16 Aug What are the Indications for Cold Laser Therapy?
Doctors have been using therapeutic lasers since 1965, and technology continues to improve. Lasers work by supplying energy in the form of non-thermal photons of light. The body absorbs this energy on the cellular level and transforms light energy into chemical energy. The body uses the chemical energy to accelerate healing of tissue for many painful conditions.
The cold laser is also called a low level laser, because it operates at a very low wavelength, which does not increase the skin or body’s thermal temperature. Cold lasers have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for cauterizing and cutting body tissue, hair removal, and removing tarter from the teeth. Pain management specialists are using cold laser therapy for the treatment of many chronic diseases and conditions.
Results of Cold Laser Therapy
Cold laser therapy is used for pain management, acceleration of damaged tissue healing, reduction of swelling and inflammation, and to increase immune system function. This form of treatment has been well researched in more than 100 double-blind studies that confirm a positive clinical effect. Injuries, ailments, and conditions treated with cold laser therapy include:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Neck and back pain
- Rheumatic pain
- Frozen shoulder syndrome
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Sprains and strains
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Plantar fasciitis
- Muscle and nerve regeneration
How the Cold Laser Works
The laser light interacts with body tissue and causes certain photochemical reactions. In addition, the laser stimulates the natural biological processes in the body. The cold laser produces beneficial effects such as tissue repair, wound healing, swelling reduction, pain reduction, and increased blood flow. Cold laser therapy works by a process called photobiomodulation. The low power laser does not generate perceivable heat, so most patients do not feel any pain. Rather, during cold laser therapy, the patient often reports a slight tingling sensation or feelings of warmth.
Once the cold laser light energy passes through the top layers of skin, it reaches the target area. It is absorbed by the light sensitive elements of the body’s cells. This mechanism of action is compared to photosynthesis, where plants absorb sunlight. The cells absorb the energy which then increases intracellular metabolism.
Treatment Sessions and Effectiveness
A treatment session lasts for 10-20 minutes. Depending on the type of pain, many patients receive rehabilitative therapy along with cold laser treatments. The total number of treatments needed is usually 5-10, which is related to the severity of the condition and the patient’s healing rate. Some degenerative chronic pain conditions require periodic maintenance treatment. Some patients will see immediate results after the first treatment session, whereas others require 5-10 treatments for full effectiveness.
The effectiveness of cold laser therapy was reviewed by The Bone and Joint Decade 2010 Task Force on Neck pain. This multidisciplinary group of researchers reviewed many studies that were done using the cold laser for chronic pain. The task force found that low level laser therapy is beneficial for many types of neck pain. In a recent study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, the success rate of cold laser therapy was reported at 86%.
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Hurwitz EL, Carragee EJ, vander Velde G, et al. (2010). Treatment of neck pain: noninvasive interventions and results.
Martin R (2003). Laser-Accelerated Inflammation/Pain Reduction and Healing. Practical Pain Management, 3(6):20-25.
Marovino T (2004). Cold Lasers in Pain Management. Practical Pain Management, 4(6):37-42.