Light therapy (photobiomodulation) as a solution for post-COVID problems
“Do you also treat people who have suffered from COVID?”
“Why are you asking?”
“I'm asking this, because you guys help people with brain problems, right?”
Nowadays, this question is asked almost daily in our practice, although we are mainly aiming on helping people dealing with brain traumas. This type of question shows that the consequences from a severe COVID infection can continue even after the virus and its (very serious) effects are gone.
In this article, I will share some remarkable facts that have emerged from studies and show that there is (literally) light on the horizon for people facing ongoing consequences after COVID. Furthermore, I’ll share an interesting discovery that, upon further investigation, is also supported by recent publications.
What are we dealing with after COVID?
Almost anyone who’s ever had a real flu (not just a cold), knows that there are often post-flu symptoms with the most common ones ranging from fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle tension and dizziness during exercise.
These phenomena can last up to a few weeks or even months. This also applies to a large percentage of the people who have become really ill due to the COVID-19 virus.
An unknown percentage of people who have been hospitalised or got seriously ill will experience ongoing effects.
Studies have now been published which show that serious persistent probles are still present 3-4 months after “recovery”. This is the case for 80% of those who have been hospitalised. Some of the after-symptoms are:
- Non-specific pain and physical discomfort
- Difficulty breathing
- Aching joints & chest pain
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Limited ability to absence of smelling
In addition, there are also more serious complaints such as:
- Pulmonary hypertension (where the heart has to work too hard because the lung functionality has decreased)
- Lung fibrosis
- Fluid and inflammation around the heart
- Neurological and neuropsychiatric problems such as a dysregulated autonomic nervous system
- Myalgic encephalopathy/chronic fatigue syndrome, depression etc.
- Auto immune problems triggered or exacerbated by COVID
Not to mention all of the unintended side effects of the measures taken to contain COVID, especially for the vulnerable groups (such as the elderly, those with diabetes, cancer, pre-existing increased inflammatory susceptibility etc.).
Additionally, less social contact and not being able to exercise in any form has negative consequences that actually weaken the immune system and further weaken the resilience to withstand disease.
Researchers show that, without going too much into detail, there are a number of main reasons why persistent complaints are still present:
- There still is a weakened or a too strong persistent immune response
- The inflammation value in the body is persistently too high
- The mitochondral (energy-factories at cell level) system is weakened and no longer functions properly
- A decreased diversity and weakened microbiome (the mix of good and bad gut bacteria in your stomach, viruses, fungi, etc.) in the gastrointestinal tract.
My interest was piqued by our clients’ questions about the treatment of post COVID problems. We had already seen a number of people in our practice who were dealing with both the consequences of one or more concussion(s), and with the consequences of COVID. Among the persistent complaints were not only respiratory problems and even stronger fatigue than the fatigue already present from their concussions, but also headaches, not being able to think clearly and constant "brain fog" just to name a few.
Because we routinely use so-called low-intensity therapeutic laser (i.e. photobiomodulation) to reduce the effects of brain trauma, it seemed like a good idea to also use it for lung problems resulting from COVID (after recovery).
This was not a whim, but rather a logical idea when looking at the ever expanding literature on the use of light therapy, for example, for lung problems.
Much to our surprise, the use of laser in combination with other methods to improve brain function including breathing techniques and optimizing energy management (see also the “How To Improve Energy” video), exceeded expectations.
The recovery from fatigue, lung problems and an improvement in general well-being after COVID suddenly seemed to accelerate. Somewhat surprised at this rather unexpected result, as persistent problems after COVID usually don't go away that easily, I decided to dive into research studies in order to gain more insight.
The remarkable conclusion drawn by scientists looking for methods (pharmaceutical applications or specific therapy etc.) that stimulate recovery during and after COVID is elaborated below. In fact, there are no or only very few targeted applications during and after COVID to speed up recovery apart from adjusting lifestyle, carefully rebuilding activity and making serious lung, heart and/ or kidney problems manageable with medication. However, one thing appears to have surprising effects to decrease and regulate the serious immune reactions and complications, without side effects: The use of red and infrared laser (photobiomodulation). Bingo! That is probably the exact reason why laser treatment seems to have such a positive effect on our clients.
Upon conducting further research (I already knew quite a lot about the effects of laser), I was extremely surprised: The FBM has a positive effect on immune system regulation, on reduction of neuroinflammation in the brain and on the promotion of muscle strength and muscle recovery.
Secondly, the stomach intestinal flora and the presence of good intestinal bacteria, which reduce inflammatory reactions through the vagus nerve (a major part of the parasympathetic nervous system), are promoted by the use of low-intensity laser. Additionally, the usual side effects of other forms of treatment don’t apply to this.
Have a look at the other positive effects of therapeutic laser or light therapy in the overview below.
Red and infrared lasers (the strongly bundled form of red and infrared light) in particular work strongly on the so-called mitochondria; the light-sensitive parts in these “energy factories” are present in all of our body cells. Other positive effects are decreasing negative immune reactions, better blood flow and activating stem cells (without negative side effects).
So far, we’ve shed light on the following positive results of light therapy:
- Improved energy management
- Regulation and optimisation of the immune system
- Improved recovery process
- Decrease of persistent inflammation levels
- Improved microflora in our intestines, for example through lifestyle changes. Most important is sleep, but also nutrition, exercise and hydration.
Looking at all of the above, it becomes even clearer how important light is for us (red and infrared are also part of the light spectrum). It seems that light therapy in the form of therapeutic laser can be an important factor in improving ones situation after an infection with COVID with serious acute and persistent consequences.
In the following articles I will discuss the improvement of energy management, sleep, hydration and the build-up & effects of exercise post-COVID.