Cold Laser Therapy

What Is Laser Therapy, Does It Actually Work?

I get asked this a lot! There is a TON of misinformation out there, the worst of it coming from uninformed doctors and insurance companies. So first, before I get into how it works, I want to address one of the biggest myths that gets repeated a lot. Aetna will tell you that “there is not enough evidence to support the use of lasers as they are too new.” Many doctors who do not actually read research papers and who have not actually used lasers will ignorantly parrot that statement. Here is the reality:

Light therapy goes back to ancient times, where people even worshipped the sun for its healing powers. The modern science of phototherapy was inaugurat­ed by Danish-Faroese-Icelandic physician, Niels Ryberg Finsen (1860–1904), who received the 1903 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology, for his pioneering work on the therapeutic and physiological effects of light treatment from artificial light sources. Since the 1950s, babies who have neonatal jaundice have been treated with light therapy. There are links to low sunlight exposure and depression, which is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short. The treatment is sun exposure! Sunlight also affects our vitamin D levels, our production of melanin, and melatonin for our sleep-wake cycles.

Research on actual lasers began in the 1960s, and by 1974 the former USSR stated that the volume of research was already so overwhelming that they made it part of their state sponsored medical program, and utilized lasers in fields of medicine as diverse as Orthopedics, Neurology, Oncology, Dermatology, Dentistry, and more.

In the USA, we were behind the times in adopting this amazing technology. I started using it in 2004, and the doctors who trained me had been using them since the 1980s. Currently there are over 8,000 papers on laser photobiomodulation that have been published in peer reviewed medical journals. That is strikingly different from what the insurance company says! (No surprise there…)

So, How Do They Actually Work?

Think about a plant… Let’s go back to basic science in school…

The plants leaves have photoreceptors on them. Like a solar panel, these receptors will capture photons of energy from sunlight, and these photons will be converted into food through photosynthesis.

In our bodies, we have light receptors as well, and we depend on light for our health. People in climates where they get little sunlight in winter even develop psychological disorders such as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) because light is needed for mental function.

When sunlight hits our skin, we can use it to make vitamin D, which helps our bone strength and immune system, melanin, which creates a protective suntan, or even affect our melatonin levels, which affects our sleep and wake cycles.

When a laser is on our bodies, depending on the power, wavelength, frequency, and dosage, you will get a different response than food production or vitamin.

Currently, there are over 8,000 Published Papers on the Benefits of Laser Therapy, and these Benefits Include the Following:

Are there any Side Effects?

That is a great question, and it depends on what kind of laser the doctor is using on you. In my office, we use low powered lasers that are called Class 2 lasers, which have virtually no side effects and are the safest of the therapeutic lasers. These ones do not require the doctor and patient to wear protective eye wear because the blink reflex is considered to be sufficient to protect the eye. However, when we are doing lasers on the head, we do have the patient wear the eyewear. For patients who have an auto immunity or who have had a concussion, we do start with a very low dose of laser, as if too high a power or dosage is used it can flare them up. In general, we don’t use the lasers over a pregnant uterus or an area that has cancer, just as a precaution, even though there are some studies that suggest they could have benefits in these cases.

If you go to a laser with a higher-powered, Class 4 laser, there are more risks of side effects. Burns are the most common with higher-powered devices. They are also contraindicated for use on the brain or thyroid due to the heat that is produced. Also, protective eyewear is a must with those lasers as their power can damage the eye. There have been some recent studies that suggest that the higher-powered lasers can also stimulate cancer cell proliferation. They do have benefit for patients with chronic pain, but because of the side effects and less research supporting them than lower-powered Class 2 and 3 lasers, they are not lasers that I use in my office. As a matter of fact, the lasers that I use are so safe that ones like my Zerona Z6 for non-surgical fat reduction actually has an “over the counter” clearance. This means that it does not require direct doctor supervision.

How Quickly Can I See Results with your Lasers?

We expect results on the FIRST VISIT.

This does not mean 100% resolution, as that is not realistic. Depending on the injury or condition, my goal is to get you to reduce your pain and improve your function by between 15% and 30-40% on that first session.

We then have you go try your activities of daily life or sports and set you up to come back in ASAP to check your progress. Our goal is to get you better as quickly as possible. We also give you a handout on foods to eat and foods to avoid so that you can help assist in your healing as well.

For the Zerona Z6, we have our “One Visit Challenge.” On this one, if you do not lose ¼ during your 40-minute session, then you pay nothing for the visit as we guarantee your satisfaction

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