Many therapists, medical or alternative/complementary, promote the use of low-level laser therapy (LLLT), which is treatment with a single wavelength of light. It is also known as cold laser therapy because it doesn’t produce heat or vibration, in fact the patient usually feels little during the treatment. LLLT is used by a variety of therapists, including athletic trainers, chiropractors, massage therapists and physical therapists for a variety of reasons, including:
- treatment of burn scars
- muscle, tendon and joint pain such as chronic neck pain, tendinitis and low back pain
- treatment of lymphedema.
You may have considered low-level laser therapy for pain or other conditions, and might be wondering how it works and whether it actually has any physiological effect or is more like a placebo.
Scientific research does validate the benefits of LLLT. Research suggests that it works by increasing the production of ATP in the bloodstream, as well as serotonin and endorphins. It improves blood and lymph circulation, stimulates the production of collagen and improves the function of nerve tissue. Increasing lymph circulation reduces edema and improves the immune system because it distributes immune cells more widely in the body. Besides reducing pain and swelling, LLLT seems to also help scars by not only stimulating the production of collage, but also improving its arrangement, which reduces the fibrosis of lymphedema disease and softens burn scars.
Results tend to vary depending on the type of device used, its power and wavelength, the placement of the device, duration of the treatment and so forth. Also, different devices penetrate to different levels in the skin, with the helium neon lasers having the shallowest penetration into the skin. Those with a longer wavelength, such as the gallium aluminum arsenide infrared semiconductor, or GaAlAs, penetrate more deeply into the skin. The Food and Drug Administration has given LLLT therapy approval for adjunctive use in pain therapy, although therapists also use the devices to treat other conditions such as lymphedema, skin ulcerations and burn scars, all of which uses are supported by medical research.
If you are interested in LLLT and have questions, please feel free to contact me so we can discuss it. I’d be happy to answer your questions.
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