Light Therapy & Back Pain

Back pain can be uncomfortable and debilitating — it’s one of the most frequent health issues that prompt people to see a doctor. About 80% of Americans will experience either a mild or more severe form of back pain during their lifetime5.

In a less serious form, back pain should go away in a matter of days or weeks with self-care and home treatment. However, back pain relief may require more serious medical treatment if the underlying cause of pain is inflammation.

Mechanical vs. Inflammatory Back Pain

Most back pain can be categorized as mechanical back pain, typically caused by an issue with the bones, ligaments, spinal joints, discs, vertebrae, soft tissues or perhaps a compressed nerve4. However, if the back pain persists for more than a month, it may require additional diagnostic testing and imaging4.

Inflammatory back pain causes different chronic health issues than mechanical back pain7. Inflammatory back pain is strongly associated with inflammatory conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis7, a form of arthritis (inflammation of joints) that primarily affects the spine’s vertebrae2. In more serious cases, ankylosing spondylitis leads to ankylosis, which is the formation of a new bone in the spine and that is when the degree of pain can become much more severe in the body2.

Inflammatory back pain can also be related to conditions such as:

  • Psoriatic arthritis, where besides inflammation of the joints (arthritis), the patient suffers from skin inflammation (psoriasis)1,7;

  • Reactive arthritis, where the joint and back pain is triggered by an infection elsewhere in the body (e.g., the intestines or the urinary tract)7,9.

Older folks are more prone to develop inflammation and suffer from chronic pain conditions which can lead to persistent back pain. Persistent back pain that lasts several months may be related to inflammation and requires medical attention7. Research suggests that Light Therapy can be used as a non-invasive treatment to provide back pain relief to patients in need6,10.

Can Light Therapy Help Treat Chronic Back Pain?

Researchers demonstrated, in 20026, that Light Therapy may offer side-effect free back pain relief6. In this study, 40 patients with unmanageable, chronic low back pain were exposed to Light Therapy or placebo, randomly of course6.

Participants attended seven weekly sessions and used a numerical rating scale to identify the level of their overall pain or pain experienced while making twisting and flexing movements with their body6. At the end of the study, pain scores in the treatment group fell by 57%6 and in the placebo group, the pain scores fell by 10%6.

In conclusion, researchers demonstrated that Light Therapy can be effective in reducing chronic pain in the back. According to the study, “no adverse effects were observed” from using Light Therapy6.

Can Light Therapy Help Patients with Arthritic Back Pain?

In a more recent effort from 2016, researchers studied 48 patients suffering from Ankylosing spondylitis (a form of arthritis that leads to severe joints inflammation and pain). This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of Light Therapy combined with passive stretching exercises that promote body movement, and placebo with the same set of exercises10.

As part of the study, both placebo and treatment groups underwent 12 sessions of Light Therapy or placebo on specific points of pain in their bodies, plus the exercises, over the course of 2 months. Researchers based the effectiveness of the treatments on both pain and body function scales, which participants completed before, during, and after the treatments as a follow-up10.

The study results were encouraging; patients who received Light Therapy treatment reported significant improvements in both pain and functionality following the 2 months of Light Therapy and exercises compared to the placebo group10. In the follow-up questions that researchers gave to the participants, Light Therapy was associated with lasting improvements on the pain scale and no differences on the functionality scale10.

In conclusion, Light Therapy and passive stretching exercises can reduce pain more effectively than placebo along with the same set of exercises in patients with Ankylosing spondylitis10. This and other scientific evidence shows that Light Therapy can help in alleviating pain, without side-effects.

Book Your FREE Light Therapy appointment today

You can try the benefits of back pain relief thanks to Light Therapy yourself. Book your first session for free here and visit us at our premises in Evergreen, Colorado.

For any questions which you may have related to chronic pain and inflammation, pain in the knee, or pain in the back, feel free to reach us via Facebook or Twitter. We would be happy to answer. Follow our Light Lounge blog where we bring the latest research from around the world related to phototherapy and the benefits it could bring for your health.

  1. Ambardekar, N. (2018, April 19). 5 Common Types of Arthritis. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/guide/most-common-arthritis-types#2
  2. Ankylosing Spondylitis. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://www.spondylitis.org/Ankylosing-Spondylitis
  3. Back pain. (2018, August 4). Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20369906
  4. Chien, J. J., & Bajwa, Z. H. (2008). What is mechanical back pain and how best to treat it? Current Pain and Headache Reports, 12(6), 406–411. doi: 10.1007/s11916-008-0069-3
  5. Could Your Back Pain Be Caused By Inflammation? – New England Baptist Hospital. (2019, March 5). Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://www.nebh.org/blog/could-your-back-pain-be-caused-by-inflammation/
  6. Gale, G. D., Rothbart, P. J., & Li, Y. (2006). Infrared Therapy for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Pain Research and Management, 11(3), 193–196. doi: 10.1155/2006/876920
  7. Lassiter W, Allam AE. Inflammatory Back Pain. (Updated 2019 Nov 13). In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539753/
  8. Light Therapy for Chronic Pain. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/overcoming-pain/201710/light-therapy-chronic-pain
  9. Reactive arthritis. (2019, October 2). Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/reactive-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354838
  10. Stasinopoulos, D., Papadopoulos, K., Lamnisos, D., & Stergioulas, A. (2016). LLLT for the management of patients with ankylosing spondylitis. Lasers in Medical Science, 31(3), 459–469. doi: 10.1007/s10103-016-1874-2

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