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Laser therapy has been increasingly used in medicine over the last few years as a non surgical means of effecting cures for a variety of pains and ailments, for assisting normal healing processes to occur earlier and better, and as prophylaxis against the occurrence of undesirable side effects. Let us look concisely at what laser therapy is, how it works, and why it is used.

Light energy consists of small packets of energy, called photons, which travel in a wave-like pattern. The number, or density, of photons in a beam of light energy, combined with the wavelength, or colour, of the light will determine what reaction will occur when the energy is incident on tissue. When incident photon densities are not high enough to cause any rise in tissue temperature, the energy is transferred directly to the target cells, which changes their level of activity. It only takes one photon, in theory, to achieve a photoresponse in a target cell. The wavelength of the laser energy will determine how deeply the beam penetrates: infrared lasers have the best penetration, thus achieving deeper absorption which is of great importance in treating muscle and joint pain types. Depending on the condition of the cells and their surrounding tissue the reaction may be photoactivation, such as induced wound healing, or photo retardation, such as the slowing down of pain transmission to give pain attenuation. These opposite sides of the same therapeutic coin are collectively referred to as photoactivation or photomodulation.

In laser surgery, the level of laser-tissue reaction is higher than the survival threshold of the target cells, and the target cells are damaged or destroyed. In laser therapy, on the other hand, the level of reaction is lower than the survival threshold, and the cells are activated. Thus a common term seen in reports is low level laser therapy, or LLLT. All our tissues consist of cells, and so all tissues are potential targets for laser therapy, from skin to bone. The energized cells communicate with each other, and with non-irradiated cells, through increased levels of intra- and extracellular chemicals. If the cells are in a normal condition, then the level of activity remains higher for a short period, and then drops down to normal. Even in a ‘normal’ patient, an almost immediate flood of endorphins, our body’s naturally-occurring opiate, occurs after laser therapy, but as they are not required for any specific pain control mechanism, they are quickly dispersed throughout the body, and naturally disappear. In other words, laser therapy assists the natural healing processes of the body: if there is a need for these processes, such as in the relief of a painful condition, or repair of damaged tissues, then the normal healing mechanisms occur more efficiently. ‘Normalization’ is the keystone of laser therapy, and so LLLT can be used to remove pain or to cure numbness; to remove abnormal colour from, or restore pigment to depigmented skin; to increase blood flow in blood-starved tissues, or decrease blood flow in certain birthmarks such as ‘strawberry marks’; and to control both hypotension and essential hypertension. Just as some patients do not respond to a particular medication but will respond to a different one, so some patients will not respond to LLLT, or will respond poorly. Similarly, some patients need a combination of medications: thus some patients will need LLLT used in combination with other therapeutic modalities. From a study of the many papers on LLLT published in the international medical literature, we can confidently say in pain attenuation, for example, which is the largest application of LLLT, we can guarantee more than 76% pain relief in over 80% of patients. Laser therapy is not a magic wand!

 

Low Level Laser Therapy

Theralase, Inc. Canada

 

 

Introduction to Laser Therapy

 

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Pain Management

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Why Theralase LLLT?

 

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