Introduction to Cold Laser Therapy

If you are experiencing problems with chronic inflammation or painful arthritis, you may be surprised if your doctor offers you the option of laser therapy. Don’t be alarmed: you won’t be facing a bizarre device that looks like it was used in the latest science fiction movie. Your physician is actually on the cutting edge of medicine by deciding to implement the use of cold laser therapy.

cold-laser-therapyCold laser therapy is a method of medical treatment that is nor commonly known by most individuals. Although it has been in use for years, you may have never heard of it. When most people think of laser surgery, they picture the operating room, where a surgeon is using a laser to cut into the body of a patient during surgery. And although there are special lasers that are used in invasive surgical procedures, that is a totally different type of laser altogether.

So what is a laser? Laser stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.(1) A laser is, essentially, a beam of light. High energy is concentrated within that beam of light. As the light is focused in a particular area of the body, the light is absorbed by the body’s mitochondria; this leads to a chain reaction, causing the body’s natural healing ability to accelerate. More and more physicians and other medical professionals are using the technology of cold laser therapy in their treatment of a variety of medical ailments.

Cold laser therapy uses low power light in order to stimulate the healing process. (2) Cold laser therapy is used in many different medical applications, as will be explored in this article.

What is Cold Laser Therapy? (also called low level laser therapy)

Cold laser therapy, also known as low level laser therapy (LLLT), is a type of medical treatment that utilizes a specific type of laser to treat patients suffering from acute or chronic conditions. The laser uses a specific wavelength of light that interacts with the body’s tissue. This type of therapy is believed to speed up the body’s natural healing process, as the light is absorbed by the body’s mitochondria, which increases the energy production within the cells. (3)

What Are the Classes of Cold Lasers?

The F.D.A. has classified medical lasers into categories of surgical vs. non-surgical. Class 3A and 3B are non-surgical lasers: they cannot be used to cut tissue. Class 3A lasers are used to aid in the healing of superficial wounds and are generally not used to penetrate beneath the surface of the skin. Class 3B lasers, however, are designed to penetrate through the skin where they can aid in healing deep tissue and joint issues. (4)

What is Cold Laser Therapy Used For?

There is a wide variety of medical applications that can benefit from the use of low level light therapy. Since LLLT is a non-invasive treatment option, many medical professionals are jumping onboard and using it in their practices.

For dentists, the cold laser can aid in treatment of mouth sores and ulcers, hastening the healing process. They are also finding it is useful in the treatment of pain from Temporomandibular Joint Injury (TMJ). Dentists and oral surgeons are using LLLT following extractions to reduce swelling and hasten the healing time. It is used in cases of dry socket, and it is used following dental implants. (5) More and more dentists are finding the cold laser therapy can greatly enhance their ability to offer relief to their dental patients.

For pain management clinicians, cold laser therapy is something that can be added to a patient’s pain management plan. Think of it as another layer in the overall care for the individual suffering from chronic pain. Cold laser therapy offers a non-surgical treatment that may provide greatly needed relief for patients.

For the family doctor, cold laser therapy enables the physician to find an innovative way to enhance medical care for the patients. For the woman suffering from arthritis, cold laser therapy can provide relief by decreasing inflammation. For the high school athlete, the physician can treat sports-related injuries by decreasing inflammation and by enhancing the body’s own ability to heal itself. The applications of cold laser therapy are practically endless, as additional medical specialty groups are finding ways to utilize this technology to help patients feel better.

Pain

The most common reason physicians are consulted in the US is due to pain. With one-third of Americans experiencing chronic pain, physicians are looking for effective treatment options for their patients, while also keeping in mind the need for the lowest risk possible. The common pain therapies in use today include anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections, pain medications and surgical intervention. (6)

Keeping all of this in mind, it is clear why physicians are beginning to turn to cold laser therapy as a viable option for patients suffering from chronic pain as well as those suffering from short-term situations when pain is experienced, like in the instance of a muscle strain or whiplash.

In cases where someone is suffering from chronic pain, a medical professional may choose to use cold laser therapy in combination with therapeutic massage in order to decrease chronic pain symptoms. The use of cold laser therapy does not necessarily take the place of other modalities of pain management; instead, it can be used to enhance the treatment of chronic pain.

Pain management clinicians and other medical professionals use cold laser therapy to treat individuals who are suffering from chronic pain. In some instances, cold laser therapy is used in conjunction with therapeutic massage in order to decrease chronic pain symptoms. Cold laser therapy would be another tool for the physician to use to reduce pain.

In chronic pain situations, doctors often recommend medications that reduce swelling, or inflammation. They may also offer pain medication to reduce the level of pain the individual is dealing with on a daily basis. Many pain management clinics can provide steroid injections or even use radiofrequency to decrease sensation in an area of nerve tissue.

There are a variety of circumstances when your physician may suggest the use of cold laser therapy for pain issues. These include:

  • Pain and stiffness from arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (hand/wrist pain)
  • Pain connected with fibromyalgia
  • Pain in the knee
  • Neck pain
  • Tendonitis

Inflammation

 

low-level-laser-therapyCold laser therapy is used by a variety of medical professionals. For example, dentists sometimes use cold lasers when they are treating inflammation in a patient’s mouth; they may also use it to treat mouth ulcers.

Physicians may use cold laser to decrease inflammation from numerous conditions such as arthritis or other situations where inflammation is present. By lowering inflammation, the body’s own healing process can begin.

Inflammation can increase the pain a patient is experiencing. For example, if a patient who suffers from herniated or bulging discs develops inflammation in an area of their spinal column, the inflamed tissue can actually press upon particular nerves, leading to pain that appears in other areas of the body. Inflammation in the lower spine can cause a patient to experience pain that runs down the back of their leg and even all the way down to their foot if the inflammation is impacting the sciatic nerve. Physicians are exploring ways that cold laser therapy can be used to treat a variety of causes of inflammation to determine if they can decrease pain and discomfort their patients are experiencing.

Healing

Some physicians are using cold laser therapy to promote faster healing. By releasing stored energy the cold laser speeds up the cellular repair. It also widens arteries and veins around the injury site, allowing more nutrients to reach the damaged area. Cold laser even improves white blood cell activity. In addition, the laser stimulates collagen, an essential protein that is key in repairing wounds and other injuries. (7)

Physicians may choose to use cold laser therapy to aid in the repair of acute injuries such as:

  • Muscle sprain or strain
  • Repetitive motion-caused injury
  • Sports injuries like tennis elbow, tendonitis, shoulder injuries

The Safety of Cold Laser Therapy

When individuals are offered the option to allow their doctor to utilize cold laser therapy in their treatment, one of the main concerns expressed by patients centers around the safety of the device. The two main issues are the possibility of eye damage and concerns about possible burns resulting from the heat produced by the laser.

Vision Safety

Since lasers produce a high intensity light, your medical provider should advise you that you should not look directly at the laser emitter. Some medical offices will provide the option of wearing safety goggles in order to prevent possible eye injury. (8)

Heat Production

Lasers that are used during actual surgery are used in order to cut, burn and/or vaporize tissue during the surgical procedure. The lasers used in this type of situation are often referred to as hot lasers. This is a different type of laser than the cold laser. In cold laser procedures, the rays of the laser will penetrate the skin but will not burn it. In other words, unlike surgical lasers, the cold laser does not heat up the skin tissues upon which it is focused. Some patients do feel a slight warming in the area being treated, as the increased blood circulation that results may create a mild sensation of warmth.

Other Safety Concerns

Cold lasers should not be used in the general region of the heart in patients who have pacemakers in place; anyone with a pacemaker who is offered the option of cold laser therapy needs to discuss this with their cardiac professional in order to obtain appropriate guidance.

Women who are pregnant should discuss the use of cold lasers with their physician for current recommendations.

There are other guidelines and recommendations for physicians to consider when they are determining whether or not cold laser therapy is appropriate for a particular patient. The treating physician should have the patient’s medical history in mind when deciding if cold laser therapy is appropriate for the individual.

Super Pulsed Cold Lasers (see Multi Radiance Medical)

In addition to the typical low level cold laser, there is a class of LLLTs called super pulsed cold lasers. This type of cold laser emits controlled pulses of light at a high power for a short length of time. The series of controlled pulses is able to better penetrate the skin without burning the body’s tissue.

The benefits of super pulsed cold lasers include:

  • Better penetration. This type of laser achieves enhanced penetration of the skin.
  • Quicker Action. This type of laser is able to act faster than the traditional cold laser.
  • No Heat Sensation. This type of laser uses a series of pulses that are so short in duration that they do not cause any sensation of heat.

What Is The Typical Cold Laser Therapy Regimen?

Keeping in mind that each individual treatment plan will vary greatly, the typical cold laser therapy treatment takes place over a course of weeks. On average, it can take 8 to 30 treatment sessions for maximum effect to be achieved. In some instances, a patient may expect to have 2-4 treatments per week. It is up to your medical professional to determine the frequency of sessions and the length of the overall treatment, which depends upon the type and severity of medical condition under treatment. (9)

Conclusion

If you are considering cold laser therapy, your physician has determined that this therapy should provide beneficial treatment of your particular physical ailment. Make sure that your medical provider is aware of your medical history, and do not be reluctant to ask questions. The use of cold laser therapy is becoming more and more common each day, thanks to its low risk profile and the wide variety of medical ailments that benefit from its use. If your physician or clinician is recommending it for your particular ailment, cold laser therapy may just be the answer to what ails you.

References:

1. https://www.multiradiance.com/chiropractic/faq/faq/

2. https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-laser-therapy#is-it-for-you

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4291815/

4. https://www.chiroeco.com/therapeutic-lasers/

5. https://www.oralhealthgroup.com/features/low-level-laser-therapy-an-untapped-resource-in-the-dental-industry/

6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4743666/

7. https://www.spineuniverse.com/treatments/physical-therapy/pain-relief-healing-laser-therapy

8. https://www.multiradiance.com/chiropractic/faq/faq/

9. https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/pain-management/cold-laser-therapy-advantages-and-disadvantages

The American College of Physicians Recommends Chiropractic Treatment for Low Back Pain

treatment of low back painMore than 80% of Americans experience low back pain at some point in their lives. These people may be interested to learn that the American College of Physicians has recently released new recommendations regarding the best way to treat low back pain. According to the new guidelines, a patient’s first resort should be noninvasive, drug-free treatments like spinal manipulation by a Doctor of Chiropractic or superficial heat. These types of treatments have high rates of success in alleviating back pain, and do not come with the major risks associated with treatment by drugs or surgery.

How the recommendations were selected

The American College of Physicians (ACP), a national physician’s group that uses scientific knowledge to recommend treatments for patients, released their new recommendations in February of this year. They reviewed several systematic reviews of scientific research on the treatment of low back pain and compiled their findings in the new guidelines document. The systematic reviews were summaries of the most rigorous scientific experimental research from the past several decades, so patients can be assured that these recommendations are based on the best scientific evidence.

The reasons behind the new recommendations
Diagnoses of low back pain ranges from acute cases (lasting less than 4 weeks) to chronic (lasting more than 12 weeks), and can be debilitating for many people who experience it. Treatment options include natural, noninvasive methods like chiropractic adjustments, heat application, and particular exercise regimens, as well as more invasive and risky methods like medication and even surgery. The new guidelines note that medication has a low rate of success in treating back pain and can cause serious side effects, while noninvasive methods have few risks or side effects.

When assessing the success of treatment options, the ACP considered several positive outcomes. These outcomes included decrease or disappearance of pain, improvement in back-specific and overall functioning, increased quality of life, return to work from disability, and patient satisfaction. The ACP also considered the adverse effects of treatments, which was a major reason for the recommendation that prescription of medication should be a last resort. They noted that even taking medicines as gentle as over-the-counter acetaminophen may lead to liver damage over time. Patients who struggle with low back pain for several weeks or more are at an even greater risk for suffering from side effects. This means that natural, noninvasive treatment is especially important for chronic cases.

belden village chiropractic

Types of noninvasive treatment
The recommendations from the ACP include many different types of noninvasive and non-drug treatments. They stress the importance of first attempting to ease pain using non-drug treatments, and moving on to prescription medicines only if you have tried several different types of therapies and have not seen improvement. The recommended “first response” therapies fall into three main categories, which are physical treatments, lifestyle changes, and stress reduction treatments.

The physical treatments are the most likely treatments to help people with a recent onset of low back pain, since acute back pain is most often related to physical problems as opposed to chronic stress or something similar. These physical treatments include spinal alignment by a chiropractor, low level laser therapy, massage, and superficial heat application. All of these treatments can correct different root problems, so your healthcare provider should be able to help you select which method to try first.

The second category of noninvasive treatments is lifestyle changes. Depending on the source of your low back pain, particular exercise regimens may help alleviate your pain long term by strengthening certain muscles or making them more limber. Your doctor or a physical therapist can help you select exercises to appropriately treat low back pain or lose weight.

The third category includes stress reduction treatments, which can help alleviate back pain caused by chronic stress. These types of therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy with a licensed psychologist, which will train you to handle stress more effectively and healthfully. Your doctor may also recommend practicing breathing exercises in stressful situations or making a regular practice of mindfulness meditation. Yoga is also commonly used for stress reduction.

Out of these three categories, the physical treatments have the possibility of treating the broadest range of root problems because they can help with low back pain related to stress and weak muscles, but also can treat other sources of pain. Spinal alignment by a licensed chiropractor is a particularly beneficial treatment.

What is chiropractic treatment?
Many Americans haven’t sought treatment from a chiropractor because they do not understand what their treatment methods are or inaccurately believe that they may not understand their condition. However, the truth is that chiropractors have a great deal of specialized training before they are allowed to practice. In fact, they earn a doctorate degree (a DC, or Doctor of Chiropractic) just like your primary care physician has earned a doctorate degree (likely an MD, or Medical Doctorate, or a DO, a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Chiropractors attend a college or university  and an additional four-year Doctor of Chiropractic degree. Many chiropractors also train under more experienced chiropractors before they earn their degree. So if you know someone who warns you that chiropractors are less qualified, you can tell them their fears are unfounded and ill informed.

Your visit to a chiropractor will begin in a similar manner to your visits with a primary care physician. The chiropractor will ask questions about your general medical history and your current low back pain, such as when it began and how frequently you experience this pain. Your chiropractor will likely do some diagnostic tests, like checking the range of motion of your spine, and this will help your chiropractor to more accurately pinpoint the source of your pain. Your chiropractor may also use techniques like X-rays to get a better look at your spine. Low back pain can often be treated with spinal alignment, so your chiropractor will probably recommend this treatment.

In addition to spinal adjustments, many chiropractors offer other types of treatments that are recommended for low back pain, such as massage therapy, physical therapy, and laser therapy. These are all included on the ACP’s recommendations for treating low back pain. Your chiropractor will help you choose the most appropriate and beneficial treatment for your needs.

 

Spinal Manipulation
Spinal manipulation (or spinal adjustment) is a standard procedure that chiropractors use often. It typically involves repositioning the vertebrae or joint. Although this can sometimes cause temporary, minor discomfort, this discomfort won’t last long. Most often, patients report a feeling of relief.

In certain cases (for example, if you have osteoporosis or particular health issues), your chiropractor may use a gentler approach known as spinal mobilization. Spinal mobilization can take many forms. Sometimes your chiropractor may help your lower spine to stretch using a series of slow, repetitive rocking motions. In other cases your chiropractor may use equipment like an Activator tool or a drop table. You chiropractor will choose the method that has the highest likelihood of alleviating your particular problem with minimal negative effects.

Good chiropractors will also explain why they have chosen particular treatments and how it will help you before beginning. Patients shouldn’t be shy about asking questions and providing as much information as possible.

Low Level Laser Therapy

Low level laser therapy, often called ‘cold laser therapy‘ is also a treatment that can be used to resolve low back pain.  By directing specific wavelengths of light into the painful area, the cold laser can increase the cellular activity in the region, can reduce inflammation, and can allow for improved healing.  Combining the recommended therapies can have added improvements.

Benefits of the new low back pain recommendations

In addition to having higher rates of success, the new recommendations for treating low back pain come with a host of benefits for patients. Many of the recommended treatments are less expensive than buying medicine regularly. They also don’t come with side effects associated with pharmacologic treatment, which can cause liver damage, stomach ulcers, allergic reactions, and more.

Additionally, patients now have the option of getting treatment much closer to home since most people can find excellent chiropractors in their area. For example, people suffering with low back pain who live in the area of Canton, Ohio can easily find a chiropractor near them. Seeking treatment at a nearby location is an excellent way to ensure that you have easy access to good care and can visit as often as necessary. Because follow-up visits for maintenance are often recommended for low back pain, choosing a treatment option that’s conveniently located can help you to feel your best more often. Belden Village Chiropractic & Wellness Center is especially convenient because they offer multiple methods of noninvasive, non-drug treatment for low back pain. Having easy access to superior treatment can change patients’ life for the better.

belden village chiropractic