Cold Laser Therapy
Cold laser therapy, aka low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a type of laser therapy that patients often find helpful for pain reduction. While the biological effects of LLLT are still being explored, current evidence shows that it improves the ability of mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses, to produce ATP, the energy form used by cells.
LLLT uses “low-level lasers,” or low-power lasers” as opposed to high-power lasers. Cold lasers do not actually feel cold; rather, the term “cold” is used to distinguish low-power lasers from high-power or “hot lasers,” which are used in laser surgery to cut tissue.
Cold laser therapy is most often used for musculoskeletal pain relief, to accelerate the repair of injured tissue, and to decrease inflammation.
It is commonly offered by chiropractors, physical therapists, and other medical professionals to help with a wide range of conditions, from arthritis to difficult-to-heal wounds.
How Cold Laser Therapy Works
While the ways that cold laser therapy works are still being researched, it is currently understood to increase the ability of your cells to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), or usable energy. Laser light energy in the form of photons stimulates photochemical effects in the electron transport chain (ETC) of mitochondria, causing them to produce more energy in the form of ATP. Downstream effects continue to be studied.
Among other benefits, research shows that cold laser therapy can enhance neuroprotection after brain injury; improve the organization of collagen during the wound healing process, resulting in greater tensile strength of the tissue; accelerate recovery time; and relieve chronic pain.
Specific wavelengths used in cold laser therapy have unique effects. The cold laser therapy wavelengths or colors that are used include:
- Red laser therapy (Usually around 635 nm)- helps tissue repair, has bodywide effects; red laser stimulates complex IV of the electron transport chain (ETC).
- Violet laser therapy (405 nm) – antimicrobial effects, prevents cell death; violet laser stimulates complex I and complex II of the ETC.
- Green laser therapy (520 nm) – especially helps with chronic musculoskeletal conditions and encourages stem cell differentiation; green laser stimulates complex III of the ETC.
- Infrared laser therapy (Invisible near-infrared light that is usually 800 nm or higher)- thermal; infrared laser stimulates complex IV of the ETC.
Low level laser therapy (LLLT) can be used as a first-line approach for pain relief, because it is a safe and effective approach to reduce pain, with no known side effects.
It can also be used to:
- optimize recovery– helps recover faster and better
- decrease inflammation– using LLLT over inflamed tissue can help decrease pain, swelling, and inflammation. This is especially significant because inflammation drives degeneration—whether the involved tissue is a joint, the gut, or the brain! The sooner inflammation is quelled, the better the outcome.
- precondition– healthy tissue recovers better than unhealthy tissue. Laser preconditioning can be helpful before surgeries and sports.
Examples of uses:
- to relieve neck and shoulder pain
- for vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)
- to support brain health, especially after concussion
- to shorten recovery time from injury or surgery
- to precondition before events such as surgery or sports. Energizing mitochondria with laser therapy before a challenge—which will require cellular energy—is like filling your gas tank up before a long drive.
Pros and Cons of Cold Laser Therapy
• Non-invasive procedure
• nonpharmacological pain control
• Fast pain relief
• No recovery time is needed
• Improved joint range-of-motion
• Improved blood flow to the targeted area
• Usually not covered by insurance
• Not suitable for every condition
• Results vary
Your Cold Laser Therapy Session
Ideally, the laser light beam is pointed directly on the skin on the targeted area, such as the neck, back, or knee. We can either laser through clothing, or you can change into a patient gown for your session.
Depending on which laser device we use, you may be asked to wear special goggles during your session.
Laser sessions last 5 minutes per body area, and you can do up to 20 minutes of laser at a time.
Frequently asked questions
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