Cold Laser Therapy, also known as Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT), is a treatment that utilizes specific wavelengths of light to interact with tissue and is shown 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, swelling, reduce spasms and increase functionality. LLLT is used to increase the speed, quality and tensile strength of tissue repair, resolve inflammation, increase range of motion and give pain relief.
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 skin’s layers (the dermis, epidermis, and the subcutaneous tissue or tissue fat under the skin). The effects of LLLT are photochemical (cold), not thermal (hot). Hot lasers are used for surgical precision, while cold lasers are used for healing precision.
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. Cold Lasers work by increasing cellular regeneration and communication. It has both a photo-chemical and photo-biological effects.
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 intra-cellular metabolism.
Low Level 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:
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Effectiveness of Cold Laser Therapy (LLLT)
For years, physicians have been using cold laser therapy on patients who are seeking effective, alternative methods for pain relief. Since 1967 there have been over 2,500 clinical studies published worldwide. Many of these studies are double-blinded, placebo-controlled and have demonstrated cold laser therapy to be a proven method for pain relief. Cold Lasers have received numerous FDA clearances to treat conditions such as plantar fasciitis; chronic back and neck pain; chronic, acute and post-operative pain.
According to Lasers Med Sci (2006) 38:74-83 Denise Hawkins and Heidi Abrahamase, PhD: “Red laser light (632.8nm) appears to be the most effective wavelength of laser at a cellular level.” This study also goes on to state that “Laser radiation has a wavelength dependent capability to alter cellular behavior in the absence of significant heating.”
Basically, the LLLT enters the tissue, alters cell membrane permeability, and at a cellular level is absorbed in the mitochondria. This helps facilitate: rapid cell growth, faster wound healing, increased metabolic activity, reduction in fibrous tissue formation, anti-inflammatory action, increased vascular activity and stimulated nerve function.
Cold laser therapy (LLLT) is a non-invasive procedure, meaning that it does not require a surgical incision. In other words, 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.
Cold laser therapy (LLLT) 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, Medicaid and most major medical insurance carriers do not cover cold laser therapy expenses.
L.A.S.E.R = Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation