Low-Level Laser Therapy
Low-level laser therapy is the application of visible red or near-infrared light emitted from a low power laser for therapeutic purposes.
Low-level laser therapy is used to help heal wounds and to treat many of types of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders including back pain caused by lower back strain, herniated discs, fibromyalgia, etc.
Low-level lasers operate at very low levels of power. Unlike high-power lasers, low-level lasers do not heat or damage human tissue.
The laser device is held against the skin over the area being treated. Low-level lasers emit wavelengths of light in the visible red to near-infrared red range, which penetrate deeply into the tissues.
The light energy is absorbed and converted to biochemical energy, which stimulates the cells. Low-level laser therapy is believed to speed healing and reduce pain and inflammation. There are no known side effects to low-level laser therapy.
Low-level laser therapy is used to treat both acute and chronic pain. The benefits of low-level laser therapy appear to be accumulative - it may take several treatments for the results to become evident.
Total number of treatments needed depends upon the condition being treated, the severity of the condition, and each patient's individual response.
Other names for Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) are: cold laser, non-thermal laser, soft laser, biostimulation laser, low-intensity laser, low power laser therapy, etc. Low-level lasers are sometimes used in acupuncture, with the laser beam directed at acupoints instead of the insertion of needles.
How does laser light differ from "natural" light?
'Natural' light (including sunlight, common light bulbs, LEDs) emits incoherent light in almost all directions over a wide spectrum of wavelengths.
Laser light is coherent (highs and low points of waves are lined up). The light waves from a laser are parallel (travel in the almost the same direction) to produce a small, concentrated beam of light. Laser light is monochromatic, meaning a laser emits light at one or more specific wavelengths rather than a wide range of wavelengths.
Low-level lasers emit wavelengths of light in the visible red to near-infrared red range (at very low power)
Different wavelengths of light have different biological effects. Wavelengths of light in the visible red to near-infrared red range penetrate deeply into the tissues. The light energy is absorbed and converted to biochemical energy.
Low-level laser therapy is relatively new in North America. Low-level lasers are available for use only to licensed practitioners. Some chiropractors and physical therapists use cold lasers in conjunction with other treatments. Clinics that specialize in low-level laser therapy have also been emerging in the last couple of years.
Low-level laser therapy remains controversial. Though the FDA has approved the use of low-level laser therapy, the FDA still considers this treatment experimental, investigational and unproven due to insufficient scientific evidence (a lack of large clinical trials). There has been a multitude of studies on low-level laser treatment that have not been conducted with proper scientific methodology and/or proper understanding of the properties and biological effects of light. (1)
NOTE: If you are taking immune system suppressants, or have cancer, low-level laser therapy is contraindicated. In pregnant women, the uterus should not be irradiated.