Friday, February 16, 2007

LASER Therapy, Pain & Sports Injuries: Does Your Doctor See The Light?

First conceptualized by Albert Einstein in 1916, laser technology has been around since 1965 and has been fascinating us whenever or where ever we've see them ever since. In the past couple of decades, laser technology has made some extensive advances and with that, has shed some new light to a new therapeutic approach to treating sports injuries (and many other injuries and conditions).

You must understand that our bodies use light energy in a similar way that plants do. I’m sure you remember photosynthesis from high school biology and how plants turn the sun’s energy into food that the plant survives and thrives on. Well, we have some of that ability too. Like plants, when our body’s tissues are stimulated by specific wavelengths of light, research has shown that our body will have the following physiological effects:
  1. Decreased pain levels
  2. Reduced inflammation
  3. Increased tissue proliferation & regeneration
  4. Accelerated soft tissue and bone repair
  5. Increased tissue tensile strength
  6. Enhanced nerve regeneration & function
  7. Increased cell metabolism
  8. Increased enzymatic responses
  9. Increased cell membrane potentials
  10. Increased microcirculation & vasodilation
  11. Increased lymphatic flow
  12. Increased collagen production
  13. Enhanced angiogenesis (creation of new blood vessels)

So what does this mean you ask??? It means biostimulation of damaged tissue with LASER will cause tissues to heal faster and heal-stronger-faster. It means it can stimulate the regeneration of tissue, reduce inflammation and pain. What does this mean for an injured athlete or the victim of a car accident? Not only faster relief of symptoms, but faster healing of the damaged tissues as well. Not bad for a super-duper flashlight on steriods.

Understand there are 2 basic camps in the laser world; hot lasers and cold lasers. Hot lasers are the kind used for surgery; they cut, they burn, they get hot. Hence the name. Cold lasers (aka LLL or Low Level Lasers) generate laser light which can be in the visible or invisible spectrum but do not generate heat. The cold lasers don’t actually get cold either, they’re only called cold because they don’t get hot. Cold lasers (what I like to call therapeutic lasers) are used to increase the rate of healing damaged tissues, reduce inflammation, reduce pain, increased blood flow and in the case of some therapeutic lasers and red lasers are known to also reduce infection.

Sounds too good to be true right? What are the side effects? Well, there really are none. Just don’t shine them in your (or anyone else’s) eyes because they can burn the retina and blind you; so, always wear safety glasses. Don’t use the laser over the thyroid, nor over a developing baby in the womb during the 1st trimester of pregnancy. Lastly, since therapeutic laser helps increase the rate of tissue healing, do not use it over cancerous growths as it can speed up the rate of the cancer’s growth. Outside of these very specific things; Let There Be Light.

What are the down sides? There has been no research to date that shows cold lasers can hurt any condition. At worst, they’ve only shown that over exposure to cold laser therapy causes a plateau in the rate of improvement. Otherwise, doctors who do see the light are getting incredible results from this simple tool that simply stimulates the body to heal faster. So next time you’re enjoying the Pink Floyd Laser Light Show on a Friday night, ask yourself if your feel any better when you wake up Saturday morning.

So, does your doctor see the light? I know I do.

For more information, you can visit the following:

USA Laser
Laser World

Jan Tuner, Lars Hode; The Laser Therapy Handbook
William Prentice, Therapeutic Modalities in Sports Medicine, Chapter 10, pp 215-238

Dr. Narson is a 2-term past president of the Florida Chiropractic Association’s Council on Sports Injuries, Physical Fitness & Rehabilitation and was honored as the recipient of the coveted Chiropractic Sports Physician of the Year Award in 1999-2000. He practices in Miami Beach, Florida at the Miami Beach Family & Sports Chiropractic Center; A Facility for Natural Sports Medicine.


Anonymous said...

Pretty cool stuff Doc. So presumably long term effects of the sunlight would have the same effects right? Catch you at the gym! Sam

Anonymous said...

This is really interesting due to the fact that I had reached an injury from sports and the treatment which was used on me was laser and it for a pinched nerve in my lower back so this is intersting thanks alot!