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Using light to treat pain, prevent addiction



Credits and author HERE. A University at Buffalo professor took the top leadership post at the World Association for PhotobiomoduLation Therapy, helping to guide researchers around the globe developing light and laser therapies. Praveen Arany is a trained dentist and assistant professor of oral biology and biomedical engineering in the UB School of Dental Medicine, Engineering & Applied Sciences. He’s part of a worldwide coalition of researchers and clinicians who agree that light therapy is among the most effective interventions for the prevention of oral mucositis, painful ulcers in the mouth resulting from cancer therapy. He was instrumental in helping to develop new care guidelines for adult cancer patients that were published over the summer in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer.

How does the treatment work? We have always had a lot of disbelief or skepticism about how light or physical forms of energy can help us in medicine. We usually talk about sunlight and vitamin D and how it is important for bone health and the psychological state to prevent depression. We understand this particular type of treatment uses very low amounts of light to act on receptors that normally affect pain, but by absorbing light we can also reduce pain transmission. What are the direct effects? The most direct effect we have seen is that it can also reduce the amount of inflammation, and we know that inflammation after trauma can lead to pain. So it has been shown this can also thereby reduce pain. The third mechanism, and probably the most attractive one, is that we have pain-controlling pathways in our body and have androgen hormones, which are normally present opioid substances in our body. That’s how they discovered opioids, because we have this system that controls normal pain levels. Is light treatment effective for other conditions besides cancer? We are talking about fundamental effect on pain, which can arise from trauma, from chemo or radiation therapy or from any muscle pain, break or fracture. It has been used to relieve pain. This treatment is capable of mitigating pain but also has that third mechanism, and is able to elevate a person’s mood. That’s one of the reasons why there’s that effect of sunlight on our mood. This has been used in addiction centers to aid in relieving symptoms of depression and dependency. How does laser light therapy differ from sitting in the sunshine? Think of it as purified sunlight but very broadband, with all the wave lengths in diluted numbers. Like using a tanning bed with specific rays in it that will help your mood. If you think about light treatment, it’s all lower level and all these are readily available in FDA-cleared devices and available online. But laser devices have therapeutic thresholds or potential for damage, so we recommend using the laser in a clinical setup. But LED light lamps are very popular. RECOMMENDED

What studies are you working on with the technology now? We have three ongoing human studies using it for photobiomoduLation at UB. One is for traumatic brain injury or concussion; a second for peri-implant disease for dental implants; and the third is for musculoskeletal pain for dental professionals. There have been no reported risks with the light treatments we have seen. And one of the most attractive parts is it’s non-pharmacological and can help work and prevent the side effects of drugs.

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