The Structural Management    Program

Low Level Laser Therapy


Figure 1

Structural Management

Structural Management

Structural Management | Dr. Tim Maggs

Dr. Tim Maggs


Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT), also known as photobiomodulation, cold laser therapy, and laser biostimulation, has been proved to be safe, effective, and painless. Used to treat injuries and chronic pain, LLLT is a medical treatment that stimulates cellular function. This therapy involves the use of red and infrared light applied to the affected area. The light stimulates the cells to repair tissue, reduce inflammation, and reduce pain. Low-level laser therapy thus helps sick or injured cells take in oxygen and nutrients at a level similar to that of a healthy cell. It also helps these injured cells release wastes and toxins. This is done by making the cells more permeable. The laser light, which is made of photons, can “donate” photons to the injured cell’s mitochondria. These photons are converted into Adenosine TriPhosphate (ATP), the chemical energy required for healing and rejuvenation. Mitochondria are often called “cellular power plants” because they generate most of the cell’s supply of ATP, which is used as a source of energy.

Pain results from trauma, inflammation and/or cellular disruption, and malfunction or less than optimal cellular function. Healing and relief from pain come with cellular normalization. LLLT enhances cellular function and can also encourage the formation of collagen and cartilage in damaged joints and the repair of tendons and ligaments.

LLLT is a safe procedure that produces no heat, so there is no tissue destruction as there would be with high-powered lasers. Some of the advantages of LLLT are as follows:

There have been more than 2,500 published studies worldwide involving LLLT, with approximately 120 published double-blind studies published. Because LLLT uses red and near infrared light (600–1000 nanometers), the intensity of LLLT laser is not as high as a surgical laser and there is no heating effect.
The effects of LLLT are photochemical (like photosynthesis in plants). The laser helps the cell membrane allow nutrients to pass through and also aids in the production of ATP. Cells thus have more energy and are in optimum condition. The better condition the cell is in, the better it will be at healing.

The Benefits of Low Level Laser Therapy

Some benefits of LLLT are listed below:

  • Reduction of inflammation. It has been shown that LLLT reduces swelling. This leads to decreased pain and decreased stiffness. Therefore, your joints and muscles can return to normal function faster.
  • Cellular repair. LLLT helps your cells reproduce faster. The faster your cells reproduce, the faster you are able to heal.
  • Wound healing. LLLT increases fibroblast development, which causes collagen to form in damaged tissues and accelerates collagen synthesis in damaged tissue.
  • Blood flow. LLLT increases blood flow to the injured area.
  • Nerve function. LLLT causes nerve cell processes to speed up. This helps to decrease pain and numbness due to nerve-related conditions.
  • Pain relief. LLT inhibits the nerves related to the site of pain.

Lasers and Inflammation

Inflammation is best defined as a response of body tissues to injury or irritation characterized by pain, swelling, redness, stiffness, heat, and loss of joint function. When inflammation occurs normally, the body’s white blood cells release chemicals that protect the body from foreign substances. Sometimes, however, the white blood cells and their inflammatory chemicals can damage tissues and increase the blood flow to the area, which may result in redness and warmth. Some chemicals cause leakage of fluid into the tissues, resulting in swelling. The inflammatory process may stimulate nerves and cause pain, though sometimes only a few of the symptoms are present.
LLLT can be effective in mediating both the symptoms and the underlying inflammatory process. How does this work? It has to do with cell chemistry. Calcium, sodium, and potassium are all stabilized in the cell and can easily move into the mitochondria. Increased concentrations of these chemicals help to reduce swelling. The laser also helps increase the production of histamines, nitric oxide, and serotonin, which helps to transport nutrients and oxygen to damaged cells and remove cellular debris.
In addition to these functions, the laser also increases the number of capillaries near the site of the swelling. This results in improved circulation, which enhances the healing process.
The effect of these and other processes is an accelerated inflammatory cycle with diminished symptoms and earlier normalization.

LLLT Compared to NSAIDS

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are often prescribed as the primary treatment for inflammatory pain, which is most common with arthritis and injuries. NSAIDs, have many side-effects and lead to other health problems. Some of the more common side effects of NSAIDs include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rash
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Fluid retention
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Ulcers
  • Prolonged bleeding after an injury or surgery

If the deaths from gastrointestinal toxic effects of NSAIDs were tabulated separately in the National Vital Statistics Reports, these effects would constitute the fifteenth most common cause of death in the United States.

As a society, we need to demand more alternative therapies, such as LLLT, to address the inflammatory responses in the body. The significant profits that are seen from the overuse of NSAIDs and other drugs must stop. As people begin to take a greater, proactive, responsibility for themselves, they’ll learn more constructive and effective ways of keeping inflammation down and activity and function up.

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The Future of Sports Medicine

  • It is safe. The FDA considers LLLT to be without significant risk.
  • It is noninvasive. Unlike surgery, LLLT does not cut or invade the body. There is no damage to skin, tissue, or muscle, and thus, no recovery time after treatment.
  • It is non-toxic. Many physicians prescribe medications called NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for pain and inflammation. As with any drugs, NSAIDs have side effects, whereas LLLT has no toxic effects.
  • It is easily applied (see Figure 1). The therapy is quick, easy, and painless.