Light at the End of the Pain Tunnel?
We’ve become very familiar with the word ‘Laser’ .. but what does it actually mean? It stands for ‘Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation’ which is a bit of a mouthfull! What it means, though, is that we are able to direct light rays of a particular wavelength into an intense focused beam…so intense that the energy within the beam is able to alter the matter it’s directed at.
We are familiar with the notion that lasers in medicine are used for cutting or cauterizing. General surgery wouldn’t be the same today without this technology and, even in the growing field of cosmetic surgery, lasers are used to remove tattoos and a variety of unwanted minor lumps, bumps and marks.
However, the use of cold (non-cutting) laser light is not so well publicized. Even though the technology has been available for a while, Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is only now getting the publicity it deserves.
Instead of using high frequencies and short wavelengths to create a laser beam that will cut, LLLT uses low frequencies and longer wavelengths. When this type of laser is pointed close to the source of pain, it affects the body’s central nervous system and helps to alleviate the problem. LLLT can provide a number of therapeutic treatments helping patients to cope with pain, assisting with wound healing and even be used to stimulate acupuncture points.
In 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration approved certain types of LLLT devices that are able to temporarily relieve pain.
LLLT has been used in treating patients experiencing painful conditions such as:
• carpal tunnel syndrome
• diabetic ulcers
• chronic low back pain
• rheumatoid arthritis
As a drug free, non-invasive procedure, LLLT offers an alternative for those concerned about the use of needles or anyone suffering with allergies to certain types of pain medication. Continued research in this area could provide doctors and pain management specialists with answers to their patients’ prayers. With many more uses for LLLT being investigated, the field of sports medicine and physical therapy are obvious areas for this technology to be used. Already the therapy is being used to help sportsmen and women with a variety of injuries including sprains and strains to knees, shoulders, ankles as well as plantar fasciitis and tennis elbow.
There is still plenty of speculation around the efficacy of LLLT but there is also continuing evidence being published about instances of its successful uses. Although there may be mixed reviews, it is patient feedback that offers positive encouragement.