Not all Lasers are Created Equal
Class IV Laser Therapy is a fast growing field of medicine recognized by every major industrialized nation in the world, offering painless, non-invasive and highly effective drug-free solutions. There are many different kinds of therapeutic lasers on the market. Some are used for wound healing, others are used for varicose vein reduction, and still others for deep seated pain. In fact, there are different classes of lasers that are utilized for numerous different health conditions. The problem is that some practitioners use the inappropriate laser for the particular job at hand. Some lasers are inexpensive and not produced with quality in mind. All types of medical lasers however, are useful within their own limitations.
The most popular therapeutic healing lasers used in clinics today are the class III and class IV lasers. Differences Include:
• Cold laser units (Class III) have less power and penetrate more superficially. This makes them ideal for more superficial ailments. (cold sores, bruises, superficial sprains/strains, acupuncture point stimulation and wound healing)
• Hot laser units (class IV) units are much more expensive and will penetrate and treat deeper conditions. (Ligaments, muscles, deep inflammatory processes, discs, joint cartilage and capsules, trigger points). These units take much less time to treat.
65% of all laser energy is absorbed by the skin and subcutaneous tissue. That’s right…. 65%. That is why low powered, Class III lasers, do not have the therapeutic energy necessary to stimulate favorable deep changes.
You can’t treat a target that you can’t reach. Plus, once you reach your target, you have to have sufficient energy to stimulate a positive healing change within a reasonable amount of time. It doesn’t matter how much energy eventually enters the body if it takes 6 hours to do it.
Initially, when light energy hits the surface of the skin, some of the laser energy is scattered while some is reflected. Of course, there is also a fair amount absorbed. The more time that goes by, the more light energy passes through to the deeper layers of tissue. Less energy is available to go further through to the next layer due to the effects of absorption, and scatter. As is seen when x-raying someone who is larger or more dense than the average person, more energy, which allows for deeper penetration, is required in order to reach the deeper tissues.
If you pour tiny amounts of water onto several stacked thick dry sponges it will take a little time before there is seepage into the lower sponges. You must first saturate these upper layers before you will see the water penetrate or leak through. This is also seen with laser therapy. In regards to stimulating deeper tissues in the body, laser light needs to have the correct dosage and power. Since approximately 65% of the energy is lost in the upper layers of the skin, if you don’t start with enough energy on the skin, there will not be enough energy to stimulate cell healing in deeper tissues.
With low powered lasers it’s like having tiny droplets of water fall onto several thick dry sponges and expecting the water to trickle through. It’s just not going to happen. This is why low powered lasers work so well on superficial ailments and has a harder time on deeper issues. For superficial wounds and injuries these low powered lasers (class III) are the way to go for sure.
For deeper, more stubborn bodily injuries and pathologies, class IV healing lasers can easily penetrate deeper tissues and joints. With laser therapy, there are no shortcuts to treating deep seated injuries; the correct dosage must be delivered in order to receive the best outcomes.
The Higher the Power output of laser energy = The Greater Penetration = Faster Therapeutic Outcome
Class IV Healing Lasers
• Pain relief typically happens immediately
• Non-invasive with no side effects
• Profound tissue regeneration of all tissue types
• Overall contraindications minimal
GENERAL EFFECTS OF CLASS IV LASER
INCREASES CIRCULATION. Increasing circulation to damaged tissue speeds up the healing process. Laser light helps form new blood vessels – replacing damaged ones. Applying laser light to damaged tissue significantly speeds up the healing process, closes wounds quickly and reduces scar tissue due to the increased formation of new capillaries. Newly formed capillaries are able to bring more oxygen and nutrients to the damaged regions as well as being able to take away more waste products to expediate the healing process even further. It’s simple – more blood flow equals faster healing and reduced pain.
IMPROVES NERVE FUNCTION. Trauma to peripheral nerves are extremely common. Nerves can be damaged by pressure, over-stretching, or cutting. These injuries can prevent muscles from working and result in loss of feeling at the area of the body served by that nerve, often for years thereafter. When these damaged nerves are slow to recover they start to tingle and become numb; eventually without treatment, they will wither away and die. Nerves were never thought to be able to regenerate because it happens so slowly. Fortunately, laser light can speed up the process of nerve cell regeneration and help bring numb or dysfunctional areas (neuropathy) back to life, reduce tingling, and help alleviate nerve pain.
INCREASES LYMPHATIC SYSTEM ACTIVITY. A body part may swell in response to injury, infection, or disease. Generalized swelling, or massive edema is a common sign in severely ill people. Edema has two basic components: a liquid part which can be removed by the blood system and a protein part that must be removed by the lymphatic system. Scientific studies have shown that laser therapy can double the diameter of lymph vessels and the flow of the lymph system. Laser can also increase the diameter of veins and arteries. This means that both parts of edema (liquid and protein) are able to be removed at a much faster clip with laser therapy to reduce swelling. Clear out the cellular toxicity and the body heals so much easier.
ANTI-PAIN. Any time you have pain, there is a nerve that’s involved. It’s either being pinched, choked, or compromised somewhere in your body. We’ve already mentioned how laser therapy is highly beneficial on regenerating these damaged nerve cells, but laser can also block pain transmitted by these cells to the brain. Another pain blocking mechanism involves reducing inflammation, and since laser can reduce inflammation quickly there is less pain and edema. Also, laser has the ability to stimulate the production of high levels of pain killing chemicals such as endorphins and enkephalins from the brain and adrenal gland.
ANTI-INFLAMMATION. The classical signs of acute inflammation are: pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function. Inflammation is not synonymous with swelling – it’s much more serious than that. Inflammation is mainly a “systemic” chemical issue that is the source of a variety of problems (swelling is one of many). Laser light allows the veins in the body to dilate and activates the lymphatic drainage system to help drain swollen areas. As a result, there is a decrease in swelling caused by bruising or inflammation.
FASTER WOUND HEALING. When you are injured, collagen is the essential protein required to repair injured tissue. It is essentially the building block for all muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, bones, and other connective tissues. So when it comes to healing wounds, Collagen is a pretty big deal. Laser light stimulates fibroblast development, (fibroblasts are the building blocks of collagen) which aids in repairing damaged tissue. Because of this, laser therapy is simply astonishing at intensifying the healing properties on open wounds, scars, and burns.
ACCELERATED TISSUE REPAIR AND CELL GROWTH. There are many reasons why a wound or injury is slow to heal. Most injuries recover within six weeks, however, some soft tissue injuries do not recover as expected. When an injury has not healed within the expected recovery time frame, a new management treatment system needs to be looked into. Healing is a complex process influenced by stress, sleep, nutrition, age, smoking, infections, and various disease processes like diabetes and thyroid disorders. Fortunately, Laser light penetrates deeply into tissue and accelerates cellular reproduction and growth. It does this by increasing the energy available to the cells, so they are able to take in nutrients quicker and by eliminating waste products. As a result – the skin cells, muscles, tendons and ligaments repair at a much faster clip.
REDUCED SCAR TISSUE FORMATION. When injury occurs like a muscle tear, scar tissue is formed to replace the damaged tissue. This scar tissue contracts and forms a knot in the muscle. Pain often occurs when this knot compresses nerves and the blood supply around it. Waste products cannot leave the muscle cells and nutrients and vitamins aren’t able to repair the damage because of the decreased blood flow. Muscles slowly waste away at this point, eventually to the point where nothing is left but fat and scar tissue. This is hazardous. If you think that scar tissue is no big deal, think again. Scar tissue is a major source of chronic pain. Laser therapy have been shown to severely and quickly reduce the formation of scar tissue following tissue damage from: cuts, scratches, injuries, burns or surgery.
SPECIFIC CONDITIONS THAT MAY BE HELPED BY LASER THERAPY
Please note that no medical treatment works all the time, and Laser Therapy is no exception to this rule. Below are however, just a few of the numerous health-related problems that have been thoroughly researched to validate the use of Laser Therapy as a viable part of a treatment plan.
• KNEE PROBLEMS: Knee pain is a common complaint for many people. There are numerous causes of knee pain. This pain can either be referred pain or related to the actual knee joint itself. Laser therapy has been shown to help manage pain, reduce inflammation and speed tissue regeneration to knee disorders tremendously.
• PLANTAR FASCIITIS: If you have pain under your foot when climbing stairs, after intense activity or when you take your first steps in the morning, you most likely have Plantar Fasciitis. This ailment can be incapacitating! Laser therapy often helps reduce inflammation and pain extremely fast in plantar fasciitis cases.
• TENDONITIS: Tendonitis is a condition that causes pain, swelling and weakness of a tendon. It can be caused by severe injuries, but most commonly it is caused by repeated tiny injuries to the tendon over time. After each injury, the tendon does not heal completely, as should normally happen. When the tendonitis becomes chronic it is extremely hard to treat. Laser therapy however, is enormously effective in treating tendon problems.
• CHRONIC NECK PAIN: Neck pain is the number three cause of chronic pain in the body. It is believed that more than a quarter of all Americans report being affected from pain in this area of the body. Laser Therapy is an excellent adjunct for the extremely stubborn cases of neck pain.
• SHOULDER PROBLEMS: The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. However, it is an unstable joint that’s easily injured, because it’s so flexible and has a vast range of motion. Laser therapy can penetrate deep into the shoulder joint and work on the surrounding musculature for deeper healing and muscular pain relief.
• HIP PROBLEMS: High powered therapeutic laser, delivering up to 30 watts of power, has the ability to bio stimulate healing 4-6 inches deep. With this in mind, you can see why high powered class IV lasers are the first choice for reaching conditions as deep as hip bursa pain and disc herniations.
• DEGENERATIVE ARTHRITIS / OSTEOARTHRITIS: Degenerative Arthritis is not hereditary! It is caused by a breakdown in the cartilage that covers the joints. This protective tissue is damaged by age and repeated motion. When the bones of the joint rub against each other, the increased friction can damage the bone. Although there is no “cure” for Degenerative Arthritis, there is a boatload of Scientific Research showing the effectiveness of Laser Therapy for Degenerative Joints. The plain truth is that Laser helps speed up the Regeneration Process of Collagen — the building block for all connective tissues, including bone and cartilage.
• BUTT PAIN / SCIATICA / PIRIFORMIS SYNDROME: This syndrome is a condition in which the piriformis muscle aggravates the sciatic nerve, causing pain in the buttocks and referring pain down the path of the sciatic nerve. This referred pain, called “sciatica”, often goes downward into the back of the leg and can go into the lower back as well. The pain runs deep into the buttocks and is made worse by sitting, climbing stairs and while performing squats. This syndrome accounts for up to 40% of all sciatica pains. It is epidemic and a condition that is suffered by millions. But it is also almost universally ignored and misunderstood by the medical majority. Fortunately, laser therapy when directed appropriately is fantastic for delivering fast pain relief.
• CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME: General Motors conducted a 36 week study of 166 workers with carpal tunnel. Those treated with laser therapy had much improved grip strength over the workers treated with the placebo lasers. During the same time period, a 70% improvement was achieved with carpal tunnel syndrome patients when laser therapy was utilized. Thus a medical trend emerged.
• POST SURGICAL PAIN & REHAB: Wow! This topic covers a lot of ground. Knowing how Laser Therapy works will totally make you understand why it is imperative to utilize it for every post-surgical rehab program. Period! I am not the only one saying this, as there is a wealth of research on the subject. The medical research on this matter is astonishing.
• FACE PAIN & TMJ (JAW PAIN): Often tricky to treat, jaw pain, as severe as it can be, is 90% of the time muscular in nature. A misaligned jaw joint can be adjusted and placed back in place by adjusting the jaw, if that is the problem. If the pain is muscular in nature, laser therapy can help tremendously.
• ILLIOTIBIAL BAND SYNDROME: This syndrome can cause pain on the outside leg, hip region, or the outer knee. Laser therapy relaxes this tight band of tissue often immediately.
• FIBROMYALGIA & CHRONIC NON-SPECIFIC PAIN: Fibromyalgia is a complex syndrome of muscular pain, stomach soreness, headaches, stiffness, and many other symptoms. Patients often find laser therapy as an effective treatment for many of their symptoms.
• CHRONIC TRIGGER POINTS: A trigger point is a lump or nodule found in hypersensitive muscles. They are marble-sized, bundles of knotted muscle tissue. At best the pain can be terribly annoying. At their worst, the pain can be nearly debilitating. Laser therapy is excellent at resolving myofascial trigger points.
• SPORTS INJURIES: College and professional sports are huge money making industries. They need their top athletes to be as free from injury as possible. They also need to be at the top of the game. Getting back on the field quicker and staying healthier is what sports injury rehabilitation is all about. Laser therapy has been adopted as an essential pain management and rehabilitation tool by athletic trainers in the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, College and Olympic teams
• BRAIN-BASED THERAPY / NEUROLOGICAL INJURY or DISEASE: It is well known that laser therapy is helpful for all types of pain and soft tissue injuries. However, one of the most exciting trends in laser therapy is the use of lasers to heal brain and nervous system disorders.
• WHIPLASH: Whiplash is commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents. More often than not, it happens when the vehicle has been hit in the rear, but it can also happen in many other ways. Slip and falls, head banging, and bungee jumping can also cause Whiplash disorders. Chronic headaches and neck pain often occur following a whiplash, but when left untreated or partially treated it can lead to adhesions and degenerative arthritis. More serious cases include pain in the jaw, shoulder, arm, and hand, numbness, tingling, and signs of brain injury including memory loss, irritability, insomnia, depression and difficulty concentrating. Laser therapy really helps aid in the recovery of whiplash type disorders. It accelerates healing, especially when coupled with chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, myofascial muscular work, and brain based treatment exercises.
It’s quite amusing when a patient pleads with a friend to have them come in for treatment to no avail. After all, they had such great results that they want their friend to have the same results. They know all too well that their friend has been suffering for 20 years with little help. After months of prodding, they decide to come into the office as well.
We treat them and give them relief from their horrific neck, shoulder and arm pain as well as help decrease the numbness in their fingers. This relief of pain, however is only temporary and lasts for 2 days. They give up on treatment because one treatment did not totally cure them. If their expectations of this laser treatment was that it cured all ailments and pain in one treatment, then why did it take them so long to come in for treatment? Why did they stick with the same treatment that hasn’t been working for 20 years?
You need to give laser a fair amount of time to work. Just because 1 laser treatment gives you total pain relief, even if for only a brief moment, and it comes back doesn’t mean that it was a failure. One laser treatment builds upon the other. New cell growth occurs with laser, but not all at once, not in one fell swoop, not in one day.
If you are a construction worker you know that it is just as important to remove debris and old rotted material from the job site as it is to bring in new material for the project. Plus you aren’t falling all over yourself. If you are working on a roof for instance, and you have 4 layers of shingles on your roof from past repairs, you need to pull off all layers and roofing paper before you start re-roofing. You might even have to repair some ply boards underneath that are damaged from the elements over the years. Seals might have worn out around the windows, chimneys, and walls. Once you have all the debris removed you can see the extent of the damage. The same is true in your body when you have injuries. You need to have debris removed from the area – excess dried blood, scar tissue, infection, etc. – in order to start repairing the injured region. Your body can assess damaged areas in your body without the chaos of damaged tissue, scar tissue, old stagnant blood and infection. Repair to the region can be done in a much more organized and orderly fashion. High powered class IV laser is excellent at removing this debris quickly and efficiently.
Doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.
How many years needs to go by before you notice positive changes from your current treatment plan? Maybe after 10 years it’ll magically take a turn for the better. Just out of the blue – Bammm – you will be better. Of course, it’s always nice to have faith, but come on, I think you’ve given it a fair chance.
LeBron James doesn’t stop practicing after he becomes the best basketball player in the world does he? Of course not! Health is not something that you arrive at and stop. It is not a destination, but rather a journey. There are things you must do on a regular basis – just because. You must eat well. This means a diet that is unadulterated – not full of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, bovine growth hormones, or estrogens. Let’s put it this way – if they use estrogens to butterball a turkey and you eat that turkey, don’t you think that this will butterball us as well? Exercising on a regular basis is also a necessity. You know what they say — a body in motion stays in motion….. When wanting to do more – we have to push ourselves to do more. In other words, the more you want to do – the more you got to do. You don’t train to run a marathon by doing less. It seems as though this is what happens though following an injury. We are told to baby our self and take it easy. Don’t overdo it now!!!! That never gets us to the place we eventually want to be. Laser is another great potent tool to help your body regenerate and become more efficient.
Why won’t one treatment cure me of all my problems?
Every day I am constantly flabbergasted at how amazing high powered class IV laser therapy can be. I feel like I am a proud parent wanting to shout from the rooftops how many incredible things these lasers can do. But, as marvelous as they can be, it may still take a number of treatments to heal traumas that are either extensive, chronic or both. Rome wasn’t built in a day and injuries that have taken place years ago aren’t healed over night. Especially when these injuries are continuously being taxed and overworked. Microtraumas frequently happen at the injury sites from daily overuse, making the problem worse. Regions in the body that have been injured can also be re-injured from overstraining and overdoing it, not to mention that underuse of the affected injured areas can make healing seem daunting and impossible at times as well.
I remember when I had to remove fence posts from my yard after a wind storm caused havoc in my neighborhood. A couple of friends and I made a fair go at removing these posts. We dug around the posts and into the ground around the cement. The problem was – the posts were cut off at the base of the ground where the concrete was. It was taking way too much man power and time to remove these posts, so I made the executive decision to rent a Jackhammer. It was a manly tool, a powerful tool, a tool that would save some time for sure. But even with this powerful tool, it still took a bit of time. It chopped up concrete really well, but it was tough the deeper we got with it. We had to go into the ground four feet to remove all the old concrete and posts. After these posts and concrete were removed, the job went very smoothly.
Now imagine this same project of removing these posts, but instead of using a Jackhammer, using a spoon. How long would this take? It’s very similar when someone gets injured and they try and work their way back to health. What tools are they using to get them well? Are they using spoons or Jackhammers?
There are super potent treatments. Acupuncture, ultrasound, dry needling, electric stim, chiropractic adjustments, strong antibiotics, physical therapy, and lasers to name a few. Not all laser units are alike, however. The laser units we use in this clinic are so powerful that they are also used in the veterinary field as well as in dentistry. They are so powerful that they can penetrate a horse or a cow. What you can achieve with these new high powered lasers in 5-10 minutes would take 5-7 hours with previous lower powered lasers.
Before any new cell growth is made, you first need ATP. ATP is needed to nourish tissue. It’s needed to digest food. It’s needed to create any muscle movement. It is needed to perform any process in the body. ATP is instant energy for the body. Nothing can be accomplished without ATP. As children, we have an abundance of ATP, and have the ability to pump out more ATP at a higher clip then we do as adults. This is why they stay so active. It’s because of this high availability of ATP that children have, that allows them to quickly heal from injuries. As adults, we don’t often heal as quickly as we did when we were younger. This is because adults don’t produce ATP like they used to as children. Since we need ATP to repair any damaged tissues in our body, having it available much quicker allows us to heal a lot faster. High powered Class IV laser therapy turns the little mini factories within the mitochondria in your cells on, and turbo charges them to make ATP at an incredibly fast rate. It’s almost like turning the hands of time, back to the day where you always healed quickly and efficiently.
It’s almost like the fountain of youth. Laser therapy can allow us to heal quickly like we did when we were children. I hate to point out the obvious but, the deeper and worse the damage, the more laser treatments and longer it takes to heal. Remember this, you can have all the latest and greatest potent tools available, but when the amount of work that needs to be done is enormous, it just takes more time. One treatment however, will build on the next. After multiple treatments, true healing starts to take hold. Laser treatments also continue to work after you finished with your treatment. This is just like when you come into the clinic for treatment and we give your children sugar and run them around the clinic and simply give them back to you. After you leave here, they just keep on going don’t they? After stimulating the mitochondria to make new ATP (instant energy) at an incredibly fast clip via laser therapy, the speedy production continues long after you’re gone. Like your overactive children it’ll take a little time to settle down.