Laser Therapy, Red Light Therapy, Cold Laser and Low Intensity Laser and Photobiomodulation (PBMT) Therapy all rely on the process of photobiomodulation to stimulate, benefit and even restore normal cell function and structure. This process enables stressed or injured cells to use light energy of red and near infrared wavelengths to increase availability of ATP, or cell fuel, for the purpose of restoring local metabolism and healing.
Our clinic has a long association with Bioflex Laser because of their commitment to clinical research and practitioner support. With the growing interest in photobiomodulation, much of it fueled by marketing as a non-medical or wellness device, it is reassuring to know that Bioflex applies the same rigor to the design and testing of their red light devices as they do to their more powerful Class 3b laser devices, which have Health Canada regulatory approval. Much more information is available on the bioflex website.
As great as the similarities are between the enabling technologies, all of which produce a photobiomodulation effect, the devices have different capabilities and recommended applications. The differences may be summarized in the following categories:
Applying LED arrays and LASER probes of specific wavelengths directly to the skin for the purpose of healing injured tissue. It was first developed for wound healing and muscle and joint injuries. Today, it is used across a broad range of injuries and pathologies including nerve injuries and conditions, post-surgical lymphedema, long covid, diabetic neuropathy and skin conditions to provide a sense of the range of its usefulness.
The key characteristic of low intensity laser therapy is the direct skin contact and use of successive arrays and probes to best influence an area of defined injury, like a herniated disc, ligament sprain or plantar fasciitis. It provides effective pain relief and accelerates healing to areas of specific injury. It is the treatment of choice for injury and clear pathology.
Laser Rehabilitation / Physiotherapy Laser:
Refers to best practice when the injury impacts muscle function. It is the combination of laser therapy for strong, accelerated healing and the restoration of normal muscle function. Red light devices do not have the performance specificity of multi-step, direct contact laser therapy to address significant injury, but can be helpful. Photobiomodulation, from any device, can improve local muscle metabolism but cannot restore normal muscle function…that requires exercise designed to restore normal brain / muscle neurology, flexibility and strength. Not all muscle and joint injuries require laser therapy for successful healing; however, all will heal faster when photobiomodulation is part of their treatment plan. Including traditional low intensity laser therapy is most advantageous and the recommended option for those with extensive injury, slow to heal or recurrent injuries; and for whom injury involves an arthritic joint.
Refers to the use of red light therapy or cold laser therapy to improve overall health. In a general way, it can also provide benefits in the treatment of defined pathology and injury. It involves using a red light device at a distance from the skin. These devices target superficial blood and tissue cells to produce a systemic photobiomodulation effect. Research over the last few decades has proven that such an effect is real and reproducible - provided the equipment is reliable and recommended dosing guidelines are used. It targets low performing mitochondria of skin and subdermal circulation. It influences general metabolism because the important constituents of blood are transported to all parts of our bodies through normal blood flow. Depending upon the individual, poor sleep, hair loss, aging skin, weight gain, stress, muscle aches and pains, and much more all benefit from systemic photobiomodulation. Some individuals derive great benefit from photobiomodulation and others report more moderate benefits.
Non contact devices can optimize immune system function. They do not provide enough of a photobiomodulation effect to target significant pathologies or deep injury. Direct contact laser therapy can address both systemic and local photobiomodulation but non-direct contact red light or cold laser therapy does not significantly impact extensive or deep injury. A win-win treatment plan could include both traditional laser therapy and red light therapy, especially over the course of an anticipated lengthy treatment plan.
We use (and like) low intensity laser therapy in-clinic because it increases the success of our physiotherapy, massage and acupuncture treatment plans. It provides a powerful, non-drug way of managing pain, and of speeding the healing process. It prepares our clients for successful exercise and rehabilitation programs. Our clients love it because it allows them to feel and move better, and get better faster.
We recommend red light therapy because it addresses lifestyle distress that can impact healing and the successful resolution of muscle, joint and nerve injuries. It contributes to good health generally, and it improves quality of life and overall wellness. That it can be safely used for so many non-rehab applications as well, makes a red light device a good investment for the health conscious and for those seeking best health and mobility over their lifespan.
We offer a complimentary Laser / Red Light Workshop for all those interested in more information about this most interesting technology. We cover what to look for in a personal device and which device is best suited to meet an individual’s requirement.
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How it feels
You don’t feel much during laser or photobiomodulation treatment. It is light energy, comparable to the sensation of gentle sunbathing. It does not pinch, vibrate, feel hot or cold. It doesn't hurt like dry-needling or extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ECWT). It has a much more extensive research profile on the PubMed database, and is reported more effective than other modalities.Low intensity laser therapy and red light devices are the only modalities which can provide the desired photobiomodulation effect, which directly provides injured cells with more of the energy they need to heal.
Who should consider using Laser?
- Extensive injuries following Trauma or Sports injuries
- Whiplash related injuries
- Concussion or post concussion syndrome
- Slow to heal injuries
- Persistent or recurring pain from old Trauma
- Neck and Back Disc injuries, including Herniation
- Nerve injuries
- Post-op joint replacement surgeries
- Post surgical incisions that are slow to heal
- Any inflammatory muscle and joint conditions
- There are many other conditions that respond very well to laser, such as gout and lymphedema
Including laser therapy in your treatment plan is always optional. If we believe it would be helpful to you, we will say so. To not provide the option seems unethical.
Who can Benefit from Red Light Therapy?
Those who want help for:
- Poor or Disturbed Sleep
- Poor Mood and Winter Blues
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
- Aging skin, Acne and other Facial Blemishes
- Slow to Heal Wounds & Scars
- Joint & Muscle Aches and Pains
- Pre-exercise Warm-up & Post Exercise Soreness
- Boosting Immune System Function
- And so much more
BioFlex Laser Charges
There are four ways that you can include laser therapy and red light therapy in your treatment plan.The first three are in-clinic options; and the fourth is a purchase option.
- Within the clinic, it can either be a stand alone treatment, which can sometimes be billed through third party insurance, but not usually through extended health Insurance; or,
- Laser therapy can be billed through Physiotherapy Insurance, when part of a physio treatment
- Laser therapy and red light therapy can be billed as naturotherapy when provided by a naturotherapist with laser therapy certification.
- It can also be purchased through The Physio Store. While expensive on the face of it, it can be cost-effective because it enables more frequent, even daily treatment, beneficial because the photobiostimulation effect is cumulative, and frequent application allows for more rapid recovery.