Applications

Given the above effects, the list of applications for laser therapy seems endless: speed up wound repair and other tissue healing (injuries: spasms/sprains/strains/bone fractures), relieve pain and inflammation (including arthritis, disc disease, and dental disease or extraction sites), and reduce swelling and edema (1,2,3). Another exciting area of benefit is the use of laser light energy to stimulate acupuncture points instead of the microdamage caused by acupuncture needles. Although this topic is so broad as to require another article, one theory is that the cellular energy produced as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) acts as a chemical messenger that can affect nerves, reducing pain and stimulating acupuncture pathways (2).

Contraindications

Of course, laser is not the magical panacea for every condition or every patient. Since laser accelerates cell growth, use in rapidly growing tissues such as reproductive organs (ovaries/testicles), endocrine glands (eg. thyroid), pregnant uterus, tumors, and over open growth plates is not recommended (1,2,3). In fact, laser is well-known to accelerate fracture healing, so it is of definite concern over open growth plates and cranial sutures and could lead to premature closure and subsequent limb deformities. Other contraindications include direct use over pacemakers or electronic implants (1). Eye protection should be used with Class 3B and higher to avoid damage to retinas leading to visual impairment (1,2,3). Caution should be used in animals on photosensitizing or immunosuppressive medications (steroids, tetracyclines, antifungals), over tattoos (due to absorption of the energy by the ink and subsequent heating) or areas of reduced sensory perception, around areas of hemorrhage, and in patients with meningitis, encephalitis, or other seizure disorders (1,2,3).