Cold Laser Therapy
The Erchonia® low-level laser is an FDA approved therapy. The laser is considered a “cold laser” because it does not produce any heat. When applied to the affected area, bundles of coherent light pass through the dermal layers which on a cellular level results in the following:
- Increases local and micro-circulation
- Increases cell regeneration
- Improved tissue oxygenation
- Stimulates the production of ATP, allowing tissue to be more responsive and heal faster
- Quickly decreases pain
- Increases range of motion
- Strengthens muscle weakness
- Decreases inflammation
The laser can be applied with many different frequencies at varying times in different areas to achieve the desired results such as decreasing inflammation, pain control, strengthening weak muscles, healing abrasions and contusions, etc. Research has shown that using LLLT (low-level laser therapy) increases healing time up to 30%.
The following information is from an article “Healed by the Light” by Jeffrey M. Nelson, MD who is a plastic surgeon and has been involved in wound healing for more than 20 years and is currently the Medical Director of the burn and wound center at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson, Arizona.
LLLT (low-level laser therapy) also known as cold laser is not a heat modality. The basic premise is that cold laser stimulates cell activation processes which, in turn, intensify physiologic activity. Healing is essentially a cellular process and light energy initiates a cascade of reactions, from the cell membrane to the cytoplasm, to the nucleus and DNA. This is called cellular amplification; a phenomenon whose demonstration earned the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1994.
There are many biological processes that take place in tissues that have been shown to respond to LLLT in the 630-640 nanometer wavelength range. One of these processes is the enhancement of ATP production in the mitochondria, which provides more energy substrate for cellular healing and tissue recovery post injury. This wavelength has also been shown to decrease inflammation.
An important property of an effective laser is that it be a true laser, which by definition, produces the emission of coherent light, generated at a precise, stable frequency, in a focused direction. Products that use Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are NOT true lasers. They produce non-coherent or random light, generating random frequencies. Coherent light energy is critical when treating the human body.
Another important fact is the optimum power necessary for bio-stimulation. The Arndt-Schulz Law of photo-biological activity, essentially states that “less is more” when it comes to energy for improved cellular physiology. The Erchonia ® LLLT provides the best wavelength (635 nm) for cellular physiology at very low energy (2-5 mill watts) to stimulate cells to function better. If the stimulation is too intense, there may actually be an inhibitory effect, or possibly degeneration or destruction of cells.
The Erchonia® laser’s first FDA approval was obtained for the management of neck and back pain. Clinical studies have shown that patient’s pain, stiffness and sense of tissue tightness greatly decreases after LLLT treatments.
The following information is from Jan turner and Lars Hode, “Laser Therapy Clinical Practice and Scientific Background”, Prima Books, 2002.
Turner states: “The first company to receive a 510(k) from the FDA was Majes-Tes Innovations in the USA and its Erchonia® laser.” Review of the FDA’s website notes that the evidence Erchonia® used to achieve the FDA 510(k) status shows that its laser was 60% greater at improving pain and range of motion as compared to the placebo group. Turner also states: “all laser treatment should be preceded by a system-stimulating irradiation of the vertebrae that innervates the damaged area.” This is consistent with the chiropractic concept of spinal neurology influencing the health and physiology of peripheral tissues. Consequently, the Erchonia ® laser is a 635nm wavelength line-laser (as opposed to dot laser) with duel heads, one for the spine and one for the peripheral tissue.
Lasers increase the mitochondria production of ATP without increasing the production of free radicals. Anything that increases the production of ATP energy will speed healing and improve symptoms.
The term Laser is an acronym for light amplification of stimulated emission of radiation. This beam of light is of the electromagnetic spectrum and travels in only one direction. It is monochromatic, either polarized or non-polarized and coherent, which means it travels together. Its photons, all of the same size, travel equidistant in time and space. At lower powers, the laser can produce light that is non-thermal. Because of its lack of heat production, this form of light will not damage cellular tissues or alter cell function. In fact, it has been shown to stimulate cell function and cell growth activating the body’s natural ability to heal. This effect has been determined most likely to be photochemical as opposed to heat related. Changes in cell membrane permeability, up-regulation and down-regulation of ATP and nitric oxide have also been observed.
The clinical applications of cold laser include soft tissue injuries, chronic pain, wound healing, as well as nerve and other tissue regeneration. Inflammation has also been known to be resolved with cold laser and the immune system has been stimulated.
Cold laser has been shown to reduce the excitability of nerve cells. This effect can be seen with the interruption of the fast pain fibers thereby reducing pain. It has also been shown to speed up the repair process of crush damaged nerves. Improved function has been seen with nerves of the Central Nervous System as well as peripheral nerves after injury.
Clinical studies have been done for cold laser. In cases of chronic tendinopathy, this condition exhibits an eighty seven percent success rate in patients that have had unsuccessful treatment with physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, local injections and/or surgery. The possible explanation for this is that the tendinopathy is an atrophy condition and cell re-growth has been shown to occur with cold laser. Also, the chemical alteration within the soft tissue could also stimulate the growth of new cells. In patients with degenerative arthritis, muscle pain, tendonitis, and tension related myalgia, more than eighty percent of patients have shown a marked decrease in their symptoms after the use of cold laser. Over eighty percent of patients with chronic radiculopathies and ninety percent of those with chronic neuropathy experienced over a fifty percent reduction in their pain level.
Patients with soft tissue pain syndromes demonstrate marked reduction in tissue swelling, bruising and pain. Chronic pain syndromes were slower to respond however, seventy-five percent of these patients treated with cold laser noted significant pain relief. Cold laser has been shown to be effective in the treatment of myofascial and postoperative pain syndromes, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle tears, hematomas, tendonitis, shingles, herpes simplex, scarring, burn and wound healing. In a study, cold laser was ranked number one over interferential therapy, shortwave diathermy, ultrasound, and pulsed electrotherapy for the use in pain relief and wound healing.
Cold laser therapy is a relatively safe form of treatment. Due to the low level, non-thermal nature of this treatment, there is no tissue destruction or other hazards that one would find with the higher powered or the hot lasers.