Pain management using photobiomodulation: Mechanisms, location, and repeatability quantified by pain threshold and neural biomarkers in mice

J Biophotonics. 2018 Jul;11(7):e201700370. doi: 10.1002/jbio.201700370. Epub 2018 May 18.


Photobiomodulation (PBM) is a simple, efficient and cost-effective treatment for both acute and chronic pain. We previously showed that PBM applied to the mouse head inhibited nociception in the foot. Nevertheless, the optimum parameters, location for irradiation, duration of the effect and the mechanisms of action remain unclear. In the present study, the pain threshold in the right hind paw of mice was studied, after PBM (810 nm CW laser, spot size 1 or 6 cm2 , 1.2-36 J/cm2 ) applied to various anatomical locations. The pain threshold, measured with von Frey filaments, was increased more than 3-fold by PBM to the lower back (dorsal root ganglion, DRG), as well as to other neural structures along the pathway such as the head, neck and ipsilateral (right) paw. On the other hand, application of PBM to the contralateral (left) paw, abdomen and tail had no effect. The optimal effect occurred 2 to 3 hours post-PBM and disappeared by 24 hours. Seven daily irradiations showed no development of tolerance. Type 1 metabotropic glutamate receptors decreased, and prostatic acid phosphatase and tubulin-positive varicosities were increased as shown by immunofluorescence of DRG samples. These findings elucidate the mechanisms of PBM for pain and provide insights for clinical practice.

Keywords: dorsal root ganglion; nociception; pain biomarkers; pain threshold; photobiomodulation; photoneuromodulation; transcutaneous low level laser (light) therapy; von Frey filaments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / methods*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Nervous System / radiation effects*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Threshold / radiation effects*


  • Biomarkers