What is Low Intensity Laser Therapy?
Low Intensity Laser Therapy (also known as Low Level Laser Therapy), is a non-invasive treatment that utilises specific types of red and infrared light to interact with tissue. It is a safe, effective, drug-free option that reduces pain and promotes healing in a variety of conditions, including soft tissue and sports injuries, surgical and other wounds, chronic arthritic conditions and repetitive stress injuries.
We use the Bioflex Therapist Professional System class 3B DUO 240 red and infrared laser for broad application and an infrared probe for deep tissue access. BioFlex Laser (a division of Meditech International Inc) has been developing treatment protocols for various conditions treated for more than 20 years now, and continue to research and refine protocols at the Toronto Meditech Rehabilitation Clinic (where 1200-1500 treatments are administered on a weekly basis). There are now more than 700 clinics using the BioFlex Laser Therapy Systems worldwide.
How does it work?
The primary goal of LILT is to moderate pro-inflammatory cells, stimulate new blood vessel growth to repair tissue, synthesize collagen, prevent tissue death after injury and encourage tissue healing. The exact mechanisms via which LILT can increase healing are still being studied, but the following benefits are known from human and animal studies.
- Reductions in inflammatory cell (neutrophils, macrophages, lymphocytes, and mast cells) infiltration in multiple pathologies.
- The ability of macrophages to act as phagocytes is also enhanced.
- Reduction in several inflammatory cytokines, such as ILs and TNF-α.
- Absorbed in cytochrome c oxidase (unit IV of the mitochondrial respiratory chain), thereby increasing mitochondrial respiration and ATP production, supporting cellular regeneration.
- Initiating signaling pathways mediated by reactive oxygen species, nitric oxide, and cyclic AMP, ultimately leading to activation of several transcription factors.
- Positive changes in cellular redox state. Among them are p53, redox factor-1 dependent activator protein-1 (AP-1) (a heterodimer of c-Fos and c-Jun), nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), activating transcription factor/cAMP-response element–binding protein (ATF/CREB), hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1, and HIF-like factor.
- Increased angiogenesis.
- Enhances the proliferation, maturation, and motility of fibroblasts, and increases the production of basic fibroblast growth factor.
A full copy of relevant references is at the bottom of this webpage.
What conditions can laser therapy be used to treat?
Laser therapy may be effective in the treatment of:
- chronic and degenerative conditons,
- musculoskeletal problems,
- repetitive stress injuries,
- sport's injuries,
- wounds (which involve skin, muscle, bone, ligament or tendons)
Are there side effects?
Hundreds of research studies have shown laser therapy to be safe and effective. Laser Therapy is non-invasive, non-toxic and non-thermal. Unlike other forms of radiation, laser therapy is beneficial rather than harmful to tissue. Multiple studies have revealed the paucity of side effects or adverse events associated with laser therapy however the potential for eye damage has led to the routine use of protective eye-wear during use.
What is the cost and what is the duration and frequency of therapy?
The chronic nature of the condition will determine the quantity and length of treatments. Initially, conditions are generally treated with 8-12 treatments and we often recommend complementing the treatment with manual therapy and an exercise prescription when clinically indicated. This may involve a referral to a physical therapist, and/or interaction with your general practitioner. These 8-12 treatments are usually conducted at a frequency of 3 sessions per week to begin with, and are then spaced out over time as required. Chronic conditions take longer to treat than acute conditions, and all factors such as: number of sessions, frequency, power output and light wavelength, are determined at the initial consultation. This is based on Meditech’s 'set protocols' for each condition. For example, an ankle injury may take 30 minutes (or less) to treat during an individual session, whilst the lumbar spine may take 60 minutes, based on the depth of the target tissue and the size of the area to be irradiated. More information regarding the frequency and number of sessions required, will be provided at the time of your initial assessment, and during your subsequent treatments.
Session prices are based on time and include $45 for < 30 minutes, and $90 for 30-60 minutes. Please note that the initial appointment will take an hour, as it includes an assessment. This price is comparable and often cheaper than many other medical and complimentary treatments, however unlike other therapies; laser therapy has no known reports of side effects.
Should I see my doctor first?
As Matt (your LILT Technician) is not a medical practitioner, it is always advised that patients visit their regular doctor, to ensure the cause of their pain is not a life threatening condition, before making an appointment for Low Intensity Laser Therapy at the Hale Clinic. Laser therapy can be an add on therapy, and is not intended to replace standard medical care or advice. Patients with medical conditions are advised to involve their health practitioners at all times.
What Is The Evidence?
Laser therapy research is growing. There are over 4000 articles published on laser therapy, as well as over 200 double blind studies. Earlier studies did not yield significant results partly because it was not yet known what laser wavelength or power intensity to use, nor the duration or the frequency of treatment. Over time and further clinical studies, the benefits are becoming more apparent. There is now enough evidence to indicate laser therapy can be helpful in a wide range of conditions, and is safe and effective. A brief selection of articles are provided below.
Laser Therapy has been in use for a very long time. Dr N R Finsen (the pioneer of UV therapy) was using red light as a therapy towards the end of the 19th Century to successfully treat smallpox, measles and skin tuberculosis. He received a Nobel prize for his work in 1904. In the 1960s, Endre Mester used LILT to stimulate hair growth and wound healing in rat studies. Today, hundreds of placebo controlled double blind studies have been completed in the field of LILT, with thousands of papers written on the topic. Countless thousands of patients worldwide have been treated with LILT, with the number growing daily.
Overview of LLLT - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3288797/
- Overview - http://www.australiandoctor.com.au/clinical/therapy-update/treating-pain-with-lasers (Doctor access)
- Neuro-rehabilitation - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065857/
- Chronic musculoskeletal pain –
- http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/820491 (requires member access)
- Chronic inflammation (oral mucositis) - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3882349/
- Wounds / Ulcers –