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.

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