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Light Therapy and Surgical Recovery

Light Therapy and Surgical Recovery

How Often Do People Need Surgery?

At some point in their life, most people do need surgery, usually because no other medical option will solve the underlying issue. Many of us don't want to undergo surgery, however, most of the time, a surgical procedure is necessary to help us heal a certain medical condition or improve our quality of life. 

Operations on the cardiovascular, respiratory or urinary system account for three of the most common inpatient setting surgeries across U.S. hospitals, based on stats from 201413. Eye surgeries are the most common kind of outpatient procedures, followed by muscle, tendon, and soft tissue procedures13. The data further suggests that other common surgical interventions help relieve musculoskeletal complications, including those on joint tears (e.g., knees and shoulders), bone spur removals, and toe repairs13.

Surgical Patients Need to be Healthy Enough For a Procedure

All surgical procedures require that a patient is healthy enough to undergo surgical treatment. The patient is first given a medical examination and then receives several pre-operative tests. The health of the patient is rated accordingly with the American Society of Anesthesiologists' physical status classification system14, which assesses a patient's readiness for surgery3. Besides preparing for and undergoing a surgical procedure, the entire surgical process also entails recovery time, which can vary due to the physical fitness of the patient.

Preparation For Surgery is Critical 

If you need surgery, there are various ways to prepare your body for it. There are ways you can speed up the recovery time. Some of these include physical therapy before surgery and after (for musculoskeletal surgeries at least). Another successful way to strengthen your body to improve surgical outcomes and decrease recovery time is using Light Therapy (Photobiomodulation), which has been rigorously tested in an array of scientific studies for over 50 years. Critically, no reported or demonstrated negative side effects have been observed within the last five decades or ever since Light Therapy has been used in medical practice.

When Should I use Light Therapy to Help with Surgery?

To feel the full benefits of Light Therapy for your surgical recovery, it's best to apply treatments during both your preparation for surgery and during your rehabilitation program after surgery. 

Before surgery, Light Therapy can help you: 

  • Strengthen tissue of muscles, bones, and organs altogether8
  • Strengthen the cells (mitochondria) and increase resiliency5
  • Get rid of harmful and prevent oxidative stress and inflammation12

Light Therapy has been shown to strengthen healthy cells, tissues, and organs1. Applying Light Therapy before going to surgery helps to pre-condition the body. By preconditioning, you stand the best chance at increasing the success and ensuring the best outcomes of the surgery effort itself. Healthy tissues recover faster8.

The idea of "pre-conditioning" is relatively new. Before Light Therapy, there was no way of doing it effectively and safely, without causing side effects.

When Light Therapy is Applied After Surgery it Helps to:

  • Promote healing of wounds (chronic and acute)6
  • Promote healing where "standard" forms of treatment have failed (e.g., healing of diabetic ulcers)9 shorten the healing time (such as with pressure ulcers)11
  • Promote the anti-inflammatory processes in the body and allow the natural healing process to work faster15

In a broader context, Light Therapy does increase system-wide body healing and relieves pain by reducing chronic inflammation and oxidative stress8. When Light Therapy is directed at inflamed tissue, it is capable of alleviating the harmful effects of acute and chronic inflammation.

How Does Light Therapy Heals Wounds?

There are many contributing factors that affect wound healing after surgery, such as oxygenation of the treated tissue, infection status, age, hormones, obesity, and lifestyle choices7. Healing can also be affected by diseases such as diabetes, for instance10.

However, several studies have been conducted regarding wound healing, and people participating in those studies, notably diabetic populations, have been able to heal faster thanks to Light Therapy.

Chronic wounds, especially in diabetic patients (who are prone to develop chronic wounds), represent a challenging health issue6. As standard treatment protocols have repeatedly failed to give satisfactory results in this matter, researchers went on to investigate whether Light Therapy could help wound healing as an additional treatment method. 40 non-diabetic patients and 39 diabetic ones suffering from lower limb chronic wounds participated in this study, which measured circulation in the healthy skin surrounding the wound6. Microcirculation is a key indicator of whether a wound is healing better and faster6. The study was double-blind, hence patients were randomized into a treated and control group respectively. The treatment group received Light Therapy 3 times a week over an 8 week period.

The researchers found that Light Therapy worked well among both diabetic and non-diabetic patients within the treated group. Those patients who received the Light Therapy treatment were found to have a significant increase in blood flow while there was no significant difference among those patients who were assigned to the control group6.

In another effort, researchers sought to check if Light Therapy could promote healing of diabetic ulcers that failed to respond to other forms of treatment9. The researchers studied 23 diabetic leg ulcers in two groups of 14 patients. Group one ulcers were cleaned, dressed with 1% silver sulfadiazine cream (traditional treatment), and treated with a placebo, while the other group received a similar wound treatment and Light Therapy treatment9

The researchers found:

  • Ulcer healing rates were significantly higher for the Light Therapy group than the placebo group9. The placebo group actually experienced a worsening of their ulcers during the initial 30 days while Light Therapy treated ulcers healed rapidly, achieving 56% more granulation (rebuilding of the tissue) and 79% faster healing by day 309
  • 58% of Light Therapy treated ulcers were 100% healed after a 3-month period
  • Only one "placebo" treated ulcer healed within the three-month trial period and no other ulcer attained above 90% healing rate9

The research concluded that Light Therapy can promote rapid tissue regeneration and healing of diabetic ulcers that failed to respond to standard forms of treatment.

Light Therapy Has Been Found to Accelerate Healing and Recovery Also Among: 

  • Older folks who have skin ulcers that won't heal. Light Therapy increased healing rates and shortened healing time in patients older than 65 years with Stage 2 or 3 skin ulcers11, positively improving their quality of life11
  • Patients who have suffered from venous ulcers4
  • Patients who have developed post-surgery erythema (skin injury and inflammation). Light Therapy decreased the intensity and duration of this skin condition

If you have a surgery coming up and want to learn more about how Light Therapy can help you during your pre- and post-surgery period, or if you have had an unplanned surgery and are interested in faster recovery, connect with us on Facebook or Twitter and get the latest updates and news from the Light Therapy world. To experience the benefits yourself, book your session here.

The Light Lounge Resource Center sources its data and research from peer-reviewed journals and unbiased world-class research institutions. Follow our blog to learn more and discover what the best research in the world has to say on Light Therapy (Photobiomodulation).


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