Brain Injury and Near infrared light therapy

Near infrared light therapy for tbi treatment

Today marked my 30th hyperbaric oxygen treatment session. It was also my 3rd near infrared light therapy session. Dr. Stapleton and I discussed all sorts of treatment options. The most scientifically appropriate course would be initiating one treatment at a time, and monitoring my response to that treatment.  After evaluation, we could then move on to the next course of treatment. In this way, we would know what treatment made the most impact, and what treatments did not help. Or, we could simply say screw it, I’ve been dealing with this for almost a year and a half, let’s throw everything we have at it. Suffice it to say that scientific interest lost. I won’t really care what made me better if I get there.

Last Friday, I started near infrared light therapy. Recent research suggests this modality can help decrease depression and improve cognition after TBI. Here are a couple of links if you are interested, and there is much more published on the subject.

Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared Light-Emitting Diode Therapy to Improve Cognition in Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury.

Treatments for traumatic brain injury with emphasis on transcranial near-infrared laser phototherapy

It is pretty simple, I just sit there for 20 minutes, three times a week, with these pads strapped to my head. My head starts to feel warm, but that is the only thing I notice, beyond simply looking awesome that is.

Adderall – I’m soon to be a super powered ultra runner.

In addition to the hyperbaric oxygen, and the near-infrared light, I’ve also been taking Adderall. This is a medication used for ADHD, and is a stimulant that is supposed to help with fatigue and aid in cognitive focus. So far, I haven’t seen much help from this, but we are going to try it for a while longer before switching to a different class of medication used more commonly for Alzheimer’s patients.  It is a good thing I don’t have any big races right now, because Adderall is considered a performance enhancing drug, and is banned for use in professional sports. I guess when I start winning all the ultramarathons I enter, people might get suspicious, but I’m pretty sure that won’t happen. Besides, if I was going to start doping to improve my performance, I’d lean towards testosterone; and laser hair removal to get rid of the subsequent beard.*

*Note this was sarcasm. I would definitely do hGH and not testosterone.

**Okay this was also a joke. EPO is the obvious way to go.

Running through deep unconsolidated snow is a lot of work.

Before I start winning races and showing up on the cover of every running magazine, I have 10 more hyperbaric oxygen sessions to finish. A lot of you have asked if I’m seeing a benefit to this therapy. So far I’ve noticed only a few things –

  1. My headaches have improved. Prior to treatment, I was taking Imitrex (my migraine medication) 3-5 times a week. Since starting treatment over a month ago, I have only taken it 3 times total.
  2. Fatigue has definitely been more of an issue. If I don’t run before my treatment, my motivation to get out is near zero.
  3. I’m freaking hungry. All the time. My appetite is close to what is was when I was in my peak training last summer. My running mileage is not. Hyperbaric definitely cranks up my metabolism, and after I noticed I was dropping weight, I realized I needed to listen to my body, and eat. In answer to the question I know you are thinking, yes, people with stupid amounts of money do use this for weight loss.
  4. I still can’t watch movies. I tried yesterday, and it went poorly. One of the staff members turned on a documentary for me, with the plan that I would watch for 10 minutes or so during my treatment. I think I lasted maybe 5 minutes, finding irony in the fact that watching a documentary about “Minimalism” was too much for me.

Over the next few weeks I will finish hyperbaric, continue light therapy and Adderall, and then recheck cognitive testing in March.  Dr. Stapleton said I may continue to see benefits from treatment for several weeks after I finish up.  I’m taking a mental and physical break from training for the month of January. I’m still running, but not on any set schedule. Starting in February, I will get back at it, and for my first ultra of the year, I will head to Moab for Behind the Rocks 50K at the end of March, and aim for a 50 miler in May.


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