I awoke startled when the fan turned off and the lights abruptly went out. Disrupted from my warm and relaxed feeling, I exited the light pod to get dressed and spend a few moments rolling my tight hamstring attachment.
It was my third whole-body light pod treatment since pacing 61 miles (20 hours) on the IMTUF course last weekend. Even “just pacing” on that mountain course is no small bit of stress on the body.
I’ve been injury-free this year, with the small exception of a “knee tweak” sustained on my TRT adventure last month. Thankfully, that didn’t bother me on the IMTUF course. After the run, I mainly just felt that “hit by a truck” all-over rough feeling on Tuesday and Wednesday. I also suffered tightness down my left posterior chain (hamstring, calf, achilles.)
Enter the lights. This is my first experience with whole-body red and near-infrared laser light therapy. I only recently figured out that we have one of the few West Coast facilities right here in Truckee, at Tahoe Laser & Performance Therapy.
I had scheduled three consecutive treatments Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The light works well in 15-20 minute doses, but research shows that your cells want more to be effective, which is why you need to go back on subsequent days.
As for me, I just feel good in and after the whole-body light pod treatment. Of course, that’s not enough to warrant the expenditure of time and money, but it’s a nice start! I emerged from Day 1 (Tuesday) feeling pleasant, but with no discernible recovery effect. That all-over post-long-run rough feeling set in pretty well on Wednesday morning.
But then the recovery started down a different road. After my Day 2 treatment (Wednesday,) the DOMs faded quickly. By Thursday morning I went out the back door for a trail run and felt fresh & peppy, as if nothing happened. Just a little tightness in the left hamstring attachment.
Last week was Day 3 of treatment, and I’m pretty fired up to enjoy the tacky dirt trails that mother nature is serving up this right now. To me, that’s the biggest indicator of recovery: am I happy to run again? Yes, yes I am, for sure!
Light bed logistics
Curious about the whole-body pod logistics? The NovoTHOR device looks like a tanning bed, but – don’t worry! – no UV light is being delivered. You rest on the bed so that your entire body is exposed to light from below and above. It doesn’t get hot per se, but the increase in circulation makes me feel warm and cozy. A small fan at the bottom keeps you a comfortable temperature.
The light is reported to be safe (even beneficial!) for your eyes, so you can go in with no goggles. I was a bit freaked out by the “bright lights” my first time in. With my eyes closed, they seem super-bright white, and I wasn’t sure I would last the entire session.
Then, I remembered that it’s okay to open your eyes. I was nervous to do it, but I just had to see what it looked like. Surprisingly, with my eyes open, the light was more red than white, and seemed less intense. This satisfied my curiosity, so I closed my eyes and next thing you know I was waking up to the sudden stop of the machine, 18 minutes later.
Research supporting light therapy
The potential therapeutic uses of light were first documented in a failed(!) experiment over 50 years ago by scientist Endre Mester in Hungary. Although he didn’t achieve his desire outcome, he did notice better wound healing in the rats that he was studying. This was the start of investigations into the biological benefits of “low-level” laser light therapies (LLLT.)
More recently renamed “photobiomodulation,” scientists are now finding positive outcomes in many areas of medicine, as well as sports performance. A number of more recent studies are showing very positive results for athletic performance and recovery, and the NovoTHOR whole-body pod is already being used by professional athletes and military special forces.
This 2016 literature review study stated, “Although our results suggest that LASERtherapy is effective in improving skeletal muscle exercise capacity, the quality of the current evidence is limited.” For the really curious, this 2013 paper gives an explanation of the lights used and the current understanding of the cellular mechanisms at work.
More research into athletic protocols is needed, to be sure, but there is no doubt that we weekend warriors are lucky to now have whole-body laser light therapy available right here in Truckee! Tahoe Laser and Performance Therapy was founded by local physical therapist Gabe Metzger PT, DPT – see their website here for more information on the therapies that he has available.