Today I want to introduce one of my favourite therapy tools, the low level laser. Now you may be asking yourself, what would physiotherapists be doing with lasers?? No, we have not branched out into the hair removal business nor are we playing laser tag in our therapy room. We actually use this little beauty to assist in improving pain and scarring, to heal wounds, to reduce skin inflammation as well as to break down thickened tissues and even improve lymphoedema.
How do low level lasers work?
Low level laser therapy (LLLT), also known as photobiomodulation (PBM) uses infrared light lasers (600-950 nanometer wavelength if you want to get technical) to penetrate into the tissues up to 2cm below the surface of the skin. These wavelengths then stimulate the cells to increase their metabolism by changing the chemical activity within the cells. By increasing the cell metabolism, LLLT increases the speed with which our body heals by reducing tissue stress and inflammation which is very beneficial in damaged tissues. The great thing about laser is that it also has no effect on healthy tissues so there are very few risks. For these reasons, LLLT is becoming more common as a complimentary therapy to treat acute injuries, recovery from operations and also for treating chronic pain and degenerative conditions such as arthritis.
In the case of lymphoedema, LLLT is used to stimulate cell growth and protein synthesis which has an impact on healing and formation of lymphatic cells and also breaks up areas of thickened tissues (often occur in more advanced lymphoedema stages). This can improve the efficiency of lymphatic massage and also improve fibrosis and skin health.
The dosage of laser that is needed to get results vary from person to person and on what condition is being treated. In the case of lymphoedema, best effect is usually gained with 2-3 sessions per week for approximately 15-20 minutes for 6 weeks although some people do find that 1 session can improve mild tissue thickening. This is because LLLT has both a cumulative and an immediate effect.
What does laser feel like?
Most people report feeling nothing apart from the pressure of the laser nozzle on the skin during treatment while others report a gentle, tingling sensation. As the laser has a low wavelength, it does not create heat so your tissues will not feel warm from the treatment.
Are there any risks from using laser?
There are very few documented risks of LLLT however there are a few precautions that consumers should be aware of which include:
- Eye protection is required during use of some laser units. At Calm and Connection we use the Rian Corp LTU904 unit which is a class 1 laser so does not require any protective eye wear.
- Check with your oncologist before using over active cancer sites.
- Do not use over pregnant abdomens – there is no evidence of damage to unborn babies but also no research has been done to explore this.
For more information:
There are a number of different LLLT units on the market. Here at Calm and Connection, we use the Rian corp LTU-904 handheld laser unit which is designed specifically for use in lymphoedema, scarring and thickened tissues. It is also the only FDA approved unit for use for lymphoedema in Australia.
The MLS heal with laser units are also becoming increasingly common, particularly with podiatrists for their ability to heal wounds, reduce pain and inflammation and to improve circulation and oedema. These units do take longer to treat (often up to 1 hour) but work well to cover large areas of the body that require laser.
If you would like to know more about whether low level laser may be beneficial for you, please get in contact with use via email@example.com or phone 0437 194 826.
Until next time, be kind to yourself.
ALA accredited lymphoedema practitioner