From placing a bag of frozen peas on your throbbing ankle to immersing yourself in a freezing cold plunge pool after a heavy workout, various forms of cold therapy are having their moment.
When something that produces a cold temperature hits our skin, it numbs the area. This constricts blood vessels and decreases circulation to the area, which then helps with swelling and reducing inflammation.
While cold laser therapy is slightly different from popping the contents of your fridge freezer onto parts of the body, it provides a really effective and consistent way to ease your pain over time.
Where cold laser therapy specifically excels, however, is through its power to heal. It offers pain relief, enhances tissue repair, and reduces inflammation. This then allows patients to experience increased mobility, faster recovery, and an enhanced quality of life.
Let’s delve into the practice of cold laser therapy, including key differences between other options, and how it can be used at home.
What is Cold Laser Therapy?
To put it simply, cold laser therapy is a treatment where low-level lasers or light-emitting diodes are applied to the surface of the body to achieve desired results.
To be more specific, the wavelengths used by cold laser therapy sit around 600 to 1000nm. These wavelengths are able to penetrate deep beneath the skin to deliver nutrients to our cells.
Cold laser therapy stimulates the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is the primary energy source for our cells. It also enhances the function of mitochondria, which are the energy-producing organelles within the cells. The increase of these two results in improved cellular repair and regeneration, which is advantageous for those coming back from an injury or simply looking to speed up the body’s natural processes after working out.
It’s said to enhance nitric oxide release too. This is involved in the regulation of blood flow and can have a vasodilatory effect, improving circulation and tissue oxygenation.
It’s a completely non-invasive therapy that usually causes no pain in the process or after application. However, some people may report a slight tingling sensation. This is merely caused by the increased circulation triggered by the laser.
Some people may know cold laser therapy by its alternative names: low-level laser therapy, low-power laser therapy, soft laser biostimulation, or photobiomodulation.
What does cold laser therapy do?
Cold laser therapy usually comes in the form of a device or machine that can beam wavelengths of light energy onto the skin. Its major purposes are to:
- Reduce pain
- Help swelling and inflammation go down
- Heal tissues
- Relax the muscles
- Improve circulation
- Enhance the body’s nerve function
- Modulate the immune system, helping to balance this where possible
Due to its abilities, it’s most commonly used in the following situations and for a range of medical conditions:
- Musculoskeletal conditions: Such as arthritis, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Soft tissue injuries: Including sprains, strains, and sports injuries.
- Chronic pain conditions: Such as fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome.
- Wound healing: To expedite the healing of wounds, ulcers, and burns.
- Dental applications: It’s used in dentistry for treating oral lesions and reducing pain after surgery.
To see whether cold laser therapy is appropriate for you, especially if trauma has been inflicted on your body or if you’re experiencing a condition that isn’t listed, consult with a medical professional to ask if this would be an appropriate therapy.
How do cold lasers work?
When the cold laser is applied to the skin, the particles of light that are emitted are absorbed by chromophores within the cells. Chromophores are molecules that can absorb specific wavelengths of light.
Once this has been consumed, the absorbed photons interact with enzymes and proteins in the mitochondria, leading to a series of biochemical reactions. As a result, the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is stimulated. This is the primary source of energy for cellular activities.
Effectiveness of cold laser therapy
The effectiveness of cold laser therapy will differ depending on personal factors and the condition being treated.
While some will experience instant relief, others may require more than a month to see the effectiveness along with the use of other treatments.
How many cold laser treatments do you need?
This depends on the power of the cold laser therapy device, but it typically only takes a few minutes for a treatment session. These sessions can be done up to four times a week and should be done for at least a month before gauging its effectiveness.
It will vary based on the condition you’re treating too and your body’s response. It’s essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to find the treatment plan for your specific needs.
Health benefits of cold laser therapy
There’s no denying that this form of therapy is innovative as it taps into the potential of certain light wavelengths that support our cells and natural healing processes. It brings many benefits as it’s a versatile tool for those looking to prioritize their well-being.
Cold lasers can precisely target the root causes of discomfort, which brings a higher chance of bringing that much-needed relief to individuals grappling with conditions like arthritis.
By penetrating deep into the affected tissues, it can work on alleviating joint pain, prompting improved mobility, and restoring a better quality of life.
As it’s non-invasive, there are no symptoms that you must overcome and no nasty complications - like you’d get with surgery or pharmaceuticals. It’s just focused on plain and simple pain relief.
Whether you’re experiencing DOMS, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, other joint-related pain, or any of the conditions listed above, cold laser therapy has demonstrated its potential for pain management and boosting overall well-being.
The beauty of treatments that use light to dive below the skin is the holistic effects it can have on our bodies. Cold laser therapy is no different, as there are notable benefits for skin health - mainly centered around rejuvenating and enhancing our appearance.
For instance, it can reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, leaving the skin much smoother and more youthful.
Research shows that cold laser therapy can repair UV damage and even prevent it, which is remarkable. It can improve skin pigmentation in conditions like vitiligo and reduce depigmentation by controlling the immune system.
Inflammatory skin problems like psoriasis and acne can further see improvements with this technology. Due to its non-invasive and low-risk nature, it makes for a promising option for dermatological treatment.
Improved wound healing
This therapy speeds up wound healing by having an incredible ability to stimulate cell repair and growth. As an example, it can help diabetic ulcers heal faster, reducing the risk of complications.
The treatment’s ability to improve circulation and tissue repair promotes better overall wound recovery. This works by the technology engaging the lymphatic system function by facilitating the targeted delivery of white blood cells. Simultaneously, it triggers the release of endorphins into the bloodstream, which is a natural pain relief solution.
The Pros and Cons of Cold Laser Therapy
Cold laser therapy offers many advantages, such as its non-invasive nature, minimal side effects, and the potential for pain relief and improved healing. But while it holds promise for various conditions, it may not be a one-size-fits-all solution, and individual responses can differ.
Painless and non-invasive
One of the most appealing aspects of cold laser therapy is its ability to offer pain relief and healing without invasive procedures. Imagine a treatment that is gentle on your body yet highly effective. Cold laser therapy accomplishes just that, making it a preferred choice for those seeking relief from pain and discomfort.
As your body’s cells absorb the energy it outputs, it sets in motion a cascade of events within the cell. This process is believed to lead to the normalization of damaged tissue, a decrease in pain, and an overall reduction in healing time by boosting the metabolism between cells.
At home treatment
Advancements in technology have made it possible to receive the benefits of cold laser therapy in the comfort of your own home.
At-home devices have become increasingly accessible, allowing you to integrate this therapy seamlessly into your daily life. However, there are some factors to consider when making a purchase.
Firstly, it’s important to note that laser devices can differ in their output, and some may not live up to their stated specification. It’s imperative to do some extensive research before buying a particular product. Consider researching the brand and device across the internet and social media.
If you’re able to, ask around about the product within relevant circles. If this isn’t possible, read through reviews on third-party websites (as reviews shown on the brand’s website could be carefully hand-picked) and see if there are any celebrity or athlete ambassadors. If so, watch their content about the device and read through any comments to see public opinion.
Secondly, once you’ve decided on the relevant product, carefully check the manual and guidelines as this should tell you everything you need to know to be successful in your cold laser therapy pursuits. Some therapies do require the use of eye protection, especially if you’re placing the device on your upper body, so check this before using it for the first time. It should describe the adequate usage times and how to properly use the device in the most effective way.
Cold laser therapy doesn’t work the same for everyone. The results can depend on several factors, including what condition is being treated. For example, cold laser therapy tends to work well for issues like tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and joint pain.
But everyone’s body is different and so the impact it has can change from person to person, especially if your condition is more severe than others. If so, don’t compare as the results will be unique to you.
Some people will experience instant much-needed relief, while others will have a more gradual improvement of symptoms from a month of consistent usage and onwards.
Relating to this, the number of sessions you have and how often you use the product will be a factor too. In many cases, you’ll need multiple treatments over a few weeks to get the best results.
Try to form a good habit of using the device as consistently as you can. To do so, factor the usage time into your daily routine and plan a specific time to do the treatment. This can help to prioritize the tool at the best time of the day for you. Ultimately, as with any treatment plan, missing sessions or being irregular can slow down or hinder your progress.
Cost and insurance
The cost of cold laser therapy varies depending on the provider, location, and treatment plan.
There are clinics worldwide that offer this service, but this requires attending in person to have the treatment.
Alternatively, purchasing a cold laser therapy is a one-off cost so it could save you money and time. You can then follow your recovery plan in an environment that you feel most comfortable in.
As for insurance, check with yoour provider and insurance company to understand your options, coverage, and potential costs.
Cold laser therapy FAQs
Is cold laser therapy safe?
If administered by a qualified healthcare professional, cold laser therapy is generally safe. The same can be said for home use, as long as you read through and follow the product booklet and guidance.
It’s non-invasive and doesn’t involve surgery or drugs, making it an attractive option for different conditions. If you do have any concerns around this, you should work closely with your healthcare provider to see if this is right for you.
What are the negative side effects of cold laser therapy?
This isn’t common, but side effects could include slight discomfort, skin irritation, or a temporary increase in your symptoms. These are rare and generally short-lived, making cold laser therapy a better choice than other treatments available on the market.
If, however, you are experiencing side effects, you should contant a medical professional.
What is the difference between laser therapy and cold laser therapy?
The main difference between laser therapy and cold laser therapy is the type of lasers used in the application of the treatment. Laser therapy typically involves high-power lasers for surgical or therapeutic purposes.
Cold laser therapy, on the other hand, uses low-level lasers for non-invasive treatments, making it a more gentle approach and less risky.
Many cold lasers below to Class 2 to 3b, meaning it doesn’t harm cell tissue. Instead, when used at low intensity, it has a rejuvenating effect on cell tissue. This phenomenon was first theorised by Albert Einstein!