Analgesic effect of Photobiomodulation Therapy: An in vitro and in vivo study

J Biophotonics. 2019 Oct;12(10):e201900043. doi: 10.1002/jbio.201900043. Epub 2019 Jul 9.


Laser therapy, also known as Photobiomodulation (PBM) is indicated to reduce pain associated with different pathologies and applied using protocols that vary in wavelength, irradiance and fluence. Its mechanisms of action are still unclear and possibly able to directly impact on pain transmission, reducing nociceptor response. In our study, we examined the effect of two specific laser wavelengths, 800 and 970 nm, extensively applied in the clinical context and known to exert important analgesic effects. Our results point to mitochondria as the primary target of laser light in isolated dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, reducing adenosine triphosphate content and increasing reactive oxygen species levels. Specifically, the 800 nm laser wavelength induced mitochondrial dysregulation, that is, increased superoxide generation and mitochondrial membrane potential. When DRG neurons were firstly illuminated by the different laser protocols and then stimulated with the natural transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TRPV1) ligand capsaicin, only the 970 nm wavelength reduced the calcium response, in both amplitude and frequency. Consistent results were obtained in vivo in mice, by subcutaneous injection of capsaicin. Our findings demonstrate that the effect of PBM depends on the wavelength used, with 800 nm light mainly acting on mitochondrial metabolism and 970 nm light on nociceptive signal transmission.

Keywords: ATP; ROS; analgesic activity; dorsal root ganglion neurons; laser light; mitochondria; paediatric pain; photobiomodulation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Spinal / pathology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / radiation effects
  • Low-Level Light Therapy*
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / radiation effects
  • Mice
  • Nociception / radiation effects
  • Pain / metabolism
  • Pain / pathology
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / radiotherapy*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / pathology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / radiation effects


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Calcium