You wake up with it. You go to sleep with this. Chronic pain, by definition, does not go away. Millions of people live with chronic back or neck pain every day. Chronic pain is technically defined as pain that persists for 12 weeks or even longer, even after the injury has healed. Thankfully, while many individuals with chronic pain might feel hopeless to attain relief, there are a variety of treatments which may help manage the pain, such as laser treatment.
How does laser therapy benefit chronic pain?
The idea that light energy can accelerate recovery in tissues, can reduce inflammation and pain, relax muscles, and stimulate nerve wracking with the use of a lase appears to be farfetched. Science, however, tells us these effects may be true. The inquiry is, to what extent does this work and is this based on power and wavelength?
“Wavelength and power determine the capacity of this laser to penetrate in the body. Once you are in the infrared spectrum and above 800 nanometers in wavelength, laser power penetrates like x-rays, but to attain depth you need significant energy or power,” Dr. Bruce Coren states.
Two Classes of Lasers Used for Chronic Pain
There are two classes of lasers being used as a part of physical therapy for chronic pain management and relief; class 3 and 4. “Class 3 lasers are significantly less than 500 milliwatts (mw) in electricity while class 4 lasers are higher than 500 mw,” Dr. Coren stated. Class 3 lasers are occasionally referred to as cold capsules, as well as the treatment might be known as LLLT for low-level laser treatment. In contrast, class 4 laser therapy is sometimes called HPLT for high-power laser treatment.
“The vast majority of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions respond better to some higher power and a higher dosage, which can be a function of energy output and time,” Dr. Coren commented. “The top results will be obtained using a laser which has 30 watts of electricity or more. A 10-minute treatment using a 30-watt laser can produce 18,000 joules, which gives a significant pain relieving, anti inflammatory and healing impact.”
Patients usually begin to feel better after one or two treatments, even though 5 or more might be needed to solve the issue. “The more persistent and extensive the injury the more treatments are often needed,” he added.
Properties of High-Power Laser Therapy
Dr. Coren spoke about the valuable properties of laser therapy and described their unique benefits and effects:
Pain Relief: “Laser therapy decreases nerve sensitivity by decreasing bradykinin; a pain eliciting compound. It normalizes ion channels, known as the gatekeepers. and releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever, and enkephalins, related to endorphins. It also has a pain-blocking effect on certain nerve fibers.”
Anti-inflammatory/Healing: “Laser therapy increases ATP, which can be stored energy (ATP is the acronym for adenosine triphosphate). The cells also regenerate faster. Laser therapy causes a widening of veins and the arteries around the injury which helps to remove mobile debris and increase oxygen and nutrients. White blood cell action is enhanced which leads to the more rapid repair procedure. Some molecules that increase inflammation have been reduced, and antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase are increased with laser therapy.
Accelerated Tissue Repair and Cellular Growth: “Photons of light from lasers penetrate deeply into tissues and accelerate mobile reproduction and development. As a result of exposure to laser light therapy, the tissues of both ligaments, tendons, nerves and muscles are are repaired faster”, as stated above.
Improved Vascular Activity: “Laser light raises the formation of new cells in damaged tissue, which speeds up the recovery process, and closes wounds quickly.”
Trigger and Acupuncture Points: “Laser is particularly helpful in extinguishing painful trigger points. It’s also an effective way of stimulating acupuncture points without the distress related to needling.”
Reduced Fibrous Tissue Formation: “Laser treatment lowers the formation of scar tissue after tissue damage from repetitive motion injuries, cuts, wounds, scrapes or surgery.”
Faster Wound Healing: “Laser light stimulates the building blocks of collagen, which is important for the wound healing of damaged tissues. Collagen is the essential protein needed to replace tissue or to repair injuries. Consequently, the laser is powerful on open wounds and burns.”
Stem Cell Activation: “Laser therapy raises the amount of stem cells, which enhances healing.”
Where is Laser Therapy Administered?
High-power lasers are typically found in physical therapy clinics and chiropractic offices. Neck, back or joint pain usually responds positively to laser therapy.
“Lasers are also very powerful for inflammatory conditions, including peripheral neuropathy, tendonitis, bursitis, and capsulitis. Strains, sprains, and repetitive movement injuries all have an inflammatory component and can be successfully treated with laser,” he remarked. “There is no particular condition that reacts more quickly to laser. But some patients will react faster than others for exactly the same state as individual healing rates can vary.”
Laser therapy can be utilized as a stand-alone treatment, or with rehabilitative exercise treatment. “Rehabilitative exercises and laser treatment complement each other nicely,” explained Dr. Coren.
Laser Therapy Precautions
There are a few precautions with laser therapy. Eye protection is needed for both the therapist and patient, and laser shouldn’t be performed over malignancies, pacemakers, spinal stimulators or over the midsection of pregnant women.
High-power laser therapy is one of the quickest, most productive modalities therapists now have to deal with inflammation and pain. “Regrettably, laser therapy isn’t covered by insurance, and high-power lasers can be hard to find as they are expensive. Most importantly results are achieved by the amount of energy generated, 18,000-30,000 joules per treatment being the sweet spot,” Dr. Coren concluded.
The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic and spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss options on the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
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