How Red Light Therapy can support Multiple Sclerosis treatments
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune, demyelinating inflammatory disease of the nervous system. It might be difficult to figure out how to live with this incurable condition and the obstacles it presents. Treatment typically focuses on managing the symptoms of MS.
As reported by neurology.org, “MS is the most common progressive neurologic disease in young adults worldwide. In the United States, roughly 300,000–400,000 American adults have MS.”
The exact cause of MS is unclear. MS is thought to be caused by an interplay between genetic and environmental factors. Geographical location is also a variable that influences the etiology of Multiple sclerosis. In a 2012 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, researchers looked at different locations of the world with higher MS prevalence to see what they had in common. Persons who live in colder climates have greater risks of developing MS. With that said, research suggests that there is a significant correlation between low sunlight exposure and developing MS.
Understanding Multiple Sclerosis
According to the National MS Society “MS involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS).” Its target on the myelin that surrounds nerve fibers causes a slew of neurologic symptoms - unless something prevents the attack or accelerates the repair. Scientists continue to and are committed to finding breakthrough therapies.
Multiple sclerosis symptoms can manifest itself in a variety of ways and can affect any region of the body. Symptoms can be unpredictable, grow and worsen over time, and come and go for others, significantly impacting a person’s quality of life.
‘Relapses are defined as periods in which symptoms worsen. Remissions are periods of time when symptoms improve or disappear’ (NHS 2022). The following are some of the most common symptoms:
- vision problems
- numbness and tingling
- muscle spasms, stiffness and weakness
- mobility problems
- problems with thinking, learning and planning
- depression and anxiety
- sexual problems
- bladder problems
- bowel problems
- Speech and swallowing difficulties
People with MS may also experience stabbing pain caused by improper sensory neurons signals emanating from the nerves as a result of MS lesions throughout the central nervous system.
Red and near-infrared (NIR) light deficiency
With restricted sun exposure during the last few generations, modern societies have transitioned to spending more time indoors. As a result, we've created light deficits, which are wreaking havoc on our health and well-being.
As the sun provides us with full-spectrum light, which includes various wavelengths that we can't see, we only get a limited range of red and near-infrared light. It is the red and NIR light (in the mid 600 nm and min 800 nm) that is clinically beneficial. Natural sunlight is a necessary component for our health, and receiving the optimum dosage is fundamental. It is quite remarkable to discover what these wavelengths can do inside our bodies—specifically, how our cells use them to produce more energy. Learn more about how to get the most out of red light therapy and understand the difference between red vs near-infrared light.
The power of Red Light Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
Existing treatments for MS are partially effective and can have adverse side effects. Managing MS is an ongoing process, beginning with the very first symptoms and continuing throughout the disease course. It's worth noting that the majority of scientific evidence is investigating how long-term exposure to visible and infrared light can help people with multiple sclerosis.
Red light therapy can be a helpful therapeutic approach to help ease and support your health and has been used in clinical settings to treat inflammation and stimulate ATP production as well as tissue healing. Broadly speaking, red light therapy has been known for its positive effects on autoimmune diseases that originate in inflammation such as MS.
A review in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine compiled the results of many studies surrounding red light therapy, also known as Lower Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) and MS. The research found that low level laser therapy significantly decreases pain in adults with varying MS disorders.
Red Light Therapy and MS Research
Typical MS treatments aim to reduce the damage caused by T-cells, which are drawn to specific areas of the central nervous system by proteins known as cytokines. There are recurrent episodes of T cell-mediated immunological assault on myelin in the central nervous system causing eventual impairment. Red Light therapy has the potential to reduce these cytokines.
This 2016 article titled, “Low-level laser therapy ameliorates disease progression in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis”, stated the following: “histological analysis showed that LLLT blocked neuroinflammation through a reduction of inflammatory cells in the CNS, especially lymphocytes, as well as preventing demyelination in the spinal cord after EAE induction. Together, our results suggest the use of LLLT as a therapeutic application during autoimmune neuroinflammatory responses, such as MS.” (Gonçalves ED, et al., 2016). This review demonstrated that a couple of treatments of low-level laser therapy have significantly slowed down the advancement of the disease and lessened brain cell death.
An article titled, “Light therapy to treat autoimmune disease,” stated the following in regards to Photobiomodulation, which is another term for red light therapy:
“Photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy, using far red/near IR (FR/NIR) laser light (630–1000nm), offers promise as an effective treatment for chronic inﬂammation and neurodegeneration. One hypothesis to explain the PBM mechanism describes mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase (CcO) as a photoreceptor for FR/NIR light. Absorption of the light by CcO leads to restoration of mitochondrial induction of gene transcription. The outcome of photobiomodulation is the down-regulation of pro-inﬂammatory processes, up-regulation of anti-inﬂammatory mechanisms, and restoration of physiology.” (Jeri-Anne Lyons, 2015)
According to the authors, “Effect of photobiomodulation treatment in the sublingual, radial artery region, and along the spinal column in individuals with multiple sclerosis: Protocol for a randomized, controlled, double-blind, clinical trial,” Photobiomodulation demonstrated in vitro and in vivo to be an effective treatment modality for inflammatory diseases such as MS.
Animal experimental results in this study demonstrated that mice treated with photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) had less severe symptoms with limited relapses than the mice that did not receive PBMT. The author of this article's previous research indicated that infrared light could safeguard nerve cells. It was claimed that part of infrared's utility stems from how it affects mitochondria, the small power plants found in cells, ultimately assisting in reversing the oxidative stress and inflammation that afflicts MS patients. Examining the effect of light on the mice genes in this study, revealed that molecules responsible for negatively affecting the disease were weakened after exposure to light, while those responsible for improvement were strengthened. Additionally, it was noted that, “NIR light heals by ensuring that cytochrome oxidase binds with oxygen to turn on protectors and stimulate cell metabolism,” (MDB, 2013) offering neuroprotective treatment.
As seen in this 2017 randomized controlled trial, red light therapy provided relief from MS-related fatigue and is one of the most common symptoms experienced by people with MS.
Although the scientific literature on the correlation between red light therapy and MS is fairly new, scientists are optimistic that red and near-infrared light will be useful significantly more in future treatment of autoimmune disorders. The animal studies indicate that it may very well be beneficial in human MS individuals. Ultimately, further research is needed. However, this does not rule out the possibility of including it as a symptom-managing modality for people with MS.
For people struggling with MS, red light therapy may provide notable therapeutic support.
Our collection of Rouge panels will provide you with a range of options for relaxing red light therapy treatments from the comfort of your own home.
de la Fuente AG, Errea O, van Wijngaarden P, Gonzalez GA, Kerninon C, Jarjour AA, Lewis HJ, Jones CA, Nait-Oumesmar B, Zhao C, Huang JK, ffrench-Constant C, Franklin RJ. Vitamin D receptor-retinoid X receptor heterodimer signaling regulates oligodendrocyte progenitor cell differentiation. J Cell Biol. 2015 Dec 7;211(5):975-85. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201505119. PMID: 26644513; PMCID: PMC4674280.
Hamblin MR. Shining light on the head: Photobiomodulation for brain disorders. BBA Clin. 2016;6:113-124. Published 2016 Oct 1. doi:10.1016/j.bbacli.2016.09.002
Johnstone DM, Moro C, Stone J, Benabid AL, Mitrofanis J. Turning On Lights to Stop Neurodegeneration: The Potential of Near Infrared Light Therapy in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. Front Neurosci. 2016;9:500. Published 2016 Jan 11. doi:10.3389/fnins.2015.00500
Mateen FJ, Manalo NC, Grundy SJ, Houghton MA, Hotan GC, Erickson H, Videnovic A. Light therapy for multiple sclerosis-associated fatigue: Study protocol for a randomized controlled
O'Gorman C, Lucas R, Taylor B. Environmental risk factors for multiple sclerosis: a review with a focus on molecular mechanisms. Int J Mol Sci. 2012;13(9):11718-11752. doi:10.3390/ijms130911718
Ostkamp, P., Salmen, A., Pignolet, B., Görlich, D., Andlauer, T., Schulte-Mecklenbeck, A., Gonzalez-Escamilla, G., Bucciarelli, F., Gennero, I., Breuer, J., Antony, G., Schneider-Hohendorf, T., Mykicki, N., Bayas, A., Then Bergh, F., Bittner, S., Hartung, H. P., Friese, M. A., Linker, R. A., Luessi, F., … German Competence Network Multiple Sclerosis (KKNMS) and the BIONAT Network (2021). Sunlight exposure exerts immunomodulatory effects to reduce multiple sclerosis severity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(1), e2018457118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2018457118
Wallin MT, Culpepper WJ, Campbell JD, et al. The prevalence of MS in the United States: A population-based estimate using health claims data. Neurology. 2019 Mar 5;92(10):e1029-e1040. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000007035