What is Cold Laser Therapy?
Cold laser therapy is a relatively new technology compared to many alternative therapies like acupuncture (which has been used since 8000-3500 B.C.), chiropractic (since 1895) and physical therapy. Just like the abacus evolved into the computer, many alternative medicine practices are evolving to include laser therapy. The first cold laser was FDA cleared in 2001. Cold lasers are sometimes called Low Level Lasers (LLL) or soft lasers.
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 use.
Cold Laser Therapy Pain Management Treatment
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. It can be used on patients who suffer from a variety of acute and chronic conditions in order to help eliminate pain, reduce spasms, swelling, and increase functionality. Acute and chronic conditions
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 has the ability to penetrate 2 to 5 centimeters below the skin at 90mw and 830 nm.
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, edema and an overall reduction in healing time by increasing intracellular metabolism.
Cold laser therapy can stimulate all cell types including muscle, ligament, cartilage, nerves, etc., so a number of conditions can be treated by cold laser therapy. Some of conditions that may typically be treated by cold laser therapy include:
Potential Cold Laser Therapy Advantages
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.
- 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
Potential Cold Laser Therapy Disadvantages
Cold laser therapy does have several disadvantages. Patients do not typically get full relief or resolution from their pain symptoms after the first treatment. It takes a series of treatments, usually 8 to 30, depending on the severity and duration of the condition. Patients often have to return to the doctor for treatments at least 2 to 4 times per week. Old injuries may be aggravated for a few days after treatments, but for most patients this sensation is short term, lasting for a couple of days. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover cold laser therapy expenses. Some major medical insurance carriers do assist with payment and others do not cover any of the treatment.
General Therapeutic Laser Biological Effects
- Increased Cell Growth: Laser photon accelerates cellular reproduction and growth.
- Increased Metabolic Activity: Photons initiate a higher output 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 vascodilatation that increases blood flow to affected 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.