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 therapy work?
In elementary school, we learned about photosynthesis, where plants change light energy into changed to chemical energy. Proteins absorb the energy from the sun's light 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 utilized 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 in animal cells and tissues. The cells absorb the light photons through specialized structures in the mitochondria and cell membranes called chromophores. Changes occur within the cell membranes, and a cascade of physiological changes follows, including the production of ATP, the release of nitric oxide, beta-endorphins, and serotonin. 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.
IS LASER PAINFUL? IS IT SAFE?
It is not painful. It is extremely safe. If improperly used, there are two possible hazards. One involves the burning of tissues, and the other involves damage to the eyes. Our clinic uses a Class 3B laser, a cold laser. Cold lasers do not produce excessive levels of heat. Even when misused, it takes extremely prolonged contact to burn the patient. Class 4 lasers do create significant amounts of heat in short periods of time, increasing the danger of tissue damage. Eye damage occurs if the laser beam is projected directly into the eyes for a lengthy period. Even small over the counter laser pointer beams can damage your eyes.
WHAT MEDICAL CONDITIONS RESPOND TO LASER THERAPY?
Pain management and tissue healing are the primary reasons for laser therapy. 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. Many clinicians avoid using laser treatment in the area of tumors or cancer sites.