Every year, millions of Americans require treatment for acute or chronic pain. According to 2016 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20.4 percent of American adults had chronic pain. Not only does this cause distress to patients, but it also has a huge economic impact costing an estimated $635 billion annually brought about by extra sick days, lost wages, and reduced productivity.
For decades, patients could only choose between invasive or drug treatments to address or alleviate their condition. These include pain medication and surgery, which can be costly particularly for chronic pain. Surgery, in particular, isn't only expensive, it can also slow down the patient's recovery, further reducing their productivity and their ability to do the activities they used to enjoy.
And then there was (laser) light
Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) was discovered in 1967 by Endre Mester at the Semmelweis Medical University in Hungary. Also known as photobiomodulation or biostimulation, LLLT has emerged as an ideal complement or alternative to traditional pain management drugs, surgery, or physical therapy. It uses low-level visible/optical energy that, when absorbed by the mitochondria, triggers a series of biochemical reactions which produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides the injured or unhealthy cell with the energy to repair and correct cellular metabolic imbalances.
Laser therapy, in general, can be used to treat chronic pain, acute pain, fibromyalgia, and wounds. It has also been proven to stimulate nerve endings, which lets the body release natural opiates that help control pain. The treatment protocol using low-level lasers varies depending on the injury being treated, the healing rate, and the technology being used.
Since its introduction in treating injuries, laser therapy has been used to treat a wide range of conditions that include carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis, low back pain, Buerger's disease, pericarditis, and different sports injuries.
Key to laser therapy is the power and wavelength of the laser and the diameter of the beam. Low-power lasers are commonly used for treating chronic and acute pain in order to reduce the absorption of the energy into melanin, hemoglobin, and oxyhemoglobin while high-power lasers are primarily used for ablation, that is, burning, cutting, or removing a tissue.
The downside to using low-power lasers is that they use wavelengths that cannot penetrate deeply into the body. This means it has a limited impact on healing.
Turning healing up a notch
Advancements in laser therapy over the past two decades have made it possible to use high-power lasers to penetrate deeper into the body, such as the Phoenix Thera-lase System. While the underlying principle remains the same—stimulating the cells with laser energy—this technology uses infrared/invisible energy delivered at high power. Doing so allows it to penetrate deeper into the soft tissue and thus create better results.
Moreover, the technology offers a wider laser beam with a diameter of up to 20 cm compared to the typical 0.2 cm, enabling it to treat larger areas and provide a broader range of treatment options. This enables facilities and their staff to offer shorter treatment sessions and consequently increase their number of bookings. The wider beam diameter also makes it possible to use a higher power level without the undesirable side effects of using a narrower beam such as topical burning or cellular ablation.
The treatment protocol varies based on the condition being treated. This may range between 10–15 minutes for a single chronic injury and 30 minutes for multiple injuries. Meanwhile, acute injuries may require several sessions per day or week.
Following the treatment protocol using this technology can induce certain photochemical reactions in the soft tissues of both humans and animals, including the following:
● The retardation of fibroblast formation in tissue culture
● An increase in nerve stimulation and correction
● The triggering of a prostaglandin-bradykinin effect and the regeneration of skin, nerve, and muscle tissue
● Improved blood flow and vascularization (the development of blood vessels) in the damaged tissue
● Production of natural opiates and other compounds that reduce pain and stimulate healing
● Direct stimulation of cellular growth and the healing of soft tissue (collagen)
● Stabilization of the cell membrane
● Enhancement of ATP synthesis
● Stimulated vasodilation along with increased histamine, nitrous oxide, and serotonin
● Acceleration of leukocyte activity
● Increased prostaglandin synthesis
● Reduction in interleukin-1 levels
● Increased angiogenesis
● Enhanced superoxide dismutase
● Decreased c-reactive protein and neopterin levels
The future looks bright for laser therapy
The continued advancements in laser therapy give hope to millions of Americans seeking drug-free and noninvasive solutions that will enable them to live pain-free lives. These include about 15.8 million people suffering from osteoarthritis, 7 million with lower back pain, 12.5 million with soft tissue wounds, and 14.2 million with sports injuries who comprise annual outpatient visits for their respective conditions.
The technology also presents opportunities to professionals in the medical pain relief industry as well as health maintenance organizations, hospitals, outpatient clinics, and veterinary clinics. In the United States, the medical rehabilitation services market (orthopedics and physical therapy) alone represents about $27 billion in annual services while the estimated value for pain relief, inflammation reduction, and soft injury healing exceed $70 billion.
So, the next time someone suffers from chronic or acute pain or gets wounded, they can rest assured that there’s light at the end of the tunnel thanks to laser therapy.
Bobby Smith is the Global Marketing Director for Phoenix Thera-Lase. He has worked extensively with numerous chiropractors and physical therapists along the East Coast and Midwest regions focusing on sales and services. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Analysis and helps companies increase their profit margins and reduce expenses by seeking opportunities to streamline their processes and procedures. He can be reached at Bobby@your2ndhalf.com or via www.phoenixthera-lase.com.
Grayson Marshall Jr is the Global Sports Marketing Director for Phoenix Thera-Lase. He is a Clemson “Hall of Fame” athlete and considered an “ACC Legend” in the basketball community. He is a highly sought-after consultant for both college and professional teams as well as many corporations. He is also known as the “Metacognition Mavin”. With his unique approach and ability to “Get you to believe in you”, he is able to help people overcome their own inner struggles and improve their outlooks on life. He can be reached at Grayson@your2ndhalf.com or via www.therealgm.live.