Plants use photons from solar light to energize their cells and grow. Could it be possible for the human cells to do the same if enough photons could be delivered deep into the tissue? Surprisingly, the answer is yes!
History Laser Therapy
LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Laser was first theorized by Albert Einstein, who called it Stimulated Emission.
First laser surgery was performed in 1987 by New York ophthalmologist, Dr. Steven Trokel. Today, Lasers are used in many types of surgeries and dentistry and are well known for precision of cut, good hemostasis (not much bleeding) and quick healing.
Quick healing less pain and better cosmetic appearance after laser surgery were unexpected observations.
The mechanism of action of surgical lasers is quite simple and obvious - the laser gives off its energy and causes tissue evaporation.
After the initial fascination with surgical lasers by medical community the enthusiasm somewhat faded but lasers established permanent presence in some specialities - such as ophthalmology and dermatology. Meanwhile, completely under the radar, a different types of lasers were being developed. They were therapeutic lasers which produced no thermal effect and caused no tissue damage, instead they caused healing and tissue regeneration.
Therapeutic lasers are also called cold lasers, or low level lasers or LLLT which stands for Low Level Laser Therapy. Personally I like the term therapeutic lasers because it reflects the clinical effect. Besides, they require higher level of technological sophistication than surgical lasers making the use of the term low level laser somewhat inadequate.
The history of therapeutic lasers starts in Budapest in 1967 when Dr. Mester tried to find out if laser radiation can cause cancer. To do so, he shaved backs of mice, divided them in two groups and one group treated with the laser. There was no cancer as a result of the treatment. To his surprise, however, he noticed that the irradiated mice grew hair faster than the control group. He called the effect “bio-stimulation” which was eventually renamed to “bio-modulation”.
More laboratory research on laser therapy on cell cultures was very encouraging. Nevertheless, the clinical results were poor with few exceptions. The reason for this schism was the fact, that in the real life laser radiation could not penetrate the tissue well enough to deliver adequate dose of laser radiation, while in laboratory settings, thin layers of cells were easy to irradiate.
Still many small companies emerged trying to capitalize on the newly created market selling poor quality lasers at high price to unsuspecting health care professionals. This caused inadequate clinical outcomes, damage to the reputation of just emerging laser industry and rejection by the medical establishment.
Fortunately, the research on laser therapy continued and brought new generation of therapeutic lasers with so called super pulse technology. The result was a dramatic increase in tissue penetration without harmful thermal effect. The true laser therapy was born.
Until now, the laser therapy has just made few baby steps into the medical establishment and few doctors are familiar with the technology. This status may continue for few more years if we take in the account that it takes 10 to 15 years for a new medical technology or science to be accepted by the medical establishment. The matter is made worse by the fact that there are plenty of unanswered questions regarding the effect of laser therapy and in some cases there is no science available to explain it. Many doctors not being able to understand the technology, come with the argument that laser therapy is unscientific.
Additional obstacle for laser therapy in USA is lack of financial support by medical insurance companies.
Biologic Effects of Laser Irradiation
For the Laser Therapy to be successful, the laser must be able to deliver photons to the target tissue in a sufficient dose. This requires that laser have adequate power and at the same time cause no thermal effect.
Lasers emit photons (light particles), that enter cells of a living organism and, they trigger multitude of bio-chemical reactions which result in increase level of ATP (Adenosino-Tri-Phospate - the energy compound) in Mitochondria. Mitochondria are tiny intracellular powerhouses that produce ATP keeping the cells alive and functioning normally.
Decrease in ATP level in Mitochondria is associated with aging, degenerative processes, decline on cellular function, chronic and some acute diseases. Mitochondrial disfunction is term describing chronic depletion of ATP levels and is used more and more commonly by doctors who realize that often they deal with low level of cellular energy treating chronic conditions.
When some one has a heart attack because of lack of oxygen in the heart muscle, the heart attack was actually caused by very low level of ATP and the oxygen is only necessary to keep normal level of ATP.
Laser therapy induced increase of ATP restores function of cells, so healing and tissue regeneration may take place. Please notice that restoration of ATP level, reverses mitochondrial disfunction associated with aging, and degenerative diseases. Laser therapy also stimulates stems cells thus further enhancing repair and healing, has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect (control pain).
Indication for laser therapy
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