When most people hear about lasers, their minds automatically jump to their favourite Sci-Fi movie. In this instance, however, we are looking at the lasers in the here and now – those that are being used for a multitude of functions in various fields.
Laser has many applications spanning many industries. Some lasers are ablative and are used to cut through solid objects and others are used to focus heat or are very target specific.
Our interest, however, is centred on low level laser therapy (LLLT) or cold laser. In this field, we refer to a selection of devices that are used to rebuild, repair and modulate processes in the tissue. Sounds overly complicated, right? Well, not so much.
Many of you will be familiar with the term photosynthesis. Yes, photosynthesis is that thing that happens with plants. A quick refresher course on the term reveals that when sunlight hits the leaves of the plant, the energy is absorbed by the plant and converts to glucose. This then tumbles down a cascade of reactions resulting in the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
ATP is used by the plant as fuel, just as it is used in our cells as fuel for optimal functioning. LLLT, therefore, borrows the same basic principle as this process, ensuring that the target cells are working optimally.
What does low level laser therapy actually entail?
Lasers of low intensity are focused on the area of interest in a bid to stimulate the biological processes within those cells to move along at a pace that is much more desirable.
Plenty of research has been carried out to find out how this kind of therapy exerts its effects on the desired area. Biology lets us know that the mitochondria in cells produce the much desired ATP which drives cellular function.
LLLT seeks to energise each individual mitochondrion, making it produce more ATP for the cell, resulting in a cascade effect across the cell, tissue and even organ.
Studies by experts in the field have zeroed in on the fact that this photobiostimulation – as this therapy is sometimes known – is optimal at wavelengths between 630nm to 850nm; the red to near infrared region of the spectrum.
Over the years, low level laser has come to the aid of countless people presenting with various conditions. Alongside other conditions, the therapy is applicable for:
- Wound healing
- Soft tissue injuries
- Lymphatic drainage
- Enhancing up post-surgical recovery
- Conditions affecting the extensive integumentary system
- Aid in contraction of slow healing wounds
Depending on the problem that the patient presents with, the cold laser therapy is used in a number of ways to ensure that the most suitable outcome can be achieved.
The skin, which makes up the vast majority of the integumentary system, still manages to respond adequately to red and near infrared wavelengths despite being exposed to light for most of the time.
The mitochondrial chromophores in the skin cells absorb the photons emitted by the low level laser and proceed to trigger off different chemical reactions increasing tissue repair and healing. This means that this therapy is an adequate method of dealing with burns, wrinkles or acne scars.
In the same breath, wound healing is hastened with the use of the cold laser treatment. Studies have shown that the treatment increases the speed of wound contraction and also considerably relieves pain in the affected area.
Postoperative application of LLLT in cosmetic surgery has recorded a decline in lymphatic oedema. The stimulation of the deep tissue with the red and near infrared radiation enables better drainage of the lymphatic channels under the skin.
Can anyone apply for low level laser therapy?
Though low level laser can help a multitude of people afflicted with the above mentioned conditions, there are some factors that present a hurdle to the application of this treatment. Application in the presence of such conditions can further complicate the wellbeing of an individual.
This kind of therapy should not be applied on anyone who has just undergone steroid injections. There should always be a period of 24 hours injection and radiation to avoid further aggravation of symptoms.
The thyroid gland is extremely sensitive to light. It is, therefore, not advisable to target lasers towards the thyroid area.
Before cold laser therapy can be administered, the medical professional should know if the patient has a history of cancer. The laser should not be applied over any area with cancerous lesions. Consent should be obtained from the patient’s doctor in the event of uncertainty. There is still not enough evidence to support the safety of LLLT during cancer.
Patients suffering from epilepsy are sensitive to light. They should, therefore, be handled with caution so that the light from the laser does not trigger any episode.
Though no direct side effect can be attributed to LLLT in pregnant mothers, it is advisable to exercise extra caution when handling them.
What treatment plan should you expect from your medical professional?
Low level laser therapy is non-invasive, alleviating any fear you might have of undergoing treatment. The treatment can be performed prior to surgery to enhance healing or immediately after injury and treated daily or every other day. This all, however depends on the condition being treated and the responsiveness of the individual to said treatment.
If you happen to be afflicted by any condition that is within the purview of cold laser treatment, get in touch with us for a consultation.
Marnina Diprose holds a Bachelor Health Science in Dermal Therapies, a Diploma of Beauty Therapy and a Vocational Certificate of Laser and Light. Marnina has a strong passion in scar revision and holistic approaches to patient care. For media inquiries or if you have an interest in blog contribution please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Avci, P., Gupta, A., Sadasivam, M., Vecchio, D., Pam, Z., Pam, N., & Hamblin, M. R. (2013, March). Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. In Seminars in cutaneous medicine and surgery (Vol. 32, No. 1, pp. 41-52). Frontline Medical Communications.
Hopkins, J. T., McLoda, T. A., Seegmiller, J. G., & David Baxter, G. (2004). Low-Level Laser Therapy Facilitates Superficial Wound Healing in Humans: A Triple-Blind, Sham-Controlled Study. Journal of Athletic Training, 39(3), 223–229.
Jadaud, E., & Bensadoun, R. (2012). Low-level laser therapy: a standard of supportive care for cancer therapy-induced oral mucositis in head and neck cancer patients? Laser Therapy, 21(4), 297–303. http://doi.org/10.5978/islsm.12-RE-01