Low level lasers have been used by doctors in hospitals and clinics in Europe on both humans and animals since the early 1970’s. The first studies reporting positive effects of laser on wound healing in rats were reported by the Hungarian researcher Andre Mester as early as 1968. Lasers have become more common in the veterinary field over the past ten years. The laser can speed healing time by one half to two thirds, reduce inflammation, provide pain relief, and improve body function in a variety of conditions.
Low level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is the use of low powered laser light to stimulate a biological process. The power of these lasers is a fraction of the surgical laser you may be more familiar with. Just as plants exposed to normal sunlight form the nutrients the plant needs in the process of photosynthesis, laser light stimulates the formation and release of the body’s own chemical compounds. The laser energy has a stimulating effect on tissues because it increases cellular energy. The laser light energy becomes absorbed by the tissues, stimulating their metabolic processes.
Laser treatment is simple and painless. It is similar to holding a flashlight close to the skin and shining the light on it. There is no sensation of pain, nor is there an increase in temperature from the laser. Most treatments take 5-10 minutes per region treated.
In simple terms, low level lasers increase blood flow by dilating blood vessels and stimulating formation of new capillaries. Lymphatic vessels are also dilated by the laser. Together, this speeds healing by delivering nutrients and oxygen, while enhancing removal of damaged cells and debris. Nerve growth is stimulated by laser light, and damaged nerves regenerate more quickly with treatment. Laser light also stimulates release of the body’s own pain killing chemicals such as endorphins and enkephalins.
One of the most common applications of laser therapy in veterinary medicine is musculoskeletal injury. The laser is effective in helping injured muscles heal more quickly, as well as improving the function of muscles that have been strained secondary to arthritis or other injury. Dogs recovering from orthopedic surgery benefit from laser treatment, as inflammation and pain are decreased while the circulation improves, speeding up healing. Incisional healing can also be accelerated by laser treatment.
Low level laser therapy can easily be integrated into veterinary care. Because treatment is painless and quick, even the most nervous animal can be easily treated. In fact, many animals feel more comfortable after just a few minutes of treatment. Depending on the condition, treatments may be needed every few days initially, then at a weekly or biweekly interval as healing progresses.
The low level laser is an effective therapeutic tool, working in harmony with the body’s own healing mechanisms. It is safe and, gentle, yet has a powerful effect on the body at the cellular level. It is suitable for a variety of problems and patients, and works well in conjunction with both conventional and alternative medicine.
Dr. Laurie Coger practices veterinary medicine with a natural focus at Bloomingrove Veterinary Hospital in Rensselaer. She has been using the low level laser since 2001. Visit www.theWholisticVet.com or contact Dr. Coger at 518-283-2700 for more information.