Applications, Contraindications, and Possible Risks Associated with Laser Therapy

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Light is a very powerful tool that can be used in many different spheres. You probably know about how lasers can be used to cut through steel and is used in the manufacturing and industrial arenas. In the medical field, light can be used to perform surgeries with precision and cauterize wounds to stop the bleeding instantly.

In addition to using laser therapy to promote quick healing after surgical procedures, doctors also use low level lasers, also called cold lasers to help repair the inner tissues. This application of lasers is approved by the FDA and can alleviate pain from musculoskeletal disorders. Given that light has a broad spectrum, doctors must choose the appropriate wavelengths according to the condition they’re looking to treat and the procedure they intend to perform.

Applications of Laser Therapy

Laser therapy can be widely used in the medical arena for various health issues:.

Treating Cancer
Doctors can use lasers in conjunction with chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation to remove tumors and treat cancer. They may also use lasers to remove polyps and other growths that can potentially turn into cancer. Here are some of the main forms of cancer that laser can help with:

  • Basal cell skin cancer
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Vulvar cancer
  • Penile cancer
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Musculoskeletal Disorders
Cold laser therapy can be used to stimulate the repair of nerves, cartilage, ligament, muscles, and other tissues. Some of the conditions that lasers can help are:

  • Pain such as in the upper, middle, or lower back, neck, and knee
  • Tendonitis
  • Fibromyalgia pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tennis elbow and Achilles heel
  • Trigger points

Cosmetic Procedures
Lasers can be used to repair skin defects and other cosmetic issues such as

  • Removing tattoos
  • Erasing the signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, creases, and folds of skin
  • Removing scarring from acne, injuries, and surgical incisions
  • Removing unwanted hair
  • Correcting skin discolorations and sun spots
  • Eliminating birthmarks, moles, and warts
  • Treating hair fall resulting from aging or alopecia
  • Helping with body contouring

Surgical Procedures

  • Lasers, when used during surgical procedures can help seal blood vessels to minimize bleeding. Doctors may also adopt lasers to numb nerve endings to reduce pain and discomfort or cauterize lymph vessels to lower inflammation.
  • Eye surgeons use lasers to repair detached retinas, improve vision like in Lasik, and perform cataract operations.
  • Urologists may choose lasers to treat the prostate or kidney stones.

Benefits of Laser Therapy over Conventional Treatments

Using different kinds of lasers for medical issues may have more benefits as compared to conventional treatments. Here’s how:

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During Surgical Procedures

  • Surgeons can perform procedures with more precision and accuracy. Since the incisions and cuts they make with lasers are smaller and shallower, they cause less damage to the surrounding tissues. As a result, patients experience less pain, inflammation, and scarring. Recovery times are also shorter.
  • Surgical procedures take less time than traditional techniques. Patients can have procedures done in outpatient facilities without the need to get admitted in the hospital.
  • Treatments with lasers can be done using local anesthesia. Even if patients need general anesthesia, it is typically given for a shorter while.
  • Patients may need fewer prescription painkillers during the recovery process.
  • Surgeons can treat skin wounds, lesions, and ulcers.

During Cold Laser Therapy

  • Heals without the need for invasive measures and can thus be used by patients looking for alternative healing approaches
  • No adverse side effects
  • Faster healing of sprains and strains
  • Lowers inflammation and speeds the repair of tissue structures
  • Promotes blood circulation and boosts metabolism in the body
  • No need for anesthetics or pain medication
  • Speeds the healing of tissues by assisting in cell repair

Contradictions of Laser Therapy

Although laser therapy is a safe and effective modality for healing, it may not be suitable for patients with certain conditions and must be used with caution.

  • Lasik therapy might not be recommended for patients under the age of 18
  • Doctors conduct a careful assessment of the patient’s overall health. Only otherwise healthy patients are given laser therapy.
  • Invasive laser therapy can be more expensive as compared to conventional healing methods. Depending on the insurance plan of the patients, doctors might suggest that they opt for other treatments. Do keep in mind that all insurance providers may not offer coverage for laser therapy.

Risks Associated with Laser Therapy

As with all other kinds of treatments, laser therapy carries its own set of risks that patients should be aware of. Here are some of them:

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  • Cosmetic laser surgery can result in infections, bleeding, and pain. Scarring and skin discolorations are also possible. Further, since the effects of the treatment may not be long-lasting, patients may have to come back for follow-up sessions.
  • In the case of laser therapy that needs to be given under general anesthesia, some patients may experience the typical after effects of being put under. These can include, heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, and confusion after coming awake.
  • Cold laser treatments for pain relief may not be effective at the onset. Some patients may require multiple sessions before they start to see positive results. Of course, the number of sessions needed depends on the specific medical issue and its severity. In some cases, patients may experience a worsening of the pain before it starts to improve.

Research Conducted into the Efficacy of Laser Therapy

Several studies have indicated that using laser therapy for medical issues may be far more beneficial as compared to traditional methods of healing. Here are a few of them:

  • A study was conducted by the Norwegian institution, The Institute of Physical Therapy, Bergen University College on the effects of low level laser therapy on patients with Achilles heel. They found that the patients who were given the therapy recovered much faster as compared to the patients in the placebo group.
  • Results of clinical trials published in MEDLINE and PubMed have shown that low level laser therapy is highly effective in helping patients with joint pain. The treatment was given to patients with neck pain, lower back pain, knee pain, and shoulder pain.
  • The National Center for Biotechnology Information published the findings of a study where 54 patients received laser treatment for breast cancer administered with the help of a needle. All the patients showed significant improvement in the size of the tumors.

Laser therapy and its many forms have proved to be highly beneficial in helping patients recover from a wide range of conditions. Talk to your doctor about the full scope of the treatment and how its applications can help you regain good health.

References;
Jewell, Tim. and Phillips, Natalie. “What is Laser Therapy?” HealthLine. 7 Nov. 2016. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.
“What is Laser Therapy and How Does it Work?” Cutting Edge Laser Technologies. n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.
Schnee, Alexandra. K. “Cold Laser Therapy Pain Management Treatment” Spine Health – Trusted Information for Spine Health. 13 Feb. 2009. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.
Schnee, Alexandra. K. “History of Cold Laser Therapy” Spine Health – Trusted Information for Spine Health. 13 Feb. 2009. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.
Schnee, Alexandra. K. “Cold Laser Therapy Advantages and Disadvantages” Spine Health – Trusted Information for Spine Health. 13 Feb. 2009. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.
“Laser Therapy Treatments” pt Health. n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.
Campbell, April. “How Laser Therapy Works” Treloar Physiotherapy Clinic. n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.
Lee, Hyunju. Ph.D. and Jang, Ho. “Meta-Analysis of Pain Relief Effects by Laser Irradiation on Joint Areas” National Center for Biotechnology Information.20 Aug.2012. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.
K, Dowlatshahi, DS, Francescatti, et al. “Laser therapy for small breast cancers.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Oct. 2002. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

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