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Pioneered in Europe and Russia in the early 1960’s, laser therapy is a modality that uses low energy lasers to promote healing through the body (1). As the body absorbs the beneficial light waves through the skin, a chain of positive reactions occur: tissues start to repair, inflammation decreases, and swelling reduces (2).
Laser Therapy For Pain.
For pain relief, laser therapy may be one of the best solutions available. In fact, an Irish research study found that laser therapy was the highest ranked modality for pain relief, out of all possible options (3).
The therapy is so effective because it helps reduce inflammation in the body. One study found that less than 10 minutes of daily laser treatment diminished inflammation by 20-30%. (4).
Laser Therapy For Arthritis
Because of its anti-inflammatory effect, laser therapy also presents hope for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis (5,6).
In a study of 372 people, low-power density laser therapy was found to increase prostaglandin synthesis, which resulted in reduced body inflammation (7,8). The therapy was most beneficial for people with osteoarthritis in their hip joints, elbows, or back, as well as those with sport-related injuries, and skin ulcers (8).
In another study, 136 people who suffered from rheumatic disease — and didn’t feel relief from anti-inflammatory or steroid therapy — reported strong benefit from laser therapy. People with spine pain responded best. Best yet, no adverse reactions were found (9).
A study comparing the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory and steroid injections to laser therapy achieved similar results. Of the 846 patients who took part in this study, 66% reported benefited from the laser treatment (10).
Laser Therapy For Lower Back Pain
Because laser therapy is so effective at reducing inflammation, it can also be highly beneficial for treating chronic lower back pain.
Several studies have looked at the effectiveness of laser therapy and back pain, across all age ranges (11, 12,13). All saw a beneficial effect with laser therapy.
However, one study found the benefits of laser therapy decreased overtime (58), showing that – for back pain – it may be most beneficial to do other exercises and therapies in conjunction with laser treatment.
Laser Therapy For Tissue Healing
Recent studies have found laser therapy can help promote quicker recovery of injured tissues, after acute trauma (14, 15, 16).
In several studies done on mice and rats, laser therapy was found to reduce swelling and enhance lymph flow after surgery (17). The therapy also improved circulation and healed joint tissue (18) as a result of increase production of collagen, a protein that strengthens skin and bones (19, 20).
When collagen production increases, studies have also found it can help speed the healing tendons (21, 22). The healing effect has been seen in both animals (20, 21) and humans (23, 24, 25, 26).
Across the board, research studies show laser therapy is a safe, non-invasive, treatment that can help improve a variety of health issues, especially those related to inflammation, tissue, and joint pain.
It’s important to note that the dose and frequency of the laser wavelengths must be correct to properly facilitate healing. If the laser power is too low, healing won’t be as accelerated (27, 28). Yet, even then, the therapy remains safe.
When used in conjunction with other treatments, like chiropractic care and acupuncture, the benefits can be outstanding.
By: Deborah O’Malley, M.Sc.
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- Fitz-Ritson, D. Lasers and their therapeutic applications in chiropractic. J Can Chiropr Assoc 2001; 45(1):26-34.
- Giavelli S, Fava G, Castronuovo G, et al. Low-level laser therapy in osteoarticular diseases in geriatric patients. Radiol Med (Torino) 1998 Apr; 95(4):303–309.
- Baxter D, Bell A, Allen J, et al. Low level laser therapy. Current clinical practice in Northern Ireland. Physiotherapy 1991; 77:171–178.
- Honmura A, Yanase M, Obata J, et al. Therapeutic effect of Ga-Al-As diode laser irradiation on experimentally induced inflammation in rats. Lasers in Surgery & Medicine 1992; 12:441–449.
- Goldman J, Chiapella J, Casey H, et al. Laser therapy in rheumatoid arthritis. Lasers Surg Med 1980; 1:93–101.
- Filonenko N, Mintz P, Scopinov S, et al. Low-energy laser therapy efficacy for patients with RA symptoms. Lasers Surg Med 1992; Suppl4:13.
- Barberis G, Gamron S, Acevedo G, et al. Invitro synthesis of prostaglandin E2 by synovial tissue after helium-neon laser radiation in rheumatoid arthritis. J Clin Laser Med Surg 1996 Aug; 14(4):175–177.
- Tam G. Low power laser therapy and analgesic action. J Clin Laser Med Surg 1996 Feb; 17(1):29–33.
- Fulga C, Fulga I, Predescu M. Clinical study of the effect of laser therapy in rheumatic degenerative diseases. Rom J Intern Med 1994 Jul–Sep; 32(3):227–233.
- Longo L, Simunovic Z, Postiglione M, et al. Laser therapy for fibromyositic rheumatisms. Rom J Intern Med 1994 Jul–Sep; 32(3):227–233.
- Ohshiro T, Shirono Y. Retroactive study in 524 patients on the application of the 830 nm GaAlAs Diode laser in low reacrive-level laser therapy (LLLT) for lumbago. Laser Therapy 1992; 4:121–126.
- Gruszka M. Effects of low energy laser therapy on herniated lumbar discs. Lasers Surg Med 1998; Suppl. 10, p. 61.
- Basford J, Sheffield C, Harmsen W. Laser therapy: a randomized, controlled trial of the effects of low-intensity Nd:YAG laser irradiation on musculoskeletal back pain. Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation 1999 Jun; 80(6):647–652.
- Airaksinen O, Airaksinen K, Rantanen P, et al. Effects of He-Ne laser irradiation on the trigger points of patients with chronic tension in the neck. Scand J App Electrother 1989; 4:63–65.
- Trelles M, Mayayo E. Bone fracture consolidates faster with low power laser. Lasers Surg Med 1987; 7:36–45.
- Anders J, Borke R, Woolery S, et al. Low-power laser irradiation alters the rate of regeneration of rat facial nerve. Lasers Surg Med 1993; 13:72–82.
- Lievens P. The influence of laser irradiation on the motricity of lymphatical system and on the wound healing process. Intl. Congress on Laser in Med & Surgery, Bolgna June 26–28, 1985.
- Zhao Y, Yasudam S, Yamamoto M, et al. He-Ne laser irradiation against rat adjuvant arthritis. Jap J Assoc Phys Med. Balneol Climatol 1990; 53(2):95–100.
- Lyons R, Abergel R, White R, et al. Biostimulation of wound healing in-vivo by a helium neon laser. Annals Plastic Surgery 1987; 18:47–50.
- Abergel R, Lyons R, Castel J. Biostimulation of wound healing by lasers: experimental approaches in animal models and fibroblast cultures. J Dermatological Surgery Oncology 1987; 13:127–133.
- Enwemeka C, Rodriquez O, Gall N, et al. Correlative ultrastructural and biomechanical changes induced in regenerating tendons exposed to laser photostimulation. Lasers in Surgery Medicine 1990; (Suppl. 2):12–19.
- Reddy G, Stehno-Bittel L, Enwemeka C. Laser photostimulation of collagen production in healing rabbit Achilles tendons. Lasers in Surgery & Medicine 1998; 22(5):281–287.
- Neiburger E. Accelerated healing of gingival incisions by the helium-neon diode laser: a preliminary study. General Dentistry 1997; 45(2):166–170
- Mester E, Mester AF, Mester A. The biomedical effect of laser application. Lasers Surg Med 1985; 5:31–39.
- Yu W, Naim J, Lanzafame R. Effects of photostimulation on wound healing in diabetic mice. Lasers in Surgery & Medicine 1997; 20(1):56–63.
- Semenov F, Lazareva L. Use of YAZ-ND laser in the treatment of non healing Trepanation cavities after cleaning surgery of the middle ear. Vestnik Otorinolaringologii 1996; 2:14–17.
- Allendorf J, Bessler M, Huang J, et al. Helium-neon laser irradiation at fluences of 1, 2, and 4 J/cm2 failed to accelerate wound healing as assessed by both wound contracture rate and tensile strength. Lasers in Surgery & Medicine 1997; 20(3):340–345.
- Cambier D, Vanderstraeten G, Mussen M, et al. Low power laser and healing of burns: a preliminary assay. Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery 1996; 97(3):555–558.