What is Low Level Laser Therapy?
Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is the application of red and near infra-red light over injuries or lesions to improve wound and soft tissue healing, reduce inflammation and give relief for both acute and chronic pain. A laser is a device that emits light. Low Level Laser Therapy or ‘Cold’ laser uses low intensity, coherent light in specific wavelengths to penetrate into tissue without hurting or heating the skin or body tissue.
How Does Low Level Laser Work?
The effects of LLLT are photochemical (like photosynthesis in plants). When the correct intensity and treatment times are used, red and near infrared light reduces oxidative stress and increases ATP production (a molecule important for cell energy). This improves cell metabolism and reduce inflammation. These effects can be enhanced with pulses however when analgesia is required there is a second mechanism which works best when a strong continuous beam is applied.
It also reduces inflammation by increasing production of nitric oxide which increases the blood vessels width and brings oxygen and other molecules/ metabolites to the injured tissue, promoting cell healing and reducing inflammation.
It provides pain relief by stimulating the body’s own production of endogenous opioids, serotonin and other pain reducing molecules. It also has an inhibitory effect on pain receptors. Studies have shown that the pain relieving effects from LLLT two hours post treatment is equal to or better than NSAID’s (anti-inflammatory medication such as Nurofen).
What Type of Conditions Can You Use It On?
- Tendinopathy/ Tendinits (Achilles, Peroneal etc)
- Soft tissue injuries such as ankle sprains, muscle strains and muscle trigger points
- Joint conditions e.g. synovitis
- Arthritis - e.g. osteoarthritic joints
- Post-surgical healing and pain relief
- Wound healing e.g. chronic ulcers
- Neuropathic (nerve) pain - e.g. diabetic neuropathy (diabetic nerve damage)
Is Low Level Laser Therapy Safe?
LLLT has been in use since the 1960’s and there have been over 3000 published trials on its use and effectiveness. To date there is no published evidence to say that LLLT is harmful or that any person has been injured from using or receiving treatment from it. Low Level Laser Therapy is drug free, painless and non-invasive.
Low level laser virtually has no side effects and the only areas the you cannot use it are over the eyes or thyroid gland, over the pregnant uterus or over carcinomas. Caution needs to be exercised over tattoos and hairlines (the tattoo dye and hairlines can absorb more LLLT and the area can become hot).
How Many Treatments Do I Need?
On average most conditions require LLLT at least twice weekly for 6 weeks. Sometimes people require less treatments and some require a few more. You can have LLLT on a daily basis and this is sometimes recommended for very acute conditions.