What is Cold Laser Therapy?

  1. Cold Laser Therapy (aka LLLT): High Level Summary

Cold laser, or Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is one of the lesser known (to horse people) modalities I use, but it is one that I find to be incredibly effective.

Cold Laser or LLLT is also known as photobiomodulation (PBMT), and low-intensity light therapy. The therapy uses the application of light to biologic systems to promote tissue regeneration, reduce inflammation, relieve pain and promote healing (among numerous other applications). The beneficial use of low-level laser has been known for almost forty years (The first actual cold laser therapy device was developed in 1967 in Hungary), and I have added a list of peer reviewed scientific journal articles at the bottom of this summary for your reference.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that cold laser / LLLT has pain-relieving properties and improves cellular function. It can decrease the level of oxidative stress and improve cellular metabolism, thus reducing inflammation. Mitochondria are thought to be the receptor for the initial effects of light, leading to increased cellular activity (eg. ATP production, modulation of reactive oxygen species), effects which in turn lead to increased cell proliferation and hence improved healing. The healing process effect has been demonstrated for a variety of acute and chronic conditions (see citations below).

Different light wavelengths and intensities are used for different applications, targeting different depths of penetration..  A cold laser device creates a single wavelength of light, with no heat or ablative component, therefore it is generally safe for use with some caveats.  There are different wave lengths used by each device, in accordance with the medical issue it addresses. As a general rule, wavelengths that vary between 660 and 905 nm can penetrate the skin and may provide benefits for both soft and hard tissue. The class 3B 660 mW cold laser I use has various settings, with different intensities, and options for continuous or pulsed light

  1. Applications for LLLT / Cold Laser therapy  (The section below modified and excerpted  from: What is Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) and Does It Work? (careclinic.io))

Chronic pain

The low level laser therapy offers pain relief in those who suffer from chronic low back pain and it can stimulate wounds to heal faster. It helps with acute conditions, such as the frozen shoulder and it eliminates the muscle pain associated with intense physical training (exercise-induced muscle fatigue). LLLT is effective for conditions such as plantar fasciitis, providing relief from both pain and inflammation.

A number of orthopedic conditions can be successfully addressed through the use of low level light therapy. Faster healing is guaranteed in case of sprains and strains, as well as pain relief. The therapy can reduce the severity of postoperative pain, it can improve functioning after whiplash injury and it can help with the manifestations of radiculopathy (cervical or lumbar). Other conditions that can be treated with LLLT include chronic regional pain syndrome, tendinitis, post tibial fracture surgery, and epicondylitis.

Conditions associated with neuropathic pain can be treated and improved with the help of this form of therapy. This includes trigeminal neuralgia, postherpetic neuralgia and diabetic neuropathy. Degenerative conditions affecting the central nervous system, injuries involving peripheral nerves and spinal cord injuries can benefit from the use of LLLT as well. (R)

Additional Benefits of Photobiomodulation

LLLT can increase the potential of the mitochondrial membrane, as well as the ATP synthesis (energy production). It contributes to mitochondria health, preventing the effect of reactive oxygen species.

Given the fact that low level laser therapy can support healthy cell growth, circulation wound healing and tissue regeneration, it should come as no surprise that it can be used on medical conditions such as the reflex sympathetic dystrophy, repetitive stress injury, rotator cuff tear, faces syndrome, bulging and herniated discs.

With powerful anti-inflammatory properties, it can work wonders in case of capsulitis, myositis, bursitis and synovitis. In those with scar tissue, the application of this therapy form can reduce the formation of fibrous tissue. It might be applied in case of cuts and scratches, as well as burns and as a post-operative solution. (R)

Those with hematomas and pressure sores can benefit from the application of low level laser therapy. A number of dermatological conditions can be treated with LLLT as well, including dermatitis, shingles, herpes, psoriasis, rosacea, acne vulgaris and eczema. LLLT has a stimulating and healing effect at the same time, restoring the health aspect of the skin. It contributes to increased tissue repair and healing, bringing down any existent inflammation.

LLLT – benefits & potential side-effects

Low-level laser therapy has healing properties, helping tissue regenerate, reducing inflammation and in fighting pain. It can also increase immunity, promoting faster recovery. The treatment can be used for rheumatic and orthopedic conditions, as well as for those who train on a regular basis, those who suffer from skin conditions or suffered a stroke (just to name a few examples).

The therapy can stimulate wounds to heal faster, it helps athletes recover faster from various injuries they sustained and it is a wonderful solution in case of chronic pain. It represents a standard treatment choice when it comes to musculoskeletal pain, reducing the risk of disability caused by chronic pain. In case of injuries, it can relieve pain and accelerate recovery at the same time.

Perhaps the biggest advantage is that allows the body to heal without medication. So, if you are allergic or sensitive to various medication, you can resort to LLLT as a safe, natural and effective alternative (stimulate the healing process). Pain medication, on the other hand, has negative effects, often leading to addiction.

Studies have confirmed that LLLT can reduce the level of pro-inflammatory enzymes, thus helping with both inflammation and pain. Dentists, for instance, rely on the cold laser to treat inflamed oral tissue and heal ulcerations. The cold laser is beneficial for skin rejuvenation and dermatological conditions, such as acne, psoriasis and burns. It might also be used to treat wounds that heal with difficulty, as it happens in case of diabetes. (R)

When used properly, LLLT does not lead to side effects. It can happen that a mild discomfort appears after the laser treatment, but this is only determined by a re-stimulation of the inflammation phase. It should disappear within 24-48 hours.

  1. Cold Laser peer reviewed references