What Is a Therapeutic Laser?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A therapeutic laser provides low intensity energy for use in the treatment of chronic pain, circulatory conditions, and muscle injuries. It is part of a family of related products sometimes known as cold lasers or low intensity laser therapy equipment. Clinical studies on the use of therapeutic lasers have turned up variable results on their efficacy. Some clinicians find them useful in practice and may recommend them to clients with specific medical issues. Coverage under insurance and other benefits policies depends on the product and how it is used.

Laser acupuncture requires no puncturing of the skin.
Laser acupuncture requires no puncturing of the skin.

These products differ from the lasers used in surgery, dermatological treatment, and other clinical applications which provide an immediate and demonstrable medical benefit. In surgery, for instance, lasers can help surgeons handle incisions more rapidly, cleanly, and safely. Therapeutic lasers penetrate the skin and underlying soft tissue with low energy that may stimulate certain cellular processes. Patients in some trials have responded well to laser therapy, while others have been less conclusive.

Therapeutic laser treatment uses low intensity lasers to treat pain, inflammation and circulation issues.
Therapeutic laser treatment uses low intensity lasers to treat pain, inflammation and circulation issues.

Research on the use of therapeutic laser products suggests that they may stimulate circulation. This can promote healing in patients with injuries, including surgical sites. Doctors may integrate a therapeutic laser into treatment for a patient with bruising, lacerations, and other injuries. The increased circulation can help the body clear the injury more quickly and with less pain.

Other uses can include the management of pain and inflammation, particularly in patients with chronic medical issues of this nature. Therapeutic laser therapy is used for treatment of conditions like arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and ankle injuries. The laser appears to relax the muscles, which can ease tension and soreness and can relieve pain. Treatments may be recommended to supplement other therapy, and can be used in conjunction with treatments like acupuncture. Care providers may use a laser to stimulate key pressure points, for example, to help a patient who does not tolerate acupuncture well.

In practices where therapeutic laser therapy is available, medical professionals can discuss whether it would be a good option for the patient, and how the treatments may be performed. During therapy patients need to lie still and may be directed to wear eye protection or look away to protect their eyes from laser injury. Sessions are typically brief and should not cause pain or discomfort. Many devices are cold and do not create sensations of heat or burning that people might ordinarily associate with the use of lasers.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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