Confusion about Laser Therapy
In this article I hope to clear up some misunderstandings about Light Therapy.
Let’s begin with some terminology:
Wavelength – often shown on the electromagnetic spectrum (see picture) and represents the length of one cycle/wave of light. It is usually measured in nanometers (nm) or microns (µ). Ionizing radiation is light that can cause damage to tissue and includes ultraviolet light (<400nm). Visible light ranges from 400nm to 700nm. Infrared is approximately 700nm-10,000nm, and is often split up into near infrared (NIR) and far infrared (FIR).
Power – number of photons of light that are released from the device.
Light emitting devices:
Laser – coherent (highly focused), monochromatic (1 wavelength), can be high powered
LED – not coherent (scatters), small range of wavelengths, low power
Sunlight, lamps, crystals, etc. – not coherent (scatters), many wavelengths, very low power
In order for light therapy to achieve therapeutic results, an adequate dose of photons must reach the target tissue. Depth of tissue penetration and dose is determined by wavelength and power.
Laser Therapy is sometimes called Class IV, Low-Level-Laser-Therapy (LLLT), or Cold Laser. Precise wavelengths and high power (especially Class IV) achieve the best results quickly. They reduce swelling, resolve inflammation, block pain, and lead to tissue repair. Low power laser devices can be purchased for home use with limited success, while high powered Class IV devices require professional administration and deliver excellent results.
Handheld LED devices or mats are sometimes purchased for home use or administered in an office setting. While LED therapy can reduce inflammation and benefit metabolism, its low power cannot achieve tissue healing to the same degree as Laser therapy. They may or may not be cheaper than laser and often involve long sessions.
Infrared saunas, body-mats, or lamps help generate heat and are generally supportive to detox and healing mechanisms. They also are not specific and do not have much power.
While all light therapy can be helpful, recent research proves Laser Therapy is unmatched in its ability to reduce swelling, resolve inflammation, block pain, and stimulate tissue healing through activation of the mitochondria in any tissue.