LASER = Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
Lasers that are used in rehabilitation help to modulate cell functions. This is known as photobiomodulation.
How Do Lasers Work?
Laser radiation has a non-thermal interaction at a cellular level. This occurs through a complex scientific process which I will try and explain as simply as possible.
Atoms are made up of protons (positively charged particles), neutrons (neutral particles) and electrons (negatively charged particles). Light emission begins with electron activation in the laser unit. These electrons are excited within an atom, which makes them move to a different energy level. When they fall back to their initial energy level, they release photons – a form of electromagnetic radiation. It is this radiation that causes photobiomodulation.
What Makes Laser Different to Normal Light?
Laser light is collimated, coherent and monochromatic. The monochromatic nature of laser light means that it has electromagnetic particles of only one wavelength, while the fact that laser light is collimated and coherent means that it can be focused on a small area or part of the body.
Laser light penetrates through the skin to act on the tissues beneath. Infrared therapy, such as the solarium, uses diffuse red light which has a thermal effect on tissues.
What Are the Benefits of Laser Therapy?
The following has been shown in various scientific studies.
- Wound healing – laser increases the rate of cell replication without affecting DNA structure. It also enhances lymphatic drainage, improves blood supply, enhances ATP and growth factor production
- Bone and cartilage proliferation – enhanced early bone repair, improved cartilage maintenance
- Inhibition of inflammation
- Improved collagen organization and deposition
- Analgesia – reduced pain at post-operative incisions, reduction in transmission of pain signals, increased endorphins, slowing of nerve conduction
- Increased nerve growth – promotion of nerve recovery, increased rate of growth and sprouting, increased growth factors, increased myelization, reduced degeneration
Which Patients Would Benefit from Laser Therapy?
- Post-operative patients
- Arthritic patients
- Tendon/ligament injuries
- Bone injuries
- Burn wounds/skin injuries
- Neurological patients
- Chronic pain patients
Dangers of Laser Therapy
Laser therapy has remarkably few side effects, if used correctly. If used incorrectly, it can cause surface tissue and/or hair burns or damage eyes (which is why therapists provide goggles to wear). Laser therapy has also been shown to possibly retard wound healing at high doses. During the therapy, the patient feels nothing save from a slight warm sensation on the surface of the skin.
Not All Therapeutic Lasers are Created Equal
There are various lasers available on the market today, and not all of them have been proven as being effective in the literature. Here at Pets in Balance, we use the Globus Physio1000 Laser, which has a shallow-medium penetration depth and a maximum wattage of 1000kW.
As you can see above, therapeutic laser therapy is a wonderful tool for rehabilitation therapists as it allows us to treat all manner of injuries effectively. It forms a fantastic treatment base and can be used in almost every stage of healing. However, it is also a complicated piece of equipment with various settings, and should only be applied by a trained practitioner in a controlled environment.