Cold laser therapy is a relatively new technology compared to many alternative therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic and physical therapy. Many alternative medicine practices are evolving to include laser therapy.
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 tissue and bone with IR or Red light photons to reduce pain and stimulate healing
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 lasers are FDA cleared and widely used 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 specific wavelength (usually 600 to 980nm) that minimizes reflection and scattering but maximized absorption of the energy (in photons) at a desired depth.
Some conditions like joint pain require a deep penetration (4-5 inches) that can only be achieved using a powerful laser emitter. Many systems also have other lower wavelengths and lower-power emitters for treating shallow tissue (like the lymphatic system or surface scars). For shallow treatments, light emitting diodes (or LEDs) with a shorter wavelength (600 to 700nm) are more cost effective for adding photons to the shallower tissue. In addition, red light diodes with a wavelength of 630 to 680 nm may be used to add energy to even shallower levels of tissues. It is the general consensus that wavelengths below 660 nanometers are very easily absorbed in the surface tissue and are not optimized for deep tissue healing.
The goal of laser therapy is to deliver light energy units from red and 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
- Works synergistically with other modalities like Chiro, Acupuncture, and PT
General Therapeutic Laser Biological Effects
- Increased Cell Growth: Laser photons accelerate cellular reproduction and growth.
- Increased Metabolic Activity: Photons initiate 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, Adenosine 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 reconnect ion to bring the numb areas back to life.
- Pain Reduction: Almost all systems have a mode of operation specifically designed to reduce pain.
Classes of Cold Lasers
Dr. Dorhout utilizes 2 lasers within her practice:
Class 2 Cold Lasers (Available over-the-counter)
The Class 2 laser is the weakest of the lasers and is typically used for surface type conditions not requiring deep penetration.
Class 4 Continuous Lasers (Professional use only)
If any single laser beam is over 500 milliwatts, the device is a class 4 product but many of the most popular models have multiple beams. Also many lasers diverge the beam at 28 to 30 degree angle to cover a wider area so they have better healing results. This also results in a safer product. The Apollo lasers use 4 divergent beams to produce 5 watts of power without the risk of tissue damage.
The increase in the power of class 4 continuous wave lasers shortens treatment times which are critical for practitioners like pain clinics but typically less critical for the average user. All Class 4 lasers require some type of safely inter lock on the device to prevent accidental exposure.