|Low Level Laser Therapy | Cold Lasers for Pain & Sport Injury Healing|
Low Level Laser Therapy
laser Therapy for treating pain and sports injuries An Original Article on laser therapy by
Julia Breur, Ph.D., LMFT
Transcutaneous low level laser treatments can reduce dermal and musculoskeletal pain. While all of the mechanisms of action are not known, studies have demonstrated some interesting effects of low level laser energy on cells involved in wound healing and pain sensation. Taken together, low level laser treatment can be used to treat pain and sports injuries for a majority of patients.
Low level laser therapy for treating acute pain.
For the purposes of this discussion, we define acute pain as pain occurring immediately to a few hours/days after an injury. The mode of the injury does not really matter; it can be trauma, stress/strain, or burn. While the initial pain signals that occur after trauma or tissue damage are immediate, there are slower components of acute pain that continue even after the initial cause of the trauma is gone. Most of this acute pain comes from tissue damage, swelling and subsequent inflammation.
Low level laser therapy is able to reduce inflammation and promote proper wound healing.1 Not only can non-invasive laser energy be used to stimulate fibroblasts and other cells in the skin to repair the wound more quickly and efficiently, but low level light energy can inhibit some of the excessive inflammatory cells that are recruited to the area as well.
Low level lasers for treating perioperative pain.
In a fairly exciting (albeit small) clinical study, Dr. Les Jonsson found that when phototherapy was given to patients prior to foot surgery, they reported less pain in the postoperative period. Low level laser therapy (1.8J/cm2, 5.7Hz, with wavelength 830nm and output power 40mW from a Maestro, laser manufactured by MediCom Prague) was administered thirty minutes prior to podiatry surgery. When asked to rate their pain after the procedure, patients receiving the laser treatment reported lower numbers on a (VAS) pain scale. Incidentally the MediCom laser device is available in the US through Laser Therapeutics of Centerville, Massachusetts:
Low level laser therapy for the treating chronic pain
After acute pain resolves, many people are left with long-term, chronic pain. Again, much of this pain is related to tissue inflammation, specifically around pain receptors and nerve fibers. Low level laser therapy can help reduce chronic pain in at least two ways. It can block the activity of nociceptors (pain receptors) in the skin. Also, low level laser energy can reduce inflammation around nerve fibers and damaged tissue. Therefore fewer pain signals are being received at the nerve endings and the nerve fiber is not sending aberrant signals because of impingement.
Physical therapists and sports medicine physicians have been using various transdermal pain relieving modalities for years. These include cryotherapy, electrical stimulation, ultrasound and phonophoresis, extracorporeal shock wave therapy, iontophoresis, and laser treatments.2 Since inflammation and improper positioning of the musculoskeletal system underlies most sports injuries, low level laser treatment is ideal for reducing inflammation and accelerating the healing process.3 The device used in this study was the Omega Excel available in the United States from Laser Therapeutics.