Welcome to PhotoMed Technologies' Feasibility Study Systems Site
Wellness depends upon myriad bodily systems communicating and working in harmony.
Unfortunately, healing after an injury may stall with no end in sight:
Pain-masking medications satisfactorily "manage" the pain for millions of Americans
Yet 19 million Americans suffer "unmanageable" chronic pain
Other millions suffer "ouchless" loss of sensation or movement.
This site is about the people with impaired sensory or motor functioning and/or unmanageable chronic pain.
It's time to think differently about the notion that "chronic" means forever.
(Note: the website pages were published before the shift in perspectives insights.)
Could a shift in perspectives account for the physical therapy outcomes?
Allan Gardiner founded PhotoMed Tech in 2000 to find solutions for people with intractable pain. Since then, the team has researched, developed specialized data systems, and sponsored multiple feasibility studies to develop the therapy. Today, the Varichrome (tm) Pro allows the practitioner to efficiently prompt a restart of healing.
The responses and outcomes recorded during the initial feasibility studies didn’t make sense. Patients arrived with chronic conditions for which nothing had previously worked. After the therapy, patients said “I feel normal again.”
How could “chronic” pain and impairments appear to vanish? Doesn’t “chronic” mean forever?
In 2020, the team was surprised by a shift in perspective that unlocked the puzzle. Our colleagues who practice physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) suggested that we re-think what “chronic” represents: the not-healing state.
Figure 1 - Non-invasive therapies often aim to prompt the return of normal functioning. When ordinary functioning resumes, the outcomes may appear to defy logic.
Figure 2 - Sensory and motor functions ordinarily cycle off and on during each day.
The states of “not-healing” and “healing” can switch many times before an injury has returned to normal. Healing is the process that restores balance and functioning. Although we can measure what healing does, it is a complex and intricate process. Like with gravity, not much is known about its inner workings.
Non-invasive therapies may awaken sleeping functions, such as sensations that have gone “offline”. Patients’ signs and symptoms may be the result of functions that remain “offline” or "online" when they shouldn't. Pain, tingling, or other noxious sensations may let you know that something is missing.
How might the variable-wavelength therapy work?
The return to normal functioning (R2N) aptly describes the outcomes from a physiological perspective. Some patients blurt out I feel normal again.
PhotoMed’s real-time recordings show unseen phenomena, such as the restart of sensation in fingers and feet. The recordings show that the body itself was surprised by the return to normal functioning (R2N).
The team wondered how a few settings on the Varichrome® Pro could prompt the restart of healing.
The current best guess (you are welcome to make suggestions) is that the therapy draws attention to the beam’s location. The renewed attention, and not any particular wavelengths, prompts the next steps. Could the process work like how a startle can end hiccups?
The responses and outcomes appear to obey the laws of physiology just as the photons obey the laws of physics.
The research literature confirms responses and outcomes for specific wavelengths. Wavelengths in the red and infrared spectrums are often selected for their ability to penetrate the skin. The user can manually select non-varying wavelengths throughout the visible spectrum via the Varichrome Pro.
Figure 3 - Story of how the variable-wavelength therapy might draw the body's attention. Then, ordinary healing tasks could resume. One model suggests that the re-direction of attention works like a startle that ends hiccups.
How long does "normal" functioning last?
The return to normal functioning (R2N) may be temporary because underlying factors remain to interrupt the resumed normal or ordinary functioning. This type of relief keeps people coming back to the practitioner. They usually say I feel better rather than I feel normal again.
The return to normal functioning (R2N) may persist despite later injuries, surgeries, or life happenings. That's how normal is supposed to work. The therapy only prompts a restart of healing; the body heals itself.
Muscle relaxation or re-coordination - headaches?
Have you ever had a headache along with unwanted muscle activation?
This common problem appeared in the feasibility studies as an asymmetric activation of muscles that should have all been at rest.
Patients reported that the durability of headache relief and increased range-of-motion were greater than from previous therapies. More surprising was that the therapy only required a few minutes.
Could a re-coordination of associated muscles provide a better explanation than relaxation?
Figure 4 – Headaches often result from an asymmetric muscle tension. The unbalanced forces invoke other muscles to provide the forces needed to maintain stability. Could prompting the return to normal symmetry “explain” the unexpected magnitude and durability of relief?
Of course, the body heals itself; the variable-wavelength therapy aims to efficiently draw the body's attention to prompt the restart of healing. The practitioner guides the therapy via observed improvements during the visit. If no response is observed within 2 visits, it’s time to consider a different therapy.
Muscle relaxation or re-coordination - muscle knots?
Volunteers who arrived with muscle knots described how they depended upon other people’s elbows to get a knot to relax. The common term "knot" suggests a mechanical state along the muscle that can be felt externally as a lump.
The activation errors remained at rest within a single muscle, typically in their trapezius.
A minute of therapy could release a knot. Release them all and the knots seldom came back right away.
Could a re-coordination of associated muscle fibers provide a better explanation than relaxation for the durability?
Figure 5 - Muscle knots (aka myofascial trigger points) can result from activation differences along a single muscle. Patients reported greater relief and durability than achieved via other methods. Could the re-coordination of muscle fibers “explain” the outcomes?
Note that we prefer descriptive terms, such as "knot" that describe the observed impairment. For example, a lump or lumps in an otherwise relaxed muscle. The desired outcome is that the knot disappears in what we call the return to normal functioning (R2N). Other interventions or therapies may achieve the same outcome via different pathways.
The variable-wavelength therapy appears to work locally to release one knot at a time. In other cases, the therapy appears to work bilaterally or quadrilaterally when cold limbs resume cycling their comfortable temperatures. A simpler explanation is that the impairment occurs at a different point in the control or feedback processess.
Could persistently cold hands result from a stuck thermostat?
PhotoMed’s developments have been guided by one simple principle: collect as much objective data as possible. Studying chronic pain was challenging because of its invisible nature. The team couldn’t “see” the pain but they could see and record the associated impairments.
The team developed thermal imaging systems to record the therapy, responses, and outcomes as they occurred.
The thermal recordings demonstrate that ordinary skin temperature regulation can go offline and resume just like sensory functions. For example, the temperatures can remain and feel cold when they should become warm or when the feeling would ordinarily be ignored.
Some patients in the feasibility studies experienced profoundly hot or cold hands, sometimes for decades. Simply warming or cooling their hands was too temporary – they would quickly revert back to their prior state. Data gathered indicated our therapy could prompt many patients’ temperature regulation to return to normal.
Of course, normal doesn't mean for the rest of your life. Relief usually doesn't last as long in people other health issues. Could it be that some people have a greater tendency towards their functions getting "stuck"?
Figure 6 - This man had uncomfortably cold hands for 30 years. Everyone was surprised when his hand temperature regulation came back online during the first attempt. The brevity and completeness of recovery didn’t fit any conventional paradigm. The concept that the ordinary cycling can get “stuck” and released describes the return to normal functioning. Click here for additional examples.
Real-time thermal recording of cold hands responding to the 1st variable-wavelength stimulation. Lighter gray is warmer.
In the case of skin temperature regulation, the responses are typically bilateral, to suggest that the impairment may be like a "thermostat" failure.
Could the recovery of ordinary sensation be a 2-step process?
As might be inferred from Figure 7, the loss of sensation might get stuck “offline”. A problem occurs, sometimes resulting in pain when the body tries to generate an experience but some sensations are missing or corrupted. This may also cause touch maps to not be updated.
In the studies, fingers and feet frequently awakened within a few minutes of the variable-wavelength therapy.
With the curiosity of a profound discovery, the patients explored their newly awakened skin. They touched themselves and tested textures. These activities automatically realigned their touch-location maps.
Figure 7 - "George" had diabetes for 40 years. His feet had been offline for 8 years. Then he enrolled in one of PhotoMed’s feasibility studies. His touch-maps were not aligned with his skin until he looked to see where he was being touched. Click here to watch as his foot touch-maps realign.
It may sound crazy, but in one case (Figure 6), you can watch the realigning folds when he sees where "George" is being touched 28 minutes after the reawakening of his feet.
Could the realignment have happened as quickly - or at all - without the cross-sensory perception?
Could patient selection favor an "unmanageable" factor?
Responses and outcomes data from 500+ volunteers in the feasibility studies suggested how to “predict” who might respond to the test therapy. People who were satisfied with their pain masking interventions didn’t enroll in significant numbers. The interventions “worked” for these patients.
Most volunteers arrived after having failed many modalities. For some, nothing had worked. Others had plateaued with physical rehabilitation. They were often taking multiple medications that no longer provided relief.
The studies had no exclusions based on the intensity, duration, or multiple impaired functions. Few volunteers had any reasonable expectations for improvement. They often mentioned how many times that their hope had been stolen by comments like no one can help you, or being told the nerves in their feet were dead.
Figure 8 - an "unmanageable" factor winnows injuries that more frequently respond to the variable-wavelength therapy. The person may be taking multiple pain medications that no longer "work" or have plateaued in their recovery.
The team combed through the data to identify the impairments response rates:
Least likely to respond – people who are satisfied with their invasive intervention
The intervention must remain present and active to "manage" pain
The impaired functioning often doesn’t resume despite pain relief.
Most likely to respond – people who arrive in an “unmanageable” state from mild to horrible
The benefits persist after therapy ends – that’s called normal
The impaired functions appear to improve before pain relief is reported
The variable-wavelength therapy lets practitioners help more of their patients. Now researchers can begin to examine the release of “stuck” ordinary functions.
How might the variable-wavelength therapy (VWT) work?
Could the therapy’s varying stimulation merely draw the body’s attention to prompt a restart of healing? See Figure 3.
By analogy, consider what happens when you continuously vary your shower water temperature. (We’re not responsible if you try this at home.)
The “draws attention” model includes feedback during the therapy and visit. The user can watch the patient for signs of curiosity that their body is trying to identify the stimulation.
Figure 9 - depiction of responses to a varying or a non-varying stimulus.
Could the patient need a different wavelength?
PhotoMed's variable-wavelength therapy allows the user can to continously vary the stimulation across different wavelength ranges. However, drawing attention doesn’t require specific wavelengths. With no missing wavelengths, the user can efficiently test them all.
Like with conventional interventions, you have to try “it” to learn if it works. The VWT testing makes advances 1000x faster.
Figure 10 - Depiction of fixed vs. variable wavelength therapy devices for enabling the use a different wavelength after a stimulation fails to prompt a response.
How long might normal last?
The return to ordinary functioning doesn’t imply a durability of any length. It represents a return to the functioning that was ongoing prior to the patient’s injury.
In many cases, the return to normal functioning can resolve more than one sign or symptom. For example, re-coordinating muscle can relieve pain because the pain signal is no longer necessary - the underlying problem has been resolved. Consequently, these “secondary” symptoms do not return as long as the patient retains normal functioning.
Figure 11 - depiction of the jump starting healing processes.
The VWT works more like a jump start than replacing a worn out battery. The photons that aren’t absorbed depart at the speed of light. When the therapy ends, it is up to the body to do the rest.
By Allan Gardiner and Steven Gerhardt, PhotoMed Technologies, Inc.