You may have come across laser therapy at your physiotherapist or other health practitioners office and wondered what it was. You have to admit, it sounds like a high-end spa treatment. So, if it’s not a new fad, what exactly is laser therapy and what can it treat?
What is Laser Therapy?
Laser therapy, also called cold laser therapy or low-level-laser therapy (LLLT) stimulates your body’s healing response using low levels of red and near infrared light. It is called low level or cold laser therapy as the level of light used isn’t high enough to heat up body tissues like lasers used in other areas of healthcare.The machine itself often looks like an ultrasound doppler or like a flashlight connected to a small machine that controls the wavelengths of the laser.
How Does it Work?
Laser therapy directly targets the affected area with different wavelengths of low-level red and near infrared light. This type of light stimulates the tissue and promotes healing and regeneration. Wavelengths used range from 600 – 950 nanometres depending on what is being treated.
How Long Does it Take to Work?
The length of the treatment itself varies depending on what is being treated but typically ranges from as little as 5 minutes to 20 minutes in length. The number of treatments required depends on a variety of factors but your practitioner will advise you upon assessment. On average, acute issues resolve on average in 3-7 visits. More severe cases may take longer to see the desired results.
Who Can Perform Laser Therapy?
Laser therapy is typically offered by clinics such as Active Back to Health, physiotherapists, chiropractors and other manual therapy practitioners. These practitioners will be trained in the proper use of the laser to treat a range of conditions, including the appropriate wavelengths, expected outcomes, etc.
What Can Laser Therapy Treat?
There is a wide body of research to support the use of laser therapy to treat a number of conditions, in particular, soft tissue injury, joint issues and back and neck pain.
Injuries & Conditions
Common injuries that benefit from low-level-laser therapy include:
Hip, Knee, Back and Neck Pain
If you are experiencing pain and inflammation from an injury or condition, check with your physiotherapist or manual practitioner and see if laser therapy may be right for you.
Inflammation & Chronic Pain
Inflammation due to a variety of conditions such as Fibromyalgia and Arthritis can be effectively treated with the use of cold laser therapy.
There is evidence to support the use of cold laser therapy for decreasing wound healing time and lessening the potential of scar formation .
Are There Contraindications & Precautions?
While low-level-laser therapy is considered generally safe for most patients, there are certain contraindications for this type of therapy. These contraindications and precautions include:
Treatment near the eyes – common practice is having patients wear sunglasses when cold laser therapy is performed on any area of the body.
Cancer – laser therapy should not be used near any areas of known malignancy and should be avoided for at least 5 years after being deemed cancer free.
Pregnancy – there is no evidence to suggest that laser therapy is safe or unsafe for a developing fetus and therefore should be avoided during pregnancy. If required, laser therapy may be considered in areas away from the abdomen such as the neck, shoulder, foot, etc.
Thyroid – You should avoid performing laser therapy directly over the thyroid as a precaution.
Tattoos – If therapy is done over tattooed skin, monitor for pain. If pain occurs, cease treatment and/or try treating the area with the laser a few mm away from the skin.
Anti-inflammatory Medication – a rash may occur when laser therapy is combined with anti-inflammatory medication and thus should not be performed within 2 weeks of using this mediation or having corticosteroid injections.
Laser therapy is a beneficial, non-invasive treatment for a variety of common injuries and pain conditions. If you are curious about laser therapy and whether it’s right for you, speak with your physiotherapist or practitioner trained in the use of LLLT, they will be able to advise you on whether laser therapy is suited to your condition and your expected results from treatment.