Cold Laser Therapy or Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is a treatment that utilizes specific wavelengths of light to interact with tissue and is thought to help accelerate the healing process.
There are two classes of lasers being used in physical therapy; class 3 and 4. Class 3 lasers are less than 500 milliwatts (mw) in power while class 4 lasers are greater than 500 mw. Class 3 lasers are sometimes referred to as cold lasers, and the therapy may be called LLLT, standing for low-level laser therapy, which is the one we have here in the Lymington Chiropractic Clinic.
The concept that light energy from a laser can do all this seems farfetched. Science, however, tells us these effects do occur. These effects of laser treatment are summarised below:
- Pain Relief:
- Accelerated Tissue Repair and Cell Growth
- Improved Vascular Activity
- Affects Trigger and Acupuncture Points:
- Reduced Fibrous Tissue Formation
- Faster Wound Healing
- Stem Cell Activation
Laser Therapy is becoming more widespread. It creates an optimal healing environment within the body that reduces inflammation, swelling, muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain. As the injured area returns to normal, function is restored and the pain is relieved
Laser Therapy can be used on patients who suffer from a variety of acute and chronic conditions. Examples of some of the conditions that benefit from these effects include:
- Arthritis pain
- Back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Fibromyalgia pain
- Knee pain
- Neck pain
There is no particular condition that responds more quickly to laser. However, some patients will respond faster than others for the same condition, as individual healing rates can vary.
Laser therapy can be used as a stand-alone treatment, or successfully with other complementary therapies.
How Cold Lasers Work
Cold lasers are handheld devices used by the clinician and are often the size of a flashlight. The laser is placed directly over the injured area for 30 seconds to several minutes, depending on the size of the area being treated and the dose provided by the cold laser unit.
During this time, the non-thermal photons of light that are emitted from the laser pass through the skins layers (the dermis, epidermis, and the subcutaneous tissue or tissue fat under the skin). This light can penetrate between 2 to 5 centimetres below the surface of the skin.
Once the light energy passes through the layers of skin and reaches the target area, it is absorbed and interacts with the light sensitive elements in the cell. This process can be compared to photosynthesis in plants – sunlight is absorbed by plants, which is then converted to usable energy so that the plant can grow.
When cells absorb this light energy, it initiates a series of events in the cell that is theorized to eventually result in normalizing damaged or injured tissue, a reduction in pain, inflammation, oedema and an overall reduction in healing time by increasing intracellular metabolism.
Patients usually begin to feel better after 1 or 2 treatments, although 5 or more may be needed to resolve the problem. The more chronic and extensive the injury the more treatments are usually needed.
Laser Therapy Precautions
There are a few precautions with laser therapy, but they are very important. Eye protection is required for both the patient and therapist, and laser should not be performed over malignancies, pacemakers, spinal stimulators or over the midsection of pregnant women. Studies have so far found that cold laser therapy does not have serious side effects when used properly by a doctor.
Cold laser therapy is one option among a variety of treatment approaches that can potentially provide pain relief or pain reduction, especially for patients seeking a treatment without the use of surgery or drugs.
It can be used alone or in combination with a number of other therapies.
Cold laser therapy is yet another method in the set of tools to help assist in pain relief, and it is considered a good treatment option for certain types of pain.