Health column: Heal faster and reduce pain with laser therapy
Ever since lasers came into existence there has been an aura of science fiction surrounding them. Lasers have been used by evil villains in movies who use giant space lasers to hold the world hostage or in laser gun battles in Star Wars.It’s not all science fiction, however. Cold laser or low level laser therapy has become extremely popular in recent years, with utilization in various medical fields ranging from veterinary medicine, chiropractic, orthopedic, dermatology and plastic surgery.The main two questions I get about cold laser in my clinic are, “Does cold laser therapy really work?” and “How does cold laser therapy work?”Before these questions are answered it needs to be noted that there are many types of lasers and we are specifically talking about non-thermal, low power, monochromatic (or singe wavelength) 635nm lasers used for healing damaged tissue and reducing pain.So onto the first question, does cold laser or low level laser work to heal tissue and reduce pain? The answer, according to much of the literature, is yes. In one book on clinical laser low level laser therapy, written in 2002 by authors Jan Turner and Lars Hode, titled “Laser Therapy Clinical Practice and Scientific Background,” which has 1,281 references, the authors note that lasers are “sterile, painless, and often less expensive than methods already in use,” and ” … have no undesirable side effects in the hands of a qualified therapist,” and that “laser therapy for wounds healing is ideal, since it promotes healing and reduces pain at the same time.”In an article in the October 2004 edition of American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, researchers injured the knees of 42 rats, giving them arthritis. Twenty one of the rats were given 635nm low-level laser exposure over the arthritic knee for 15 minutes, three times per week for eight weeks. The other 21 rats were not exposed. The results showed a marked repair of the arthritic cartilage in the rats that received laser therapy, but not in the un-treated rats. The authors concluded that 635nm low-power laser enhances protein production in arthritic joints and repairs the arthritic cartilage.These are only two of approximately 2,400 papers on therapeutic laser published over the last 10 years, according to an article in the January 2004 edition of Biochemistry titled “Photobiological Principles of Therapeutic Applications of Laser Radiation.”How does low level laser therapy work? The most common theory I’ve read is that the laser light is most likely absorbed by photoreceptors of mitochondria of the targeted tissue cells, which results in enhanced cellular metabolism. In a nutshell, the mitochondria are the primary energy-producing element in each cell. When the low-level laser enhances the metabolism of the mitochondria, it is thought that the mitochondria are able to create more energy or ATP. The increase in ATP may allow the targeted cells to increase DNA and protein synthesis, resulting in more efficient repair of damaged tissue.As noted earlier the information on low-level laser therapy is vast and the information presented here is a very brief summary on some of the better-known effects of laser therapy. If you would like more information on cold lasers, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.Sean Miller is a doctor of chiropractic in Edwards whose practice focuses on “muscle activation” uding cold laser, chiropractic, soft tissue techniques, exercise, and nutrition to restore proper function and movement patterns to acute and chronic spine and extremity complaints. More information about his practice can be found at http://www.seanmillerhealth.com.
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