Updated: Apr 16, 2020
What is it?
Low level Laser Therapy, also known as cold-laser, is a low frequency laser of 600-1000 nm wavelength. It is a form of photo-biomodulation therapy used for pain reduction and healing stimulation (Tieppo Francio V et al., 2017).
What can it do?
It can help heal tissues and therefore help treat various conditions such as:
-Myofacial pain (neck, low back)
-Bouchard’s and Heberden’s Osteoarthritis (hands)
-Osteoarthritis in other joints (shoulders, knees, low back)
-TMJ (jaw) Dysfunction
-Shin Splints and other non-displaced fractures
-Morton’s Neuroma (nerve conditions)
-Acute & chronic musculoskeletal pain disorders
Is there any evidence for this?
Yes of course! We are going to go pretty scientific right now, but don’t worry, I can summarize at the end.
Light from the laser interacts with copper and iron chromophores of cytochrome c to increase oxidation and accelerate cellular metabolism and production of ATP. Interactions with nitric oxide increases its availability to be a vasodilator to aid in this healing process.
Increased ATP production can also cause increased concentrations of reactive oxygen species (ROS’s) which increases upregulation of genes related to cellular proliferation and production of cytokines and growth factors. LLLT has also been seen to reduce the concentration of pain markers (PGE2, IL-1B, TNF-a) (Tieppo Francio V et al., 2017).
Overall, it helps stimulate the factors that lead to healing in the body.
The dose/time of laser treatment depends on the condition being treated. There are different classes of laser - I use class 3B. However, other health practitioners (acupuncturists, dentists, medical doctors for example) use laser that can vary in class. Laser therapy has been shown to help other issues such as open wound healing, fertility, hair loss, smoking cessation). Chiropractors use it to treat musculoskeletal conditions.
Why use it?
You’re probably reading this because you’re in some sort of pain. The most common method of managing chronic pain is with the use of opiods. While these drugs can be highly effective at targeting and reacting very quickly to your pain, they do come with (many) side effects. Notice that once you take one drug, you have to take others to combat the side effects that the first one caused?
LLLT is a natural way of healing the body without disrupting those body systems. Your body naturally heals on its own but sometimes can be hindered by various variables such as injury, age, current status, activities of daily living, medications, and other chronic conditions. LLLT is most effective when used in conjunction with other therapies such as manual therapy, exercise, nutritional counseling.
Do I use LLLT?
Many of my patients ask if I get tired at the end of the day or how I survive treating patients on a daily basis. Well... laser is part of my routine to aid in the healing process. My hands are important and I self treat myself with laser on my wrists and thumbs which keeps me working 5-6 days a week. I also seek regular chiropractic care and try to eat as healthy as I can!
Resources Francio, T.V., et al., (2017). Prolotherapy and low level laser therapy: A synergistic approach to pain management in chronic osteoarthritis. Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine.7(5). doi: 10.5812/aapm.14470.
Bitencourt, G., et al., (2018). Administration of low level laser on muscles of mastication following the induction of initial fatigue: protocol for a randomized, controlled, clinical trial. Medicine. 97(26). DOI: 10.1097/MD.0000000000011340
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