Laser is an acronym for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” Laser is a form of light therapy with the light emitted being in the visible and near visible part of the spectrum.
There are four classes of lasers. Class 1 includes devices such as laser pointers and a variety of remote devices. With Class 1 lasers, there is no heating and no healing effect. Class 4 lasers are generally used for surgery and cause destruction of tissue through chemical decomposition caused by heat (known as thermolysis). Class 2 and Class 3 lasers are known as low level lasers or “cold” lasers because there is minimal heating effect on the tissues. The indications, contraindications and effects of cold lasers are discussed below.
Laser is absorbed by the underlying tissue, specifically in certain molecules contained within the cell mitochondria. The mitochondria transform the light into biochemical energy, which causes a sequence of events that result in the stimulation of tissue repair. A secondary effect is the stimulation of a number of substances in the body that help reduce pain, improve nerve conduction and increase energy available for the cells. Improved blood flow and the growth of new small blood vessels also results. The scientific research and evidence supporting these effects is very strong in humans. There are also a number of very good research studies with dogs as well.
Indications for laser therapy are many and include acute, sub acute and chronic conditions. Wounds and ulcers, soft tissue injuries (tendons, ligaments, muscles), inflammatory conditions such as bursitis, arthritis, fibromyalagia and whiplash are just a few. Laser should not be used over areas of bacterial infection, over the eyes, over the reproductive organs, if there is an active deep vein thrombosis or phlebitis, over the abdomen in pregnancy and over known areas of malignancy.
The frequency of treatment will be dependent on the condition and the response to treatment. Do not believe that “daily treatments” are necessary as that has not been proven by research. Also laser therapy should be part of a broader physical therapy program for patients, which will be dictated by the assessment findings. There are very few conditions that will resolve with just laser therapy alone.
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Advanced Canine Rehabilitation by Laurie Edge-Hughes
Canine Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy by Millis, Levine and Taylor
Physiotherapy Canada, Volume 62, Number 5, Special Issue 2010