What is Low Intensity Light Therapy or Laser Therapy?
It is the utilization of light photons applied at specific wavelengths to stimulate a tissue healing effect in the various tissues of the body. The terms “low intensity” and”cold laser” refer to class 3B and 4-type lasers which are non-thermal and do not produce heat vs. “hot lasers” which are surgical instruments. Low Intensity Light Therapy has been proven to be highly effective at healing tissue injuries. We have been achieving great success in healing disc injuries, shingles pain (and restoring bladder and bowel functioning after nerve damage from shingles virus), neuropathies, muscle strains and tears, tendinitis, osteoarthritis, meniscal tears, ligament sprains and more!
How Does LILT Promote Tissue Healing?
Light therapy or Laser therapy works at a cellular level. The photons of light penetrate into the tissues and stimulate a cascade of effects that lead to tissue healing. This includes an increased production of ATP in the mitochondria and increased DNA synthesis both of which lead to increased production of new healthy collagen fibers and proteins. Muscles are formed of protein filaments called actin and myosin. Collagen is the main component of connective tissues (tendons and ligaments) and is also abundant in cartilage, bones and discs. Therefore light therapy helps form new healthy tissue in an injured area. It also stimulates increased white blood cell formation, including a portion of our white blood cells called macrophages. Macrophages are a bit like little “Pac-men” in that their job is to clean up scar tissue and debris. So the light therapy also helps in the reduction of scar tissue in an injured area.
One of the leading researchers of low intensity light therapy is Fred Kahn, MD of Toronto, Canada. Dr. Kahn’s medical training is as a general and vascular surgeon. He studied vascular surgery at Massachusetts General Surgery and at Baylor Hospital in Houston, Texas with one of the finest heart transplant surgeons in the world. He stumbled upon laser therapy in 1986 when he had been convinced by a colleague to try the treatment for his torn rotator cuff. The laser treatments worked and he avoided surgery! He began focusing all of his attention on studying and applying light therapy to his patients in would healing. He obtained remarkable success and eventually had a light therapy system built for his research and use with his patients. This was the Bioflex Low Intensity Light System and is what Dr. Kahn utilizes today at his three clinics across Canada (Meditech International with two locations in Toronto and one in Vancouver). Meditech treats 1,500 patients per week with over an 80% success rate in promoting healing to various conditions such as sprained ligaments, muscle strains, bulging and herniated discs, degenerative joint conditions, wound-healing and brain injury.
This is NOT JUST Cold Laser:
In the hundreds of clinical and control group studies conducted at Meditech, Dr. Kahn has discovered several things about light therapy. First he has learned that for the best tissue healing to occur, three different applications of light are required: red light, infrared light, and infrared cold laser. Red light LED’s are utilized first to prepare the tissues for deeper healing and to help improve circulation. This is followed by an infrared band of LED’s. This light penetrates about 5 centimeters into the body dreading the healing light deeper still. Finally a cold laser probe of concentrated infrared light is utilized. A probe can deliver much more power than LED’s, in a focused beam that goes very deep. Dr. Kahn found via research and clinical use that if only cold laser is applied it is not able to penetrate as deeply into the tissues (to be able to reach disc tissue or cartilage for example). It is much more effective if near red then infrared light are applied first. This is what makes the Bioflex System so unique compared to other laser therapy systems on the market today. Most other units are either cold laser alone, infrared and red light mixed together (without cold laser), or red light and infrared LED’s and cold laser diodes in one head that come on simultaneously rather than in a specific sequence. In addition to this, Dr. Kahn has found that TIME is a very important parameter for light to be able to heal tissues. Treatments with the Bioflex take 30 minutes to over an hour depending on what area of the body is being treated. Therefore if only a cold laser is applied to an arthritic knee joint or a herniated disc in the lumbar spine for just 5-10 minutes (which is the common application used in many clinics), it is highly unlikely that very much tissue healing will occur.
How long does a treatment take?
Treatments are typically thirty minutes to an hour and 15 minutes in duration depending on the condition being treated.
How many treatments are required?
The number of treatments will depend on the chronicity and the extent of the pathology involved. Based on the genetic makeup of the cells, an individual’s response to LILT will vary to some degree. A recent clinical review, including 1,000 consecutively treated patients, reveals the average number of treatments to be 9.4. Acute injuries heal much faster and often achieving great results in just 4-7 sessions. Chronic conditions will typically heal slower and may require 30-40 sessions for complete resolution.
Are there any side effects?
Unlike most pharmaceutical solutions and other therapeutic options, laser therapy is non-toxic, non-invasive and in over one million individual treatments, no significant adverse effects have been noted.
LILT is not covered by insurance. Cost per session ranges from $40-85 depending on the area of the body being treated.
LILT can be a valuable investment in your health! Read our testimonials to hear how LILT has helped many of our patients.
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Learn more about Low Intensity Light Therapy in The Brain’s Way of Healing by Dr. Norman Doidge (chapter 4).