In some individuals, laser therapy works “miracles”, while in others, there is little to no improvement. However, for the majority, laser therapy does improve the quality of life by decreasing the level of pain and helping with the healing process.
How does laser work?
In elementary school, we learned about photosynthesis, where plants change light energy into changed to chemical energy. The energy from the sun’s light is absorbed by proteins inside little organelles in the leaf cells called chloroplasts. One of many chemicals produced is ATP. ATP is the “energy currency” in all cells, including animal cells. This energy is used by the plant cells to promote sugar production and plant growth. In animal cells, it is the energy used for a multitude of functions including cell growth, hormone production, and cell metabolism.
Laser therapy, “photobiomodulation” works through a similar process. “Photo” referring to light. “Bio” referring to life processes. The light emitted by the laser stimulates similar chemical and biological effects within animal cells and tissues. The light photons travel to the cells and are absorbed through special structures in mitochondria and cell membranes called chromophores. The cell membranes are altered, and a cascade of physiological changes occur, including the production of ATP, the release of nitric oxide, beta endorphins, and serotonins. These chemicals affect many types of cells, such as macrophages, fibroblasts, endothelial cells, and nerve cells, reducing pain and stimulating the healing process of tissues.
What types of medical conditions respond to laser therapy?
Laser therapy is primarily used for pain management and tissue healing. Any medical condition that has pain involvement can benefit from laser therapy. They include post-surgical care, strained ligaments, muscle trauma, disc pain, and joint pain. Medical conditions such as burns, delayed wound healing, skin infections, and ear infections benefit from the tissue healing properties of laser therapy. However, laser therapy in the area of tumors or cancer sites should be avoided.
Is laser painful? Is it safe?
It is not painful. It is extremely safe. There are two possible hazards if improperly used, burning skin tissue and damage to the eyes. Our clinic uses a Class 3B laser, a cold laser. Cold lasers do not produce excessive levels of heat and takes extreme prolonged contact to burn skin tissue. Class 4 lasers create large amounts of heat in a short period of time, making it quite easy to burn skin tissue. Retinal eye damage will occur if the laser beam is projected directly into the eyes for a prolonged period of time. It should be noted that all over the counter laser pointers can damage your eyes.