PBM Light Therapy as a Treatment for Acute and Chronic COVID-19

red light therapy benefits


This article is to show how Photobiomodulation (PBM) Light Therapy in a clinical setting, has been proven to effectively help people suffering from acute and long Covid -19 symptoms and that this therapy is safe and prudent to add to any client’s current Covid-19 recovery plan.

What is Long (Chronic) COVID – 19?

According to the Government of Canada website, when people still show symptoms of COVID-19 for weeks or months after their initial recovery, it’s called “post COVID-19 condition” or “long COVID”. The people who suffer from this are also referred to as COVID Long Haulers.

According to Health Canada, the research so far has not led to any clear answers as to why or who is most likely to suffer long term effects of COVID-19.  It is happening to people who have had a range of initial symptoms from mild to severe and all age groups and genders.  Long term symptoms can be quite different from initial Covid -19 symptoms.

The most common Long Covid symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Cough and/or chest pain
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Joint pain & discomfort
  • Muscle pain or headache
  • Memory, concentration or sleep problems
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Hair loss
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities.

Although there is currently no cure for post COVID-19 condition as a whole, there are treatments available to manage symptoms. Source

The Vancouver Health Authority has opened two Covid-19 recovery clinics for long-haulers, one at VGH, one at St. Paul’s Hospital. One has also opened in Abbotsford, BC. Clients need a doctor’s referral and positive Covid-19 test (from the initial infection) to be accepted. Learn more

Help for Long-Haulers!

Along with the recovery clinics offered by our Provincial Health Authorities, other ways to manage symptoms are to use alternative and complementary therapies provided privately in your community.  People with chronic pain and other chronic illnesses such as auto-immune diseases have long been using holistic, complimentary and /or alternative treatments to manage the myriad of symptoms they may be experiencing (including those similar to Covid-19 long haulers).

Types of Natural Treatments

Along with physiotherapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic, and massage therapy, there are many other treatments that can greatly help our bodies to heal and recover naturally.

Some health care options include: Naturopathy (including food and supplement recommendations, vitamin IV therapy etc.) Osteopathy, Oxygen therapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Photobiomodulation (PBM) Light Therapy also known as Red Light Therapy.

Counselling is a good option for people needing emotional support and coping strategies to manage difficult health challenges as they affect every aspect of our lives.

Ideally, Covid recovery clinics will keep adding more services and resources for their clients as these services prove helpful. An integrative approach that includes public and private, traditional and holistic health care services, then tailoring health plans for each client based on their individual needs, will give each Covid Long-Hauler the best chance for a full recovery.

The remainder of this article will focus on how PBM, and its ability to target cellular oxidative stress, is an excellent therapeutic option to effectively help people suffering from acute and long Covid -19 symptoms and that PBM is a safe and prudent option to add to any client’s current Covid-19 recovery plan.

Photobiomodulation (Red Light therapy) and COVID -19

There have been thousands of studies and clinic trials over the years to show how PBM helps relieve a host of different physical and neurological conditions such as chronic fatigue, pneumonia, brain fog, concussions, body pain, arthritis, and so much more. Source

It’s use for COVID -19 and Long COVID symptoms is no exception.

Photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy in a clinical setting with trained doctors or practitioners using robust equipment is a safe and effective option for treating Long COVID symptoms.

One of the main functions of PBM is to reduce inflammation. It does this by displacing cellular oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the precursor to chronic inflammation.

Inflammation is the underlying cause for most (if not all) of the Covid-19 acute and lingering symptoms. That is why PBM is so effective in relieving these symptoms and why it can be used for almost any health condition you can name. See more on PBM & inflammation here

PBM is safe, Health Canada and FDA approved, and has no known side effects. It can be used alongside any other treatment as it has no contra-indications. In fact, it often enhances the effectiveness of other treatments.

What does PBM Light Therapy Do?

  • Increases cellular energy (ATP)
  • Reduces inflammation and pain
  • Stimulates healing & tissue repair
  • Improves blood flow
  • Boosts immune function
  • Activates stem cells

Details on how PBM works to repair damaged cells and increase cellular energy (ATP)
Video here

A Sample of Clinical Trials for Acute Covid-19

Studies on PBM and COVID -19 have just begun in the past year or so but preliminary findings show that:

“Evidence-based and effective treatments for COVID-19 are limited, and a new wave of infections and deaths calls for novel, easily implemented treatment strategies. Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) is a well-known adjunctive treatment for pain management, wound healing, lymphedema, and cellulitis. PBMT uses light to start a cascade of photochemical reactions that lead to local and systemic anti-inflammatory effects at multiple levels and that stimulate healing.” In the clinical trial, “PBMT patients showed improvement on pulmonary indices such as SMART-COP, BCRSS, RALE, and CAP (Community-Acquired Pneumonia questionnaire). PBMT-treated patients showed rapid recovery, did not require ICU admission or mechanical ventilation, and reported no long-term sequelae at 5 months after treatment” Source  

Another study states that: “Photobiomodulation therapy, which involves periodic brief exposure to red or infrared light, is a non-invasive and safe method that is currently being used to treat a wide range of diseases with underlying inflammatory conditions. Here, we show that exposure to two 10-min, high-intensity periods per day of infrared light causes a marked reduction in the TLR-4 dependent inflammatory response pathway, which has been implicated in the onset of cytokine storms in COVID-19 patients” Source

A study in Europe revealed that “PBM is helpful in reducing the lung inflammation and promoting the regeneration of the damaged tissue. PBM can increase the oxygenation indirectly in order to rehabilitate the affected organs. Thus, the infra-red lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are recommended in this regard.” Source

Shining Light on COVID-19 Symptoms

Long Covid -19 and PBM

Based on what scientist already know about the effects of a COVID-19 infection on the brain, it appears likely that once the Covid virus is cleared from the body, there will be some damage left behind in areas of the brain and body in the form of inflammation. In some cases, the damage will be sufficient to manifest as brain fog, chronic fatigue, and a number of other neurocognitive syndromes that Covid Long-Haulers are experiencing.

How does PBM help with Neurological issues such as Cognitive function and brain fog?

Unlike medications that simply mask symptoms, Photobiomodulation (PBM) works from the inside out at the cellular level. PBM has the capacity to HEAL damaged cells by reducing oxidative stress which allows necessary oxygen to enter the cell’s Mitochondria and produce energy (ATP) at optimal levels. Details

Photobiomodulation Light Therapy benefits your brain in many ways:

  • Reducing oxidative stress and inflammation (linked to concussions and neurodegenerative disorders)
  • Improving cellular metabolic functioning (increasing production of cellular energy (ATP) necessary for cell survival
  • Stimulating cerebral blood flow to increase brain oxygenation and remove waste products
  • Red light is a powerful neuroprotector, meaning it helps protect neurons (brain cells) from damage or degeneration
  • Stimulating production of stem cells in response to injury or other causes of cell death or dysfunction
  • Activating neurogenesis (the growth of neurons and new nerve tissue) and synaptogenesis (formation of new synapses). also called neuroplasticity.

Source: Brain Photobiomodulation Therapy: A Narrative Review (nih.gov)

Also see Norman Doidge MD “The Brain’s Way of Healing”

Bottom line: PBM can heal damaged brain cells and reduce inflammation which results in a reduction of (or elimination of) symptoms such as headaches, brain fog, memory loss, ability to focus and concentrate, anxiety, hair loss and sleep problems. PBM is also successfully being used for stroke and TBI / concussion recovery, Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression and much more.

Light probes can be shone directly on the head for neurological conditions and on the lungs to help relieve symptoms such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, cough and chest pain.

Shining PBM red and near infra red light on the spine, lymphatic system and pain locations (joints and muscles) will relieve pain and help increase range of motion.

Using PBM whole-body equipment such as a lightbed, over time will greatly increase cellular energy, blood circulation and boost immune function which combats pain, inflammation, swelling, chronic fatigue, sleep problems and depression. 

Photobiomodulation offers a lot of hope and has great potential to ease the pain and suffering of Covid-19 Long Haulers as well as anyone suffering from pain, illness, or injury.

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