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Mechanisms and Pathways of Pain Photobiomodulation: A Narrative Review

PainSci » bibliography » Cheng et al 2021

One article on PainSci cites Cheng 2021: The Complete Guide to Chronic Tension Headaches

Common issues and characteristics relevant to this paper: ?Scientific papers have many common characteristics, flaws, and limitations, and many of these are rarely or never acknowledged in the paper itself, or even by other reviewers. I have reviewed thousands of papers, and described many of these issues literally hundreds of times. Eventually I got sick of repeating myself, and so now I just refer to a list common characteristics, especially flaws. Not every single one of them applies perfectly to every paper, but if something is listed here, it is relevant in some way. Note that in the case of reviews, the issue may apply to the science being reviewed, and not the review itself.

  1. A high (and possibly unacknowledged) risk of bias and its consequences (p-hacking, etc).

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

A growing body of evidence supports the modulation of pain by light exposure. As such, phototherapy is being increasingly utilized for the management of a variety of pain conditions. The modes of delivery, and hence applications of phototherapy, vary by wavelength, intensity, and route of exposure. As such, differing mechanisms of action exist depending upon those parameters. Cutaneous application of red light (660 nm) has been shown to reduce pain in neuropathies and complex regional pain syndrome-I, whereas visual application of the same wavelength of red light has been reported to exacerbate migraine headache in patients and lead to the development of functional pain in animal models. Interestingly visual exposure to green light can result in reduction in pain in variety of pain conditions such as migraine and fibromyalgia. Cutaneous application typically requires exposure on the order of minutes, whereas visual application requires exposure on the order of hours. Both routes of exposure elicit changes centrally in the brainstem and spinal cord, and peripherally in the dorsal root ganglia and nociceptors. The mechanisms of photobiomodulation of pain presented in this review provide a foundation in furtherance of exploration of the utility of phototherapy as a tool in the management of pain. PERSPECTIVE: This review synopsizes the pathways and mechanisms through which light modulates pain and the therapeutic utility of different colors and exposure modalities of light on pain. Recent advances in photobiomodulation provide a foundation for understanding this novel treatment for pain on which future translational and clinical studies can build upon.

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