How Laser Therapy Helps You Recover From a Sports Injury
Sports are a fun way to stay active while spending time with your friends or family. Still, activity always poses a risk for injury—especially if you’re doing intense workouts or have previous injuries. While the long-term health benefits of playing sports and working out are far greater than the risk for injury, injuries still happen, and they can take us out of our favorite activities for a while to heal.
If you’ve experienced a sports or workout-related injury, you know there’s an emotional pain of not being able to play your sport on top of the physical pain. Laser therapy has been shown to help athletes—professional and recreational—reduce their pain from injury and heal soft tissue injury faster. Faster recovery = more playing time.
Laser Therapy for Common Athletic Injuries
While there are some pretty intense sports injuries, these are a few common ones, especially for recreational athletes, and how laser therapy can help treat them.
Subacromial Impingement Syndrome
This condition affects the rotator cuff, the tendons that connect muscles to bones in the shoulder joint. Inflammation and tearing of these tendons can result in pain and loss of mobility in the affected joint. This type of injury is common in swimmers and baseball players, primarily pitchers, and is often the result of overuse. You may have heard of “swimmer’s shoulder,” which refers to a rotator cuff injury.
This 2014 study found that laser therapy was an effective treatment for the pain caused by swimmer’s shoulder. The study compared laser therapy treatment to corticosteroid injections, another common pain relief method. While both effectively treat the pain, laser therapy is a painless experience where the handpiece is held over the body to administer the treatment—no needles involved.
This injury is common in runners and walkers and affects the thick band of connective tissue that attaches the heel to the toes. Pain and inflammation are experienced in the bottom of the foot, making standing and walking difficult.
This study, conducted on patients with chronic plantar fasciitis, included a treatment plan and 12 months of follow-up. They found that pain relief lasted for 12 months and remained well below the pain levels reported before treatment.
“Tendonitis” is a broad term used to describe inflammation of connective tissue between muscle and bone and is caused by overuse. Tendonitis is much different from arthritis, but the trouble spots are identical, such as the knees, hips, back, shoulders, wrists, and hands. Many types of tendonitis have a common name bearing the name of the sport or activity they often occur in, such as tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and jumper’s knee.
In fact, with the rise of esports and more communities built around online gaming, De Quervain’s tenosynovitis plagues esports players. De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is tendonitis that affects the tendons around the wrist and thumb, making playing online games with a keyboard or controller difficult. Because of its prevalence among the video gaming community, you may hear De Quervain’s tenosynovitis called “trigger finger.”
One benefit of laser therapy is the ability to treat just about every part of the body. A wider handpiece can treat large areas, and a tighter, more focused light beam can treat smaller areas, like the hands and wrists. Additionally, adjustable power outputs allow healthcare providers to customize treatment for each patient to achieve the proper depth of light penetration and energy delivered for any injury.
Played Too Hard? Laser Therapy for Post-Surgical Healing
With inflammation and discomfort caused by tendonitis, early treatment and support is key to avoiding further injury. Laser therapy combined with physical therapy and braces or inserts for support can help heal an injury before significant damage is done.
However, if you’ve let an injury progress too far or a sudden event causes a tendon to snap, surgery will be the only option to repair the damage. Recovery from major surgery can take a lot of time, especially since you’ll need to be extra careful for a while. Laser therapy helps with pain and inflammation following surgery.
Laser Therapy Treatment Plans
Laser therapy is a dose-dependent treatment, meaning the injury needs to be treated with the right amount of light energy over a period of time for multiple weeks. If you’re thinking about starting laser therapy to help with a sports-related injury, there are a few things you’ll want to know:
- Laser therapy sessions generally take between 3 and 20 minutes, depending on the affected area and corresponding dosage.
- For best results, it’s essential to have regular sessions for the duration of the treatment. Generally, there are 6 to 12 sessions in a treatment plan, and sessions are usually two or three times a week.
- Laser therapy treatments are generally painless. However, patients who’ve received laser therapy treatment over a tattooed area have reported sensitivity to the laser. Additionally, the laser can affect the color and clarity of the tattoo.
- You can resume regular activity after and between laser therapy treatments.
- Laser therapy combines well with physical therapy treatment plans for boosted outcomes.
Laser therapy is a pain-free option for relief and healing for sports injuries. With laser therapy on your treatment team, you can get back in the game faster and play more. Find an Aspen Laser professional near you to learn more about laser therapy for your specific injury and to get started.
This blog was originally published on October 14, 2019, and was last updated on March 1, 2022.