Frequently Asked Laser Therapy Questions
Also known as soft laser, laser therapy is a form of phototherapy used to stimulate tissue repair and provide pain management. The laser uses focused red and infrared light to stimulate tissue at and below the surface of your pet’s skin.
The biochemical effect of the low-level light increases the production of cellular energy and thus promotes cellular regeneration, production of collagen for tissue repair, and vascular dilation and synthesis for better circulation. Light from the low-level laser also encourages production of the body’s natural pain-relievers.
The first low-level laser was developed in 1960 and early testing showed an increase in the speed and overall success of the healing process when it was used. Originally used for wound repair, clinical trials done throughout the 1970s showed the applicability of the low-level laser in therapy to be more widespread than previously thought. The 1990s came with the invention of more powerful and effective versions of the low-level laser, eventually increasing its popularity in the field of rehabilitation.
If your pet has sustained an injury, undergone orthopedic surgery, or suffers from arthritis or other painful conditions, they may be a candidate for low-level laser therapy. The low-level laser not only speeds the healing process but affects the overall quality of the repaired tissue. Muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries require increased collagen production for successful healing and the low-level laser stimulates this function. The light also increases vascular growth and dilation for improved circulation in pets that may have limited movement.
Pets experiencing pain from their condition may find relief from laser therapy treatments. The biochemical effect of the low-level laser boosts the body’s production of endorphins. Low-level laser therapy is another great way to treat the source of the pain, thereby making it less likely that your pet will need additional pain-reducing medication.
Low-level laser can be used to treat a myriad of conditions, but within the realm of rehabilitation, it is used mainly on musculoskeletal injuries, soft tissue injuries (sprains and strains), and arthritis. It also helps to release tight muscles, stimulate nerve regeneration, reduce inflammation, and aid in pain management.
- Arthritic Pain
- Hip Pain
- Musculoskeletal Pain
- Myofascial Pain
- Tendon, ligament injury, and soreness
- Traumatic and overuse injuries
- Scar Tissue
- Ulcers and other persistent non-healing wounds
- Sore back
- Ankle, hock injuries
- Stifle injuries
- Bone chips
- Hoof conditions: abscesses, bone spurs, inflammation, navicular, ringbone and laminitis
- Inflammatory conditions: acute or chronic otitis (ear problems), anal gland inflammation, periondontitis (gingivitis, hot spots, lick granulomas, idiopathic cycstitis (bladder inflammation), sinusitis, rhinitis (nasal problems)
Because laser therapy has a cumulative effect, for best results treatments should be done at the frequency recommended by your veterinarian. Laser therapy is often recommended in conjunction with other modalities to provide the best outcome and may be used as either a primary or complimentary therapy.
Laser therapy is very safe when administered properly. To ensure that laser therapy is prescribed only in cases where it is appropriate, an exam is first done by a veterinarian. The veterinarian will then provide the specifics for the application of the laser. Although the term “laser” may conjure up images of the high-powered version sometimes used in surgical settings, the therapeutic lasers do not cut. Depending on the laser prescribed, your pet may wear goggles for eye protection during treatment. Treatments are fast, non-invasive, and pain free. Many pets relax and even fall asleep during treatment.
There is no necessary "wash out" time needed when laser therapy is performed during NSAID use. It has been shown that the use of NSAIDs may reduce the laser effect, but the effect has not been clinically significant.
Laser therapy can be, and often is, combined with other types of medicines and modalities. Because laser decreases pain and enhances circulation, your veterinarian may choose to use the laser in conjunction with other forms of therapy to enhance the benefits of those therapies. In general, laser therapy integrates well into a treatment plan that utilizes either traditional or alternative forms of veterinary medicine.
If your companion animal is receiving laser therapy from a practitioner other than your regular veterinarian, it is imperative that both individuals are kept updated about the ongoing treatment in order to provide coordinated care of your pet, to allow proper evaluation of treatment and to minimize any avoidable interactions or interferences. Our veterinarians, who are well-trained and versed in a variety of rehab modalities including laser therapy, collaborate with the pet’s primary care veterinarian to appropriately coordinate care.
Magnetic fields play a key role in biological life. A magnetic field is created when a conductor is crossed by an electrical current. Magnetic fields arranged around single conductors are summed in a coil producing a density of magnetic force lines. If current produced in this way flows in pulses, then a pulsed magnetic field is created.
In the bioenergetic and chemical terms of an organism, the essential concept of magnetism is not the magnetic load, but the energy-rich dipole which is surrounded by a magnetic field and whose transformation and exploitation for the production of energy in the organism is highly significant. The most important effect from pulsed electromagnetic fields (EMF) therapy is found on the cellular transmembrane potential (TMP). It is known that damaged or diseased cells present an abnormally low TMP, up to 80% lower than healthy cells.
This signifies a reduced metabolism, impairment of the electrogenic sodium-potassium (Na-K) pump activity, and therefore, reduced ATP production. In a nutshell, the TMP is proportional to the activity of the Na-K pump and thus to the rate of healing. Healthy cells have TMP voltages of 70 to 100 millivolts. Due to constant stresses of modern life and a toxic environment, cell voltages tend to drop as we age or due to illness. As the voltage drops, the cell is unable to maintain a healthy environment for itself. If the electrical charge of a cell drops to 50, the patient may experience chronic fatigue. Electromagnetic therapy with the Maxi provides one effective way to affect healing rates by increasing cellular TMP.
In general, laser diodes are either continuous wave or pulsed. The continuous wave (CW) diodes emit laser energy continuously, hence the name.
Pulsed diodes emit a radiation impulse with a high amplitude (intensity) and duration which is typically extremely short: 100-200 nanoseconds. Continuous wave lasers produce a fixed level of power during emission.
Although lacking the high peak power of a "true" or "super" pulsed laser, most continuous wave lasers can be made to flash a number of times per second to simulate pulse-like rhythms by interrupting the flow of light rapidly as in turning a light switch “off” and “on.” True or super pulsed lasers, as the names imply, produce a brief high-power level light impulse. It is the high-power level achieved during each pulse that drives the light energy to the target tissue.
The peak power of a true or super pulsed laser is quite high compared to its average pulse power. By using true or super pulsed lasers, one is able to more effectively drive light energy into tissue. The laser and electronic technologies required to use pulsed diodes are more advanced and the diodes themselves are more expensive than the continuous wave diodes. This is why over 90% of the therapeutic lasers in the North American market are low power continuous wave lasers. Some of these lasers provide power literally at the same level as an inexpensive laser pointer costing around $30.
There are more than 120 double-blind positive studies confirming the clinical effects of laser technology. More than 300 research reports have been published. There are over 300 dental studies alone. More than 90% of these studies verify the clinical value of using laser technology. A review of negative results shows that low dosage was the single most significant factor. By dosage, it is meant the light energy delivered to a given unit area during treatment. The energy is measured in joules and the area in cm².
Assuming that the power of the laser remains constant during the treatment, the energy of the light will be equal to the power in watts multiplied by the time in seconds during which the light is emitted. Therefore, a laser with more power (watts) can deliver the same amount of energy (joules) in less time. A pulsed laser with more average power (watts) can deliver the same amount of energy (joules) in less time and at deeper target tissues than a continuous wave laser.