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Low Level Laser Therapy:
Laser Therapy for wound care
An Original Article on laser therapy by
Julia Breur, Ph.D., LMFT
Wound healing is a surprisingly complex and wondrous physiological ability. Our bodies can recover from seemingly devastating injuries through a sophisticated interplay of cells, sub cellular fragments, cytokines, and proteins. This amazing process works better when we are young and when the injury is minor. As we age or incur more severe injuries, this process may not always work as efficiently. Fortunately low level laser therapy for wound care can facilitate this impressive biological feat.
Since wound healing is such a complex cellular and molecular process, the cells and proteins that participate in wound healing are in a state of balance between being helpful and counterproductive. On the one hand, the cells are sent out in great number to repair wounds so that the job can be done as quickly as possible. If we did not have that capacity, we would bleed uncontrollably or suffer severe skin infections much more frequently than we do. On the other hand, similar to the old maxim “too many cooks spoil the broth,” too many cells in the area of the wound actually interfere with or slow down wound healing. Studies indicate that low level laser therapy normalizes this cellular and molecular symphony.
Musculoskeletal and neurological problems
In laboratory studies, when animals were subjected to bone fractures, low level laser treatments were able to facilitate healing.1 Also there was evidence that immunological activity in these test animals was normalized compared to those not treated by low level laser.
In another animal study, rats with experimental spinal cord injuries that were treated with laser energy across the skin showed fewer markers of inflammation in the recovering spine.2 Treated animals also had less scarring at the site of the injury. This scarring has been shown to be a major cause of long term paralysis and prevents healing of injured nerves. It should be noted that the laser energy used in this study was higher than typical low level laser treatment levels; however the principle remains the same.
Integumentary problems and skin wounds
Low level laser therapy accelerates the repair phase of healing. In a triple blind study it was shown that low level laser treatment enhanced healing as measured by wound contraction.3 Most impressively, the laser treatment was relatively modest. The researchers used a 46-diode cluster probe that emitted wavelengths of laser light ranging from 660nm (red light) to 950nm (infrared light). The device used in this study was the Omega Excel available in the United States from Laser Therapeutics, Centerville, MA. The authors used a low energy output, 8 J/cm2 over a fairly short treatment time, about two minutes. Treatment was repeated once a day for ten days. Compared to control (sham treatment) the granulation tissue in laser treated tissue was stronger.
In a separate study, low level laser energy was shown to stimulate immune system cells and cytokines normally associated with wound healing. When volunteers receiving treatment for acne and atopic dermatitis (eczema) were treated with a non-ablative laser, positive changes in immune system cells were seen within a few hours after treatment. This effect was separate from photothermolysis (destruction of cells using light energy and heat).
Taken together these findings show that low level laser therapy is a safe, painless way to enhance or improve wound healing. Low level laser therapy can be easily added to wound care protocols already in place.