How to Use Red Light Therapy to Eliminate Chronic Overuse Injury?
According to research on epidemiologic studies on overuse injuries in male and female collegiate athletes, more than 25% of all injuries were overuse injuries. This number suggests that there is a high probability that many of these athletes are in danger of turning their injury into a chronic overuse injury if the treatment is not adequate.
The same research states that women have a higher rate of overuse injuries. On the other hand, men have a higher rate of acute injuries. Let’s look at what the difference is before diving into the exact how and why red light therapy could help manage overuse injuries.
What Is an Overuse Injury?
An overuse injury is caused by repeated trauma on a micro-level. This trauma to either your bones, joints, tendons, or muscles is caused by too much physical stress. Generally, exercising and staying active are good things. But, when you overwork yourself you prevent your body from remodeling.
Your body makes your bones, ligaments, muscles, and other tissue stronger when you exercise. Exercise triggers the processes of breaking down fiber connections and then building them up again to be more resistant. If the breakdown process happens faster than the build up-you are stuck with an overuse injury.
Overuse injuries mostly happen when you are trying to increase the intensity, length, or number of sessions of exercise, by too much at once. Trying to hit the gym harder to make up for a lost time after a period of inactivity can have the same effect.
The focus of a physician’s treatment plan should be to ensure the injury doesn’t return. The athlete’s part in this is to accept the necessary changes to their training regimen.
What Is the Difference Between Acute and Chronic Injury?
Acute injuries are the result of a sudden traumatic event. For example, acute injuries can be broken bones, smaller fractures, dislocated joints, and torn muscles or ligaments. Acute injuries come with symptoms like swelling, intense pain, and generous bruising. Sometimes, the injured person is not able to use the injured body part at all.
Acute injuries happen less often compared to overuse injuries. With an acute injury, it’s usually clear what the exact problem is. There is always an obvious event that caused the injury. So, they are also easier to diagnose and because of that, the treatment might be more straightforward than for an overuse injury.
How to Treat a Chronic Overuse Injury?
Firstly, you should realize that an overuse injury is going to get worse if you are ignoring the problem at the start. Another circumstance that can often prolong the recovery is that many physicians tell athletes to simply stop practicing. To most athletes, this isn’t fair advice because it doesn’t feel like an option. Try to find a doctor who will put in the effort of making a plan that helps with your symptoms and supports your need to continue moving, and avoid detraining.
There are different treatments that can be combined into a plan and which would be improved by the use of red light therapy.
Red Light Therapy as an Additional Treatment for Chronic Overuse Injury
Non-surgical treatments for a chronic overuse injury are your first step toward recovery. These include:
- Exercise therapy
- Kinesio taping
- Manual therapies
- And other options
These treatments mainly try to relieve stress from the injured area by strengthening the surrounding muscles, and other tissue, so they can take over some of the impacts on the injured area. At the same time, they promote blood flow, tissue healing, and regeneration.
Red light therapy can assist all these processes to become more efficient
That is why red light therapy is an excellent addition to these non-surgical options. It also enhances protein production – this has an effect on rebuilding tissue in general. No matter if it’s muscle, tendons, ligaments, or bones. So, it can help rebuild the tissue in that area.
What red light therapy also does is – improve your blood circulation. A better blood flow means that components needed for rebuilding tissue are more readily available and as an extra stimulus there will also be a bigger store of oxygen available. This also boosts the healing process.
Red Light Therapy Can Help With Pain Relief
The injury itself, as well as the treatments, can be the cause of inflammation and pain.
Painkillers manage the pain coming from the injury symptoms and also the possible pain during or after certain treatments like manual therapy, stretching/strengthening, and exercise therapy.
Red light therapy reduces inflammation and speeds up the recovery process by stimulating the production of the building blocks and oxygen. Additionally, triggering the immune response of the body helps eliminate inflammatory processes and helps pain management efforts.
Red light therapy is a completely non-pharmacological pain management option. The specific wavelength of red and near-infrared light triggers the release of hormones that have pain soothing effects. Red light stimulates the levels of serotonin, endorphins, and other opioids that our body produces naturally.
Red Light Can Support Surgical Management of Chronic Overuse Injury
In the worst-case scenario, a chronic overuse injury may require surgery. Red light therapy can assist in preparation for the surgery, but especially during the recovery period. Since tissue recovery is one of the advantages of red light therapy it can help the healing after an invasive treatment, such as surgery.
Another effect would be less scarring. Red light therapy has the same effect on the skin as it has on the tissue that was damaged during your injury.
Red light can help boost the blood flow, and also promote the creation of new blood vessels. This creates higher oxygenation levels and damaged tissue repair itself. However, blood flow is not the only thing tissue needs to regenerate. Nitric Oxide (NO) signaling release is another essential mechanism for wound forming and infection prevention. Red light therapy helps NO signaling release, consequently, assisting the healing process.
At the very core of every red light therapy, the healing mechanism is the systemic effect of energizing the body to heal itself. Our bodies are amazing systems that recognize their needs and requirements. Giving it energy boosts to perform the processes necessary for health optimization is the best you can do to help yourself heal.