How It Works
Proven therapy that prompts the body to heal.
How Does The Therapy Work?
The short answer:
The body heals itself; the therapy prompts a restart.
Let's start from the beginning. Healing is what makes living things continue living. Modern medicine can't force healing to happen.
However, healing can be interrupted and restarted like bringing the ends of a broken bone close enough together.
Like with gravity, you can see healing in action without knowing how "it" works. The endpoint is the return to normal functioning. Then the healing systems resume their ordinary maintenance tasks.
Could the acceptance of a "new" normal that is limited by "chronic" make healing feel like magic?
What if a few photons were all that was needed to prompt the return to normal functioning?
The observation that photons can prompt acceleration or a restart of healing isn't new. Ancient societies revered photons of different wavelengths for their healing properties.
Modern photobiomodulation therapy (PBM) got its start with the early red lasers in the 1960s. Today, studies of fixed wavelength therapies span the visible spectrum. More on that later.
In 1999, PhotoMed's founder learned about then called infrared therapy. The therapy relieved the diabetic neuropathy pain of a friend's dad. The outcomes were tantalizing but the therapy took too long to "work".
Inspiration struck. The invention of PhotoMed's variable-wavelength therapy overcomes an inherent problem with fixed wavelengths; more of the same therapy if the first try doesn't work.
The founder formed a team to develop the therapy to relieve the treatment-resistant pain endured by his friends and neighbors. It didn't take long to see outcomes that showed new possibilities.
Depiction that compares the possible application of a fixed-wavelength therapy and a variable-wavelength therapy. The variable-wavelength therapy is about the process of finding the wavelengths needed by the individual patient.
In 2000, PhotoMed's variable-wavelength therapy got its start by prompted healing to resume even when not expected. The nerdy soft- and hardware engineers applied industrial-style strategies to solve medical mysteries.
In retrospect, each unpredicted improvements were each like running the first 4-minute mile. The events make it easier for those who follow once the imaginary barrier is pushed aside. How could the team economically learn if the therapy "works" for people having unsolved impaired functioning; sensory, motor, skin temperature, or wound healing?
The team invited volunteers having hope but no reasonable expectations for the resolution of their intractable pain and coldness that felt like the burning while holding ice. They arrived with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS or RSD). Most had endured their unrelenting pain years to decades.
For some, their pain resolved in a few visits. The founder's childhood friend, Kristin, went back to work as a Registered Critical Care Nurse. She retired after 15 years with no return of her CRPS that started with a fall on ice.
The team developed sophisticated real-time recording systems to capture the events when healing resumes. The events have became more common as the data rolled. The data connected the dots among the wavelengths, response, and outcomes.
Thermal imaging provided the first feedback, within a minute, that a particular application of the therapy "works" for people with cold limbs.
Thermal imaging of hands warming after a long period of abnormal coldness. No unique wavelength-to-outcome relationship has been found in PhotoMed's real-time recordings. The data shows cases when wavelengths from violet through red prompt the return to normal functioning.
The team and their anesthesiologist, neurologist, and neurosurgeon advisors were puzzled. How could a few photons prompt the return to normal functioning? They asked for more recordings.
Thermal imaging of hands warming after a long period of abnormal coldness. Can you find the first indication of warming?
The real-time recordings increase in value by helping to answer new questions. PhotoMed's team developed its Instant Verification System to help make the therapy more efficient. Now, the recordings and System can save time and $$ for future researchers.
The real-time recordings show the restart-of-healing events. The recordings may be unique but lots of non-invasive therapies aim to prompt a restart of healing.
Photobiomodulation therapy (PBM) is the current term for photon-based therapies that don't heat or cut the skin. You can read more here: https://www.aslms.org/for-the-public/treatments-using-lasers-and-energy-based-devices/photobiomodulation
Red and infrared wavelengths remain the most studied; typically examining the effects of one wavelength per study. 5000+ studies show that many mechanisms may be involved in relieving pain, promoting relaxation, reducing inflammation, and a myriad of other improvements. Often cited, the wavelengths in the red and infrared spectrum may be selected for their ability to penetrate the skin to stimulate deeper tissues. The most frequently mentioned mechanism of action (MOA) is the cytochrome c oxidase pathway for improving mitochondrial functioning.
PhotoMed's variable-wavelength therapy introduces more efficient ways to apply photobiomodulation therapy (PBM). The therapy was developed in feasibility studies that aimed to prompt improved physiological functioning and pain relief.
PhotoMed's variable-wavelength therapy evolved over many iterations of the delivery and recording systems. https://www.photomedtech.com/history
PhotoMed's Varichrome Pro lets the user automatically vary the wavelength, rate of variation, and frequency of the beam. The aim of the variability is to redirect the body's attention that might restart healing.
The aim of the variability is to redirect the body's attention that might restart healing. Varying the wavelength, etc., is like changing the temperature of your shower water.
The concept of redirected attention came from watching people flinch, gasp, or blurt out when the healing systems switched from stuck to working again. Varying the settings may increase the time for the body to respond.
How might a few photons redirect the healing system's attention?
Many pathways for getting the healing system's attention
The skin has many photo-transducing mechanisms that convert photonic energy to a signal. For example, lots of different cells include opsins (our eyes use 3 versions of one opsin to see millions of colors).
Depiction of opsins in skin cells that capture and convert photonic energy for a later process, called a pathway or mechanism of action. Cells such as keratinocytes employ multiple opsins that may support the detection of different spectral distributions. The take-home idea is that varying the wavelength can stimulate many cells of different types during a session.
See paper for details: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/phpp.12578
The research into photo-transducing mechanisms is just starting. Opsins in human skin, for example, were discovered in 2009. Review papers help connect the dots that might be missed when looking at individual papers. The team found the above paper in 2022. Excited might be an understatement. The wavelengths in the paper "explained" the skin's sensitivity to green and blue wavelengths.
A review paper by Serrage et al includes details of the effects for 53 discrete visible wavelengths (diamonds in the graphic below).
The paper mentions multiple photo-transducing pathways:
Cytochrome c oxidase
Flavins and flavoproteins
Nitric oxide (NO)-containing compounds and nitrite reductases
Nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NFkB)
Transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) signaling
Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) signaling
Mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling
Extracellular-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling
c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)
Serrage, H., Heiskanen, V., Palin, W.M. et al. Under the spotlight: mechanisms of Photobiomodulation concentrating on blue and green light. Photochem Photobiol Sci 18, 1877–1909 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1039/c9pp00089e
The Varichrome Pro can deliver wavelengths across the visible spectrum, multiple pathways may be stimulated in parallel and/or serially. However, the patient measures success by their improved functioning or relieved pain.
The Serrage paper includes studies that examined a single pathway via cells from animals and humans in vivo and/or in vitro.
Apples and oranges
It is important to note that PhotoMed's feasibility studies focused on objective improvements of physiological functioning of the sensory, motor, skin temperature, and wound healing systems. The desired endpoint for the individual outcomes was the return to normal functioning. The endpoint was easy to document in many cases; the person didn't need more therapy for their problem.
The therapy was typically applied with the wavelength sweeping a range of less than 100nm. The outcomes vs. settings from the Varichrome Pro were distilled from the data collected over years.
PhotoMed's team wasn't looking for the mechanisms because the responses and outcomes didn't fit the standard explanations.. Practitioners can now serve patients who were underserved by previous attempts.
The responses and outcomes often arrive while the therapy is being applied to the skin. The real-time recordings work like a video referee, the crazy-fast responses can be reexamined from different perspectives.
Could a 10-second video be worth 10,000 words?
7 Pre-programmed selections:
#1-5 span the visible spectrum
#7 spans 440-680nm
Adjustable-rate of wavelength variation in programmed selections: ~4 - 32nm/second
Manual range: 430-690nm
Frequency: continuous to 500Hz
Dimensions: L x W x H: 6.6 x 3.5 x 1.8 inches (Control unit w/o knobs)
Weight: <2 lbs
Charging Supply: 12VDC @ 18Watts, charging time ~6hrs.
Operating time: 2hrs @ max intensity (external battery pack)
Working distance and diameter: 1.5 inches, 1.5 inches