Shedding Some Light on the Benefits of Light Therapy
There is something about the sunshine that always makes me feel better. As a chiropractor in the functional world of health I discuss the same topic with many of my patients. Most will agree that a good sunny day always seems to lift their spirits. As time has evolved and the cause and effect relationship studied, it has been noted in many cultures, light therapy has been used as a healing art.
The first source of light used for medical treatments was sunlight. The use of sunlight for medical treatments is called heliotherapy. The first anecdotal records indicate that the use of heliotherapy dates from 1400 B.C.. Hindus treated patients with skin disorders using plants followed by exposure to sunlight. Hippocrates, who lived in the IV Century B.C., recommended sunlight to treat a variety of diseases. Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Arab physicians integrated light therapy in general medical treatments. Although many ancient physicians believed that the therapeutic effect of sunlight was due to heat of the sun, there was no scientific explanation for the sunlight therapy at the time. (1)
At the end of the 19th Century, heliotherapy was recognized by many physicians. In 1903, in Leysin, Switzerland, Dr. Rollier opened the first hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis and rachitis with sun exposure. In 1914, he published a book “La Cure du Soleil”, in which he reported his results with heliotherapy. (1)
Important therapeutic effects of sunlight prompted many researchers to develop and use filtered solar radiation and artificial light sources. Thus phototherapy had become an alternative to heliotherapy. In 1893, the Danish physician Niels Ryberg Finsen developed one of the first devices capable of producing technically synthesized “sunlight.” There are clear advantages of technically synthesized light – the parameters, such as intensity and emitted light spectrum, are controllable. In the period from 1895 to 1903, he treated more than 950 patients with lupus vulgaris (tuberculosis of the skin) using filtered technically synthesized “sunlight.” In 1903, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his research in light therapy and exceptional therapeutic results. Dr. Finsen is considered to be the founder of modern light therapy. (1)
So when we think of light we most often think of “visible light.” Light is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Visible light is usually defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400-700 nanometers. (2) The main source of light on Earth is the sun. Sunlight provides the energy that green plants use to create sugars mostly in the form of starches, which release energy into the living things that digest them. This process of photosynthesis provides virtually all the energy used by living things. (2) This statement to me is the most important of all, because essentially without light, the earthly creatures that inhabit earth would cease to exist. That alone tells me the magnitude and importance of light. Put that importance into terms of medicine and the healing arts and the possibilities of the therapy could reach far beyond what our imaginations perceive at this point. The best example that most can relate to in terms of light is vitamin D. Without sunlight, our bodies cannot produce vitamin D, and the deficiency of this is called Rickets. Light must be absorbed to produce a biological response, which is likely why all of us in northeast Ohio are likely vitamin D deficient due to the lack of sunlight.
The power that light contains can have far reaching effects as has been accepted for thousands of years. As time progresses and we examine the cause and effect relationships of light therapy, new hope may be given to those who need it. I personally have witnessed changes within my patient population with the light therapies that our office provides. I have seen infants under the bilirubin lights in the N.I.C.U. due to the toxic level of bilirubin. It is no surprise to me that we will continue to find benefits from the different spectrums of light. Follow up with my next blog to go over the art of color therapy in regards to light spectrums and considerations for those interested in the healing potential of phototherapy.
Dr. Andrew Kender
June 16, 2016
Functional Endocrinology of Ohio
Akron: 2800 S. Arlington Road, Akron, Ohio 44312 (330) 644-5488
Cleveland: 6200 Rockside Woods Blvd., Ste. 100, Independence, Ohio 44131 (216) 236-0060
Dr. Keith S. Ungar, Dr. Andrew Kender, Dr. Jessica Eckman, Chiropractic Physicians
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