Introduction to Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a non-invasive treatment which exposes the body to low-intensity laser light. This low-intensity light exposure stimulates cells and tissues to quicken the healing process. Low-level laser therapy is also called cold therapy, low power laser therapy (LPLT) or soft laser. LLLT is non-destructive, painless, and works on bio-stimulation, unlike surgical methods.
Throughout the last decade, lasers and light-based systems have been used to treat wide varieties of conditions and health problems, including sports injuries, inflammatory conditions and skin conditions. Researchers are currently studying to further expand the therapeutic uses of LLLT as a treatment option for those with neurodegenerative disorders.
Benefits of Low-Level Laser Therapy
LLLT is used by doctors, dentists, physical therapists, and other medical professionals in a variety of ways.
Clinical experience has shown that low-level laser therapy may be used for a number of conditions and issues and that the benefits include:
- Growth factor response within cells and tissues due to increased ATP and protein synthesis
- Pain relief as a result of increased endorphin and serotonin release
- Increased lymphatic drainage activity and strengthening of immune system response
- Reduction in inflammation by suppressing inflammatory enzymes that create swelling, redness, pain, etc.
- Aids in tissue repair like ligament sprains and strains
- Faster bone repair by stimulating fibroblastic and osteoblastic proliferation
- Precise stimulation of acupuncture points and energy meridians
It can help heal minor injuries and sprains. It is also used to reduce swelling and encourage healing of the joints and soft tissues. It can also be used to heal tissues in the mouth and ulcers, as well as to treat any inflammation.
Orthopedic conditions that benefit from low-level laser therapy include:
- Whiplash injury
- Back pain
- Cervical or lumbar radiculopathy
- Frozen shoulder
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
Low-level laser therapy can be helpful for both acute and chronic pain. It can heal wounds and help rejuvenate skin. LLLT helps in the healing of various skin conditions such as burns, ulcers, edema, and dermatitis.
How Low-Level Laser Therapy Works
Low-level laser therapy works by stimulating cellular growth and rejuvenation to the applied area. Applied by a special laser beam generator, the affected body part is exposed to a low-intensity laser, which produces photon energy. This energy is transformed into biochemical energy and the cumulative effect after subsequent sessions at set intervals restores the normal functioning of the cells.
Once the light energy passes through the layers of skin and reaches the target area, it is absorbed and interacts with the light-sensitive elements in the cell. This process can be compared to photosynthesis in plants – sunlight is absorbed, which is then converted to usable energy so the plant can grow. These benefits that ensue are a result of amplified and synchronized infrared light (laser beam) at a certain wavelength (600-1000nm) that triggers a cellular and biochemical process, including ATP and collagen production and increased blood flow to the affected area.
LLLT works on pain by inducing effects on the peripheral nerve endings of pain receptors, or nociceptors, which are in the epidermis layer of skin. Since these nerve endings are so close to the surface of the skin, they are easily reached and penetrated by laser treatment. These effects are then transferred into deeper tissues and muscles to provide pain relief.
In other words, low-level laser therapy works on two basic principles: it increases cellular regeneration and increases cellular communication. When laser light is absorbed by living cells, it triggers biological reactions that stimulate the production of a variety of chemicals within the body that are then released and carried by the blood and lymphatic flow to other parts of the system. It is important to note that the lasers do not actually induce any temperature change in the body’s tissues.
There are four distinct effects associated with low-level laser therapy:
- Growth factor response within cells and tissue as a result of increased ATP and protein synthesis
- Improved cell proliferation; change in cell membrane permeability to calcium uptake
- Pain relief as a result of increased endorphin and serotonin release + suppression of nociceptive action
- Strengthening of immune system response via increasing levels of lymphocyte activity and through a newly researched mechanism termed
- Stimulation of acupuncture points
Treatments can last as little as 5 minutes, or as long as 20 minutes and most people feel nothing at all during, although some feel a slight tingling sensation due to the increased blood flow to the area being treated. The actual effect of laser therapy begins at the time of treatment, but generally only becomes noticeable several hours or even days after. Patients often have to return to the doctor for treatment numerous times to achieve long-term success depending on the severity and duration of the condition.
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Behind the Science
Science & Safety
The Use of Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) For Musculoskeletal Pain MOJ Orthop Rheumatol. 2015
A 2015 review of PubMed exploring over 4000 studies on LLLT and pain found low-level laser therapy to have a “positive effect on acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain”. The review notes evaluating pain and comparing pain relief methods is often difficult, but LLLT appears to be safe and provide benefit for pain relief, regardless of the cause of pain.
Review of Literature on Low-level Laser Therapy Benefits for Nonpharmacological Pain Control in Chronic Pain and Osteoarthritis Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 2018 Sep
A 2018 literature review found LLLT to be useful as a complementary therapy for pain management and osteoarthritic conditions.
Clinical experience with light-emitting diode (LED) photomodulation Dermatologic Surgery, 2005 Sep
In addition to pain relief, LLLT has shown dermatological benefits. A study of 900 patients over a two year period found LED photomodulation to reverse signs of aging caused by sun damage.
A prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, and split-face clinical study on LED phototherapy for skin rejuvenation: clinical, profilometric, histologic, ultrastructural, and biochemical evaluations and comparison of three different treatment settings Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B, Biology, 2007 Jul
A study with human subjects found the use of LED phototherapy to significantly reduce wrinkles and increase the elasticity of skin when compared to baseline values. There were no side effects noted and the treatment was well-tolerated by participants.
Regulation of skin collagen metabolism in vitro using a pulsed 660 nm LED light source: clinical correlation with a single-blinded study The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2009 Dec
Another study evaluating the anti-aging benefits on skin using low laser light therapy with LED treatments found patients had a reduction in wrinkling severity without any downtime. Therapy was administered using a split-face single-blinded approach. Surface roughness was reduced and collagen levels were improved. There were no adverse events reported.
Where does Low-Level Laser Therapy fall on the medical spectrum?
LLLT falls under ‘Energy Medicine’ section of the medical spectrum.
Also known as holistic medicine, it is the study and application of nature, botany, energy, and technology to bring the body back to balance and address the root causes of disease without detrimental side effects, toxins and chemicals, or a lifetime of intervention.
Top Alternative Medicine Therapies
Also known as European Biological Medicine, this modality, popular in Germany and Switzerland, applies numerous therapies that aim to restore the body’s regulatory and self-healing capacity by promoting proper regeneration on a cellular and organ level.
Top Biological Therapies
Conventional medicine is the most recognized and practiced section of the medical spectrum that includes pharmacological drugs, surgical procedures, lab testing, and more in an attempt to reduce symptoms and manage disease.
The Innovative Medicine approach considers all conventional options and appropriately prescribes or refers patients to specialists in which this approach would be most suited.
Mental health and the study of mind-body medicine is an integral part of the medical spectrum that can often go overlooked and unaddressed.
The study of psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI) has shown how our thoughts and psychological state impact our biochemistry and can lead to disease. Any comprehensive treatment plan must address psychological stress to be successful.
Top Psychological Therapies
Spiritual Practices & Therapies
We often confuse spiritual practices with religion, but the role of spirituality, consciousness, awareness, purpose, and information on a quantum level is incredibly important in healing.
Top Spiritual Practices & Therapies
Low-Level Laser Therapy Protocol – Receiving Treatments
The New York Center of Innovative Medicine (NYCIM) offers various types of Low-Level Laser Therapy, including specialized anti-aging machines and intravenous laser therapy. However, the use of this or any of our numerous therapeutic options is only performed on patients after an in-depth health evaluation. Our ultimate goal is the complete restoration of health in the most efficient and safe manner, and with so many therapeutic options, it is impossible to know if Low-Level Laser Therapy is right for you without an initial evaluation at our clinic.
Resources & Experts
Frequently Asked Questions
What is low level laser therapy?
Low-level laser therapy uses light therapy to treat pain and inflammation as well as address a number of common diagnoses.
How does low level laser therapy work?
LLLT works by inducing a photochemical reaction (versus thermal) in your cells to promote healing, regeneration, and restored function.
What are the benefits of low-level laser therapy?
Benefits of LLLT include pain relief from common orthopedic concerns and trauma, chronic pain reduction, reduced inflammation, increase collagen production, and reduction in fine lines and wrinkles.
Low-Level Laser Therapy
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