A woman is receiving a laser therapy treatment in a doctor's office.

Understanding Laser Therapy

I am hearing more about Laser Therapy lately and wondering if it can help me?

This is a commonly asked question we hear in our clinic. Laser therapy has been around for 50 years and is used in a variety of clinical settings from surgery to hair removal to smoking cessation. It has become better researched, refined and effective in recent years.

At Active Back to Health, we use Class 3B or Cold Laser Therapy also referred to as LLLT (Low-Level Laser Therapy). There is normally no heat or discomfort associated with this class of laser. The safety and effectiveness of cold laser therapy lie in its ability to trigger the body to heal itself. Penetrating into targeted tissue, laser light stimulates mitochondria in target cells to jumpstart the healing process and since the laser used operates within the non-thermal range (the “therapeutic window”), there is no risk of tissue damage or other complications. Laser improves tissue repair (skin wounds, muscle, tendon, bone, nerves), reduces inflammation and reduces pain wherever the beam is applied. Usually applied by a doctor, therapist or technician, treatments typically take 1 – 10 minutes and should be applied two or more times a week.

There is a dose response: not enough power density and there is no effect, too much and there can be inhibitory effects which can slow down healing and lose the anti-inflammatory effects.

We have used laser in our office for about 8 years now and have just recently purchased the new Theralase 2000 which has new cell sensing technology to accurately determine the correct dose response. We have been pleasantly impressed and encouraged with the results we are seeing in our office using this new laser. Of particular note is the excellent results we have seen with hip bursitis, which is normally a difficult tissue to reach with laser due to the depth. Also of note are good responses to acute low back and neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain and of course plantar fasciitis.

The key to effective treatment to each of these conditions is to address the underlying mechanical issue causing the problem and then using laser as an adjunct to heal the tissues. Laser therapy by itself is not usually a stand alone therapy but is most effective when used in combination with manual mobilization or adjustment to correct mechanical problems, postural re-education and soft tissue work including Graston to release myofascial restrictions.

Realizing that Laser is an adjunct therapy we have structured our fee schedule to make this therapy both effective and affordable by charging only an additional $20/treatment to add Laser Therapy to other therapies in our clinic such as chiropractic, massage therapy, Graston, and acupuncture.

If you are wondering if Laser Therapy may help you we are offering a complimentary 15-minute consultation with one of our docs to discuss if Laser may benefit you.

There is good research being done on the effectiveness of Laser Therapy.

  • American College of Physicians Guidelines include a “strong recommendation” for Low-Level Laser Therapy as a non-invasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute & Chronic Low Back Pain. (2017)
  • BMJ (British Journal of Medicine) LLLT for chronic non-specific low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials found “moderate quality of evidence” and “clinically important benefits” in the short term. (2016)
  • BMJ sports medicine journal, systematic review of surgical and conservative interventions for frozen shoulder found “strong evidence” for LLLT. (2010)
  • The International Association for the Study of Pain (Global Task force on musculoskeletal pain) found “strong evidence” for Low Level Laser Therapy on myofascial pain syndrome. (2010)
  • The BMJ clinical evidence recommendations for tennis elbow 2011 now include LLLT
  • American Physical Therapy Association guidelines recommend LLLT for Achilles tendonitis. (2010)
  • Lancet systematic review: “LLLT reduces pain immediately after treatment in acute neck pain and up to 22 weeks after completion of treatment in patients with chronic neck pain”. (2009)

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