A Guide to Different Wavelengths of Light in Laser Therapy
As the name suggests, laser therapy uses the power of light to cause beneficial changes in the body. The special light produced by laser therapy devices improves the way cells produce energy, which can speed healing, reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, treat certain skin conditions, and even promote healing in the brain after an injury. Laser therapy does not use just any light, though—these devices must emit specific wavelengths of light to cause the desired therapeutic actions in the body.
Light in Waves: A Breakdown of Light
Light radiates from its source in waves. Like an ocean wave, a light wave has a measurable height, length, and duration. Scientists measure wavelengths in nanometers (nm), and visible light measures 400 to 700nm.
Various wavelengths of light produce different colors. Many of these wavelengths are on the visible spectrum, which means they can be seen with the naked eye. Light with a wavelength of 400nm looks violet while light with a wavelength of 450nm looks blue, for example, and wavelengths of 650 to 700nm appear red in color.
Light wavelengths can be even larger than those on the visible spectrum. These wavelengths, known as infrared, range in size from 700nm to 1 millimeter (mm). The infrared wavelengths closest to visible light are known as near-infrared; this light features wavelengths measuring 800 to 2,500nm.
Light in Laser Therapy
While these wavelengths of light are invisible to the human eye, infrared light can cause changes in the human body. Laser therapy systems utilize specific wavelengths within this band of infrared light to trigger the various therapeutic effects, which can include:
- Reducing inflammation
- Long-lasting relief from joint and muscle pain
- Improved vascular activity for better blood circulation
- Increased metabolic activity, which optimizes the way cells convert food to energy and speeds the recovery of damaged tendons, ligaments, nerves, and muscles
- Optimized immune system function
- Improved nerve function and regeneration
- Faster healing of muscle tissue
- Accelerated wound healing and reduced formation of scar tissue
Having a customizable laser system allows providers to personalize treatment protocols for every patient they see. Customizable laser systems help medical providers treat patients more efficiently and effectively, provide clinics a better return on their equipment investment, and most importantly, give patients the results they desire.
Wavelengths Used in Laser Therapy
Laser light wavelengths measuring 600nm to 1000nm are in the “biological window,” which means the light can penetrate and spread into the tissues to affect cells. Wavelengths of less than 600nm or greater than 1000nm are not within the biological window because the skin’s pigments, hair follicles, blood, and water molecules block the light.
Laser light measuring 600 to 700nm penetrates about 1 to 2 centimeters into the skin. This light is most effective for treating skin problems and wounds. Wavelengths measuring 800 to 900nm penetrate more deeply, reaching 3 to 4 cm into the tissue. These wavelengths of light are used primarily for pain and tissue treatment.
An 810nm wavelength can help red blood cells do a better job of carrying oxygen from the lungs to body cells. Improving the delivery of oxygen can help regenerate damaged muscle and tendon tissue. A specific protein, known as hemoglobin, binds to oxygen. Exposure to 810nm wavelength causes the rapid activation of this binding process in a way that speeds healing and recovery.
Research shows that treating tissue with this wavelength of light therapy also promotes the healthy distribution of calcium, both in the liquid inside the cell and in the cell’s mitochondria. This calcium plays an important role in the cell’s activity, communication, and lifecycle.
The 980nm wavelength also affects the distribution of calcium by decreasing the amount of calcium within the mitochondria and increasing the calcium within the liquid of the cell. Stimulating cells with the 980nm wavelength laser therapy helps ease pain, stimulate circulation, and enhance muscle relaxation.
At 1064nm, this light wavelength penetrates into deeper tissue than either 810nm or 980nm wavelengths. This means the laser light activates metabolic processes in tissues unreachable by other light wavelengths.
The 1064nm wavelength provides more penetration into deep tissue. Studies show that at 1064nm, there is less dispersion in the biological tissue because there is a decreased amount of melanin absorption. That deep penetration means activation of the metabolic process in deeper tissue.
The Right Laser Therapy System for Your Clinic
Some laser therapy devices offer only a limited range of light wavelengths. While these units are relatively inexpensive, they provide exceptional therapeutic power for a wide variety of health problems and medical conditions.
Advanced laser therapy devices feature multiple wavelengths, forever changing how healthcare professionals treat pain and injuries. Our Apex Laser System Series features Tri-Wave technology and combines 810nm, 980nm, and 1064nm wavelengths for maximum versatility. These advanced systems allow providers to treat multiple conditions without having to change devices, which saves time and money. They are also customizable, which means practitioners can provide individualized treatments for each patient they see.