History of Cold Laser Therapy by Dr. Curtis Turchin, MA, DC
The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians used light therapy and applied heat to tender points in the human body to relieve symptoms of many syndromes.
In 1903, Nils Finsen, a Danish medical doctor, was given the Nobel Prize for successfully treating tuberculosis, rickets and lupus vulgaris with ultraviolet light. This was the first recognized application of artificial light to cure disease.
Later, in 1916, Albert Einstein proposed the basic idea underlying laser operation. This invention of the laser can be dated to 1958 with the publication of the scientific paper, Infrared and Optical Masers, by Arthur L. Schawlow and Charles H. Townes, who worked at Bell Labs. However, it was not until 1960 that Ted Maiman made the first red ruby laser.
In 1923, a Russian researcher, Alexander Gurwitsch first detected that cells emit infrared light as a means of intercellular communication. He observed that this light could be transmitted from a test tube o another adjacent one without any physical contact between them. He termed this infrared emission “mitogenic radiation.”
In 1967, Dr. Endre Mester, a professor of surgery in Hungary, performed a revolutionary series of experiments that first documented the healing effects of lasers. In his earliest study he discovered that tissue growth was accelerated with laser therapy. His later experiments documented not only improved healing with light therapy, but also demonstrated that the healing was a systemic and not a local phenomenon. His work stimulated many other researchers in Western and Eastern Europe to appreciate the value of laser therapy, long before it was appreciated in Asia, Africa and the Americas.
By the 1970’s, laser therapy was beginning to attract attention in Eastern Europe, China and the Soviet Union; thus, much of the early research emanated from these regions. Over the following ten years, laser therapy spread to Western Europe and quickly became popular as a physical therapy modality. However many of the lasers used during this period produced only 5-50mW of power and lacked the effectiveness of modern, more powerful lasers.
There has been a recent surge in the use of medical lasers all over the world, particularly in surgery, dentistry, and physical therapy. In the areas of medicine and dentistry, lasers are well known for being extremely precise cutting instruments that lessen the trauma of traditional surgery. In the area of physical therapy, ligh is being used by physical and occupational therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists and acupuncturists because of its ability to relieve pain, stimulate healing, and create a wide variety of beneficial systemic effects.
How do COLD LASERS Work?
Cold Lasers are handheld devices that are placed directly over the injured area. Typically, depending on the area being treated, and the number of lasers being used, laser treatments can last between 2-8 minutes. During the treatment the laser light safely penetrates deep through several layers of skin and fat without injuring a single cell.
Once the cold laser light (photons) reaches the injured tissue it is readily absorbed by damaged, injured, or weakened cells. The light energy interacts and is absorbed by chromophores, specifically cytochrome c oxidase, (light sensitive enzymes in the mitochondria of the cells). By activating these enzymes it stimulates the production of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate, energy of the cell). As a result, this new found energy initiates more ATP to be produced and a cascade of beneficial events occur; including, a reduction in pain, edema, inflammation, improved nerve function, and an increase in the intracellular metabolic rate of the cell which decreases the cells healing time and allows the damaged tissue to repair itself faster.
Cold Laser therapy has been successfully used around the world for over 35 years to help treat a myriad of conditions. There are more than 2,500 clinical studies that have been published and over 120 randomized controlled studies have been conducted. In the United States, cold laser therapy is used in certain hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and clinics as a safe treatment option to help assist in pain relief. Currently, cold laser therapy is also being used by professional sports teams to treat athletes in the NFL, NBA, NHL, PGA, NBL, and U.S Olympic Teams just to name a few.
“The laser treatment speeds up cell repair & stimulates the immune, lymphatic, & vascular systems.” Paul Sibert, M.D., Chief of Neurology at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
In summary Cold Lasers have shown to:
- Relieve or eliminate chronic and acute pain.
- Stimulates and improves nerve function.
- Increase mobility and muscle function (release of tight muscles that create decrease mobility, joint problems, and chronic pain).
- Reduces swelling and inflammation (suppresses inflammatory enzymes that create swelling, redness, and heat).
- Increase the speed, quality and tensile strength of tissue repair.
- Help generate new and healthy cells and tissues.
- Reduces scar tissue
- Enhances lymphatic drainage thus increasing circulation which speeds up healing.
- Reduces pain by causing production of natural pain killer’s endorphins.
*If you have cancer or taking immune system suppressants, low-level laser therapy is contradicted. In pregnant women, the uterus should not be irradiated.
General Physiological and Biological Effects of Cold Laser
→ Increased Metabolic Activity – Cold Laser therapy increases higher outputs of specific enzymes, greater oxygen and food particle loads for cells. An increase in ATP production by the mitochondria of the cell allows the cell to heal and repair faster. In addition, the cell uses this new found energy, (that was never available before), to use for multiple biologic processes.
→ Rapid Cell Growth – Laser light accelerates cellular reproduction and growth due to increased mitochondrial activity.
→ Stimulated Nerve Function – Cold Laser light speeds the process of nerve cell healing and repairing. Neurotransmission is facilitated due to increased levels of acetylcholine and serotonin.
→ Faster Wound Healing – Cold laser light stimulates fibroblast (fibroblast cells are the building blocks of collagen) development and accelerates collagen synthesis in damaged tissue.
→ Reduced Fibrous Tissue Formation – Cold laser light reduces the formation of scar tissue following tissue damage from post surgery, sprains and strains, cuts, scratches, or burns.
→ Anti-Inflammatory Action – Cold laser light reduces swelling caused by bruising or inflammation of joints to give enhanced joint mobility.
→ Increased Vascular Activity – Cold laser light induces temporary vasodilation increasing blood flow and oxygen to damaged areas.
Many Clinical Case Studies Prove Low Level Laser Therapy’s Effectiveness Treating Numerous Conditions Including:
• PAIN – Low Level Laser Therapy has been cleared by the FDA as an adjunct treatment method for pain related to shoulder injuries.
• Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Low Level Laser Therapy has been cleared by the FDA as an adjunct treatment method for this condition.
• Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow) – Simunovic treated 324 patients . . . complete pain relief and restored functional ability were achieved in 82% of the acute patients and 66% of the chronic cases. J Clin Laser Med & Surg. 1998; 16 (3): 145-151
• Fibromyalgia – Longo treated 846 patients with fibromyositic rheumatism during a 15 year period. About 2/3 benefited from the treatment with regard to local pain, hypomobility and phlogosis. J Clin Laser Med Surg. 1997; 15 (5): 217-220
• Headache/Migraine – Wong treated 20 patients with migraine or symptoms resembling migraine. The pain disappeared after 1-5 minutes. Proc 9th Congress Soc Laser Surgery and Medicine, Anaheim, CA: 2-6 Nov. 1991
• Low Back Pain –Soriano performed a double-blind trial with elderly people suffering from chronic low back pain. Treatment was effective in 71% of the laser group and 36% of the sham group. The pain disappeared completely in 45% of the laser group and 15% of the sham group. Lasers Surg Med. 1998 Suppl 10, p. 6
• Rheumatism/Osteoarthritis – Palmgren conducted a controlled double-blind study on 35 patients with rheumatoid arthritis of the hand. In the experimental group, grip strength and movement were improved while swelling, pain and morning stiffness were reduced. Lasers in Medical Science, 1989; 4: 193.
• Wound Healing – Palmgren investigated the effect of Low Level Laser Therapy on infected abdominal wounds after surgery. Healing time to half wound size was 6.8 days in the laser group compared to 14 days in the placebo group. Lasers Surg Med 1991; Suppl 3:11
• Acupuncture – In addition, laser light can be used to stimulate acupuncture points in a non-invasive, pain-free manner. Low Level Laser Therapy Provides New Treatment Possiblities, Dr. Melyni Worth, Ph.D., World Equine Veterinary Review, Vol. 3, No. 3, 1998
• Bacterial Infection – In research led by Michael Hamblin of Mass. Gen. Hospital and Harvard Medical School, mice with surgically induced wounds were dosed with bioluminescent bacteria to create potentially lethal infections. Utilizing a 665 nm laser diode photodynamic therapy (Low Level Laser Therapy) the researchers found that “infected wounds healed significantly faster with the PDT method. PDT shows promise as a topical antimicrobial alternative that may work even faster than antibiotics.” The Journal of Infectious Diseases, June 1, 2003, PP 1717-1725.
• Allergic Rhinitis – Neuman & Finkelstein studied 50 patients in a double-blind randomized study. Following treatment with a 660 nm red laser, 72% of the treatment group reported improvement of symptoms as compared to 24% of the placebo group. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 1997;78:399-406
• Blood Pressure – Umeda tested the effects of a Low Level Laser on the control of blood pressure via energy administered via the medulla oblongata. The results from a group of 30 patients suffering from hypertension were positive in 80% of the patients. Laser Therapy. 1990; 2(2): 59
Cold laser therapy is an Internationally recognized form of complementary and alternative medicine for numerous uses including:
Acute myocardial infarction
Blood pressure control
Prevents restenosis after balloon angioplasty
Decrease the number of angina attacks
Alleviation of heart pain-cervicothoracic pain syndrome
Suppression of lipid peroxidation
Promotion of antioxidants
Protection of erythrocyte membranes
Reduction of fibrinogen level
Normalization of antithrombin-III
Reduction of arrthythmic deaths (two year follow up)
Reduction of the activities of the hypophyseoaadrenocortical and aldosteron-renin-angiotensin systems
Protective effect on erythrocytes caused by heart/lung machines
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Depression, psychosomatic problems
Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
Ear conditions including hearing loss and tinnitus
Headaches including migraine
Herniated lumbar discs
Herpes simplex (HSV1) of the lips as well as sexual herpes
Immune system modulation
Low back pain