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Seeing Pain Relief in a New (Infrared) Light

By Sam Brusco, Associate Editor | May 19, 2017

Welcome to another installment of technology-based opioid alternatives to treat orthopedic pain. This one’s a bit on the lighter side (joke to be explained in due course), and features some empirical evidence, as I was able to test this device out for myself.

Finding an effective treatment for chronic pain that both lacks side effects and isn’t habit-forming is quite the challenge. Physicians and patients are beginning to realize that the “one-size-fits-all” approach of opioid therapies to treat chronic pain is both ineffective and dangerous in the long term, but the public opinion has not quite shifted to support alternative, technology-based treatments. However, device makers are doing their part to bring these options to the mainstream.

BioCare Systems’ LumiWave device shines infrared (IR) light (get the joke now?) on the affected area to eliminate muscle and joint pain. Though at present I do not suffer from chronic pain, I was fortunate enough to test LumiWave after a particularly rigorous workout, as the device also finds use in alleviating post-activity muscle soreness in PGA, MLB, NFL, and Olympic athletes. It was notably used by athletes competing in the Beijing, London, Vancouver, and Sochi Games.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration-cleared LumiWave device is a wearable band containing a clinically effective number of IR LED lights. IR light therapy works because IR light can penetrate more deeply into the body’s tissues than visible or ultraviolet light, allowing it to stimulate the body’s biological pain relief and tissue repair processes. IR light inhibits pain signals by facilitating production of endorphins (a natural analgesic) and nitric oxide (another naturally occurring pain relief chemical), reducing inflammation, and increasing circulation and blood flow in the affected areas.

Though limited, my own experience using LumiWave to relieve post-workout muscle soreness was quite positive. A few hours following my workout, when muscle soreness began to set in, I strapped LumiWave to my right upper arm, near the shoulder. (This muscle has historically become quite sore following my upper body-focused exercise routine.) Tightly binding it to the affected area (though not too tightly so as to avoid further discomfort) with the IR LEDs arranged as instructed, I switched LumiWave on for a 20-minute session. Within a minute, the LEDs produced a pleasant warming sensation that almost immediately began to dull the growing soreness and relax my muscles. And in the true nature of experimentation, I did not engage LumiWave for a therapy session on my left arm. The next day, the effects were quite noticeable—the late-onset soreness in my right arm was vastly reduced as compared to the untreated arm.

Professional athletes have used LumiWave in this manner in order to keep muscle soreness to a minimum between games or events. But the technology has also found success in treating more chronic ailments, including arthritis, tendinitis, chronic muscle soreness, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

“As a former competitive athlete and ski instructor, I suffer from a variety of pain conditions,” commented Wix Howard, former competitive athlete in football, tournament karate, tennis, and golf, currently a retiree. “I’ve found LumiWave most successful at treating my back pain and muscle spasms. Before LumiWave, I would wake up several times at night due to extreme pain. Now, when the pain wakes me up, I can use LumiWave for immediate pain relief, and it allows me to return to sleep quickly—sometimes within minutes. I’ve also used LumiWave for pain relief after my two knee replacements and a torn rotator cuff. LumiWave has helped me not only manage my pain, but also reduce it over time.”

Regular usage of IR light therapy on affected joints and muscles may also prevent expensive and invasive surgeries on major joints.

“I’ve always enjoyed a variety of outdoor activities like running, baseball, biking, and skiing. But as a side effect of aging, I’ve developed chronic joint soreness in my knees, shoulders, and hands,” explained Chris Hornick, Ph.D., retired president of a management consulting firm. “For the past eight years, I’ve used LumiWave every day and as a result, I’ve been able to avoid invasive surgeries on my knees and other joints, and I’ve been able to remain active. I highly recommend the LumiWave to anyone who experiences pain, tightness, and stiffness in any joints, as well as to anyone who wants to gain relief from muscle soreness.”

Unlike an implantable neurostimulating device intended for long-term pain relief, IR light therapy vis-à-vis LumiWave is a purely topical solution meant for two daily 20-minute pain relief sessions to specifically affected areas. It would perhaps not prove practical for chronic widespread joint pain (think of how many LumiWave units that would require—they’re not exactly large). However, it can accomplish reducing joint pain to a manageable level (i.e., not requiring opioids)—and the more alternative options that are available to this end, the more likely patients and physicians are to try them. 

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