Cold laser therapy, also known as low-level laser therapy or photobiomodulation, is a non-invasive and painless treatment used to speed healing time, reduce inflammation and relieve both chronic and acute pain. Many patients benefit from the use of cold laser therapy in addition to chiropractic adjustments.
What Is a Cold Laser?
All visible light is measured in wavelengths. The term “cold laser” refers to laser or high-intensity LEDs that produce red and near-infrared light, which have long wavelengths (the opposite of ultraviolet, or UV, light which has a short wavelength and causes sunburn—ouch!). These specific longer wavelengths of light are able to penetrate tissue about 2–5 centimeters below the skin surface, and work to speed tissue healing at the cellular level.
How Does Cold Laser Therapy Work?
The light from the cold laser unit goes through the skin and into the tissue below the surface of the skin. When the light reaches the injured area, cells in that area absorb the light. Then changes occur inside the cell to promote healing and normalize damaged tissue. Lasers accelerate wound healing by building up cellular structures that increase tissue strength.
What Does Cold Laser Therapy Feel Like?
A cold laser does not produce any kind of cool or warm sensation, and there is no pain when cold laser therapy is applied to an area. In fact, there is no sensation produced with cold laser at all. You should be generally comfortable when receiving cold laser therapy treatment. If you feel any temperature changes, please let your clinician or therapist know.
How Is Cold Laser Therapy Done?
Cold laser therapy can be done in either a sitting or lying down position, depending on the location of your pain or injury and your comfort level sitting or lying in one position for a short period of time.
The cold laser unit itself is a small handheld device that is placed on and around the area of pain or injury. Sometimes, a small amount of clear film may be placed gently over the area, especially if the cold laser is being used for wound healing. Without moving the laser around, your clinician or therapist will hold the laser in place for 20- to 50-second periods of time. This process is usually repeated anywhere from 3 to 8 times. The amount of time spent on an area depends on a few factors, including the strength of the laser, the density of the tissue and the size of the area that needs to be treated. Smaller areas require less treatment time than larger areas. Typically, a cold laser therapy treatment lasts somewhere between 3 and 5 minutes.
Who May Benefit From Cold Laser Therapy?
Because it is non-invasive, cold laser therapy is a good choice for most people experiencing the following: tendon, ligament and muscle pain; joint pain, including autoimmune joint conditions like rheumatoid arthritis; nerve pain; and poorly healing wounds such as leg ulcers.
There are a few reasons, however, why we may choose not to treat your condition using cold laser therapy. These include if you are pregnant or if you have cancer (if the cold laser would be in an area where there is known cancer present), a pacemaker or known epilepsy.
Overall, cold laser therapy is a gentle and effective choice of therapy for most musculoskeletal conditions. If you would like to discuss possible therapy options, including cold laser therapy, for your pain or injury, please let your chiropractor know.