The Healing Power of Laser Therapy
What is laser therapy?
Laser therapy (or photobiomodulation) is the application of low levels of laser light to areas of the body that have been injured or damaged. In contrast to high-powered surgical lasers which are designed to cut tissue, therapeutic lasers produce beneficial photochemical and photobiological interactions that can reduce pain, increase circulation, reduce swelling and dramatically improve healing time.
What is the history of laser therapy?
The use of light as a healing modality has been recorded as early as 2000 B.C. in ancient Egypt. Albert Einstein was the first person to theorize about lasers in 1917. Lasers were first invented in 1960. Lasers have been used, since that time for countless scientific and commercial purposes including (to name only a few): supermarket scanners, compact discs (cd’s), surgical repair of vision, precision cutting of steel, transmission of telephone messages and the production of three dimensional images.
Laser light is unique because it is monochromatic (one color), coherent (all waves are in phase with each other) and can be collimated (held to a small spot size at a great distance.)
Dr. Endre Mester was the first to observe the positive effects of laser when hair grew more quickly on shaved mice that were exposed to low levels of laser light.
How long have lasers been used by healthcare providers?
Therapeutic lasers have been used in Europe since Dr. Mester’s discovery in 1967. The FDA approved the use of therapeutic laser in 2002. Since that time, progressive physicians have been offering laser therapy to their patients in ever-increasing numbers.
How do lasers work?
The photons of laser light penetrate through the skin and are absorbed by special components of the body’s cells called chromophores. Just as photosynthesis creates energy for plants, the absorption of photons in the cells causes increased cellular energy. In areas of injury or damage, increased production of cellular energy improves the rate and quality of healing. This is referred to as bio-stimulation.
Because of its biostimulatory nature, laser therapy has the potential to help any situation wherein the body’s cells are not working at their optimum potential. Studies on tissue cultures reveal a wide range of beneficial effects including increased levels of endorphins, prostaglandins and other beneficial chemicals; reduced levels of harmful compounds including C-reactive protein and interleukin-1; pain modulation through a variety of mechanisms; and increased rate and quality of tissue healing.
What are the therapeutic benefits of laser therapy?
For patients, that means relief from acute and chronic pain, reduced inflammation and muscle spasms, improved range of motion and restored function. Patients suffering from headaches, neck pain, TMJ, carpal tunnel, rotator cuff and other shoulder problems, back pain, knee pain, arthritic joints, sports injuries, post-surgical pain and more have been helped with therapeutic laser.
Has effectiveness been demonstrated scientifically?
Yes! There are thousands of published studies demonstrating the clinical effectiveness of laser therapy. Among these, there are more than one hundred rigorously controlled, scientific studies that document the effectiveness of laser for many clinical conditions.
What kind of laser do you use?
We utilize the K-Laser. Designed in Italy, the center of research in the therapeutic use of laser over the past several decades, the K-Laser uses a Dual-Wavelength Beam that penetrates very deeply into the tissue. It is a Class IV, high-powered “Hot” laser that uses both continuous and modulating frequencies to better promote pain control and healing. The K-laser can also be set into a Super-Pulsed, high power delivery mode to facilitate deeper therapeutic penetration in shorter treatment times.
How long does it take to work?
Many patients notice improvement after the very first treatment session. With others it may take a few treatments. The effect of laser therapy is cumulative so that each successive treatment builds upon previous ones. The main benefit to patients is much faster and better quality clinical outcome.For some acute conditions, 1-6 treatments may be sufficient. Those of a more chronic nature may require 6-15 treatments. Conditions such as severe arthritis may require additional treatments and on-going periodic care to control pain.
What does it feel like to get a treatment?
With very low-powered therapy lasers, you feel nothing at all. With higher-powered lasers like the K-laser used in our clinic, you will feel a mild, soothing, warm feeling. You may notice a tingling sensation in the treatment area as blood vessels dilate or muscle spasms reduce in strength and duration.
How do you know that it is not causing cancer or other tissue damage?
Therapeutic lasers (even the powerful K-laser) use power densities far below the levels that cause tissue damage. Therapeutic lasers use visible and near-infrared light which only cause molecular vibrations. It can be argued that laser therapy is safer than sunlight.
Are there any side effects?
Some patients may experience temporary soreness in the area of treatment as toxins are released and blood flow is restored. Experts on laser therapy worldwide have commented that therapeutic lasers have no undesirable side effects in the hands of a reasonably qualified therapist. Laser therapy is safe, painless and inexpensive compared to alternatives.
How do I prepare for a laser therapy treatment?
Since laser light does not pass well through clothing, laser light must be delivered directly to the skin. Wear clothing that can easily reveal the treatment area.
Can laser be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment?
Yes! Laser is often used with other forms of treatment including all forms of structural therapeutics, physical therapy and massage. Complementary modalities can increase the effectiveness of laser treatment.