What Is Laser Therapy?
Low level laser therapy is a source of light energy. This light energy consists of small packets of energy, called photons, which travel at a certain wavelength that penetrate the skin and cause an energy reaction within the deeper tissues of the body. The low level lasers used at our office are not the same as the high power lasers that surgeons use to make cuts and to coagulate tissue. The low level laser provides a specific amount of energy that causes “biostimulation” of the body’s own healing mechanisms.
The advancements in laser therapy have been tremendous over the last decade. Therapeutic lasers previously could only heal surface tissue, such as in cuts and bruises, and treatment times would be up to one hour at a time. The wavelength of the laser energy determines how deeply the laser beam will penetrate. The infrared laser at our Clinic has the best penetration into tissues to achieve the deepest absorption of energy, thereby allowing muscles and joints to be treated effectively. The treatment times have been drastically reduced, as well as the actual size of the laser units. Treatment generally takes only 5 minutes, and the laser unit is easily transported, making it a very valuable on-site tool in the sports arena.
What Effects Does A Laser Have?
There are many documented and well researched effects of laser therapy. These include pain control, anti-swelling and anti-inflammatory effects, reduction of scar tissue formation and increasing the speed of healing of injured tissues. The list below explains the biochemical effects in the body and how that translates into therapeutic benefit:
- Laser therapy increases the circulation to the injured area. This speeds up the healing process by carrying more oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, as well as carrying more waste products away.
- Laser therapy stimulates the production of collagen and fibroblasts. Collagen is the essential protein used to repair damaged tissue and fibroblasts make the collagen. By increasing collagen, less scar tissue is formed at the injury site. Laser therapy also increases RNA and DNA synthesis, which helps damaged cells be replaced faster.
- Laser stimulates ATP production, which is the basic energy molecule to all cells. ATP provides the energy that drives the chemical reactions in the cell to initiate the healing process. Therefore, laser therapy will greatly enhance the speed of recovery.
- Laser therapy increases lymphatic activity. Edema or swelling is the body’s natural response to injury. Laser energy acts to increase the flow of the lymph system and increase lymph vessel diameter, which allows the edema to be removed by the body at a much faster rate to relieve swelling in an injury.
- Laser therapy causes a chemical reaction in the cells which acts to relax muscles and slow nerve impulses. This greatly relieves pain and restores proper nerve function to the tissues.
Is Laser Therapy Safe?
Absolutely!! Low level laser therapy is safe because cells have a natural ability to resist over-stimulation. Therapeutic lasers utilize a wavelength of light in the 630 – 905 nm range, known as the “therapeutic window”. In this range, the photon energy is absorbed least by the skin providing the greatest penetration of photons into the deeper tissues, like the muscles and joints. It is this principle which provides the ability to place the energy harmlessly into tissue, biostimulating that tissue into an accelerated rate of healing. In fact, most people feel nothing during the treatment.
What Conditions Can A Laser Treat?
With all of the positive effects that a laser can have on the healing mechanisms of the body, it is applicable in a number of conditions. These include, but are not limited, to:
- Tennis and golfer’s elbow
- Runner’s knee (patellofemoral syndrome)
- Jumper’s knee (patellar tendonitis)
- Achilles tendonitis
- Heel spur pain and plantar fasciitis
- Acute sprains and strains and muscle tears
Work related injuries and Repetitive Strain Injuries:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Chronic Low Back and Neck pain
- Tension type headaches
- Sciatica; Herniated or bulging discs
- “Pinched” nerves causing acute back or neck pain
- Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis of specific joints
- Burns, cuts and bruises; diabetic ulcers
- Cold sores and shingles (post-herpetic)
- Post surgery pain control and healing
How Long Will It Take To Get Better?
Laser therapy for acute injuries will often result in a dramatic improvement in only 3 treatments. Chronic conditions will, of course, take longer to respond, but most patients will feel a benefit within 3 – 6 treatments. Each patient responds differently according to their own body’s natural healing rate and the severity of their condition. Treatments are required 2 – 3 times per week in order to cumulatively raise the energy of the tissues to the “critical level” for healing to occur. The total number of treatments for an acute injury is 6 – 10, while a chronic condition may take up to 25 treatments to resolve. Laser therapy is even more effective when combined with a proper exercise rehabilitation program. These protocols have been proven effective and are recognized by Health Canada.