Low-level laser therapy uses light-emitting diodes to alter cellular function
Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a medical and veterinary treatment that uses low-level lasers or light-emitting diodes to alter cellular function. LLLT is controversial in mainstream medicine with ongoing research to determine the ideal location of treatment (specifically whether LLLT is more appropriately used over nerves versus joints), dose, wavelength, timing, pulsing and duration. The effects of LLLT appear to be limited to a specified set of wavelengths of laser, and administering LLLT below the dose range does not appear to be effective.
Specific test and protocols for LLLT suggest it is effective in relieving short-term pain for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, acute and chronic neck pain, tendinopathy, and chronic joint disorders. LLLT being useful in the treatment of low back pain, dentistry and wound healing.
Cold laser therapy is a non-invasive procedure, meaning that it does not require a surgical incision. This means that there is no prolonged recovery time. Laser therapy also does not involve taking any medications, and many patients prefer to avoid taking medications. Studies have so far found that cold laser therapy does not have serious side effects when used properly by a doctor.
In general, cold lasers can be used in 2 distinct ways:
- Targeting acupuncture trigger points (similar to acupuncture but without the needles)
- Broad coverage of deep tissue with laser photons to stimulate changes in the tissue
Cold Laser therapy offers a non-intrusive option to acupuncture and surgery. It also provides a non-addicting treatment that eliminates the complications of long-term drug treatment programs. Cold laser are widely use for treatment of:
- Acute and chronic pain
- Ligament sprains
- Muscle strain
- Soft tissue injuries
- Tennis elbow
- Back pain
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Healing With Cold Lasers
The cold laser produces an impulse of light at a wavelength (approximate 900nm) that maximized the energy (in photons) at a desire depth, usually 10-13cm (4-5 inches) deep. This may be combined with other laser diode with a shorter wavelength (875nm) to add photons to the shallower levels of tissue. In addition, red light diode with a wavelength of 660nm may be used to add energy to even shallower levels of tissues.
The goal of laser therapy is to deliver light energy units from infrared laser radiation, called photons, to damaged cells. It is the consensus of experts is that photons absorbed by the cells through laser therapy stimulate the mitochondria to accelerate production of ATP. This biochemical increase in cell energy is used to transform live cells from a state of illness to a stable, healthy state.
Over 4000 studies have been conducted in recent years to validate the effectiveness of cold laser therapy. Cold lasers treatment systems may be cleared by the FDA.
Benefit of Cold Lasers
- Easy to apply
- Extremely safe
- No side effects or pain
- Cost effective for both the practitioner and patient
- Highly effective in treating ailments (more than 90% efficacy)
- Superior alternative to analgesics, NSAID’s and other medications
- Reduces the need for surgery
General Therapeutic Laser Biological Effects
- Increased Cell Growth: Laser photons accelerates cellular reproduction and growth.
- Increased Metabolic Activity: Photons initiate a higher outputs of specific enzymes, greater oxygen and food particle loads for blood cells and thus greater production of the basic food source for cells, Adenos ine Tri-Phosphate (ATP).
- Faster Wound Healing: Cold laser photons stimulates fibroblast development and accelerates collagen synthesis in damaged tissue
- Anti-Inflammatory Action: Laser photons reduce swelling caused by bruising or inflammation of joints resulting in enhanced joint mobility.
- Increased Vascular Activity: Laser photons induce temporary vasodilation that increases blood flow to effected areas.
- Reduced Fibrous Tissue Formation: Laser photons reduce the formation of scar tissue following tissue damage from: cuts, scratches, burns or post surgery.
- Stimulated Nerve Function: Laser photon exposure speeds the process of nerve cell reconnection to bring the numb areas back to life.
Types of Cold Lasers
Class I – III continuous and modulated lasers
The fixed level of power is too low to deliver photons beyond the surface of the skin, making them ineffective in delivering photons to deep tissues. This includes laser pointers and other low cost laser diodes.
Class IV Continuous Lasers
The increase in the power of class IV continuous wave lasers increases the photon delivery to deep tissues. Unfortunately, it also increases the amount of the heat generated. This heat increases the potential risk of destructive thermal effects. Class IV laser may result in damage to the retina requiring clinicians to exercise additional FDA implemented controls to ensure patient and practitioner safety. This can include a safely lock on the device to prevent accidental exposure.
Modulated Lasers (Class II to IV)
Modulating or super-pulsing the laser output power (turning it on and off in less than 1 billionth of a second) provides a unique combination of benefits. It allows the use of very high power levels (up to 50 watts) while insuring that there is no heat or damage. The ratio between the on and off times is call the duty cycle. In general a super pulsed laser class II laser can provide more power to the treatment area than a class IV continuous lasers without a risk of damage. Modulated lasers provide a good combination of safety and power.
Today, lasers are used extensively in the medical industry for everything from cosmetic surgery, eye surgery and heart surgery. The ability to put just the right amount of energy into a critical area of the human body has been a huge advancement in the medical field. Cold lasers are an important addition to these other established medical laser treatments and the recent development of low-cost professional cold lasers means that cold laser therapy will be a rapidly growing medical treatment option.