How Laser Therapy Treats Back & Neck Injuries
The spine is, well, the backbone of our bodies. If you’ve ever thrown out your back or had a crick in your neck, you know even minor injuries to your back can be painful and disrupt your daily activities. More severe injuries, like a herniated disc, or chronic conditions, like arthritis, can drastically affect our quality of life.
When it comes to alleviating back and neck pain, finding an option that treats the problem instead of masking the pain is essential.
Causes of Back & Neck Pain
Back and neck pain is one of the leading causes of disability in developed nations. The risk for pain and injury to the back or neck is present in most occupations due to improper form and posture, whether they are primarily sitting or standing occupations. Many sports, especially high-contact sports, present a higher risk for acute injury and pain developed from overuse. There are many causes, and a few main types of back and neck pain include:
Incorrect Posture & Overuse
Back pain is often caused by incorrect posture, whether from standing or sitting. Many individuals who primarily sit during their workday don’t have proper back support in their seating, whether it’s an office chair or a vehicle seat. Sitting incorrectly or in chairs not adequately adjusted for an individual’s height can take a toll on the back and neck, causing pain.
Additionally, using incorrect posture for activity can cause back pain. Proper form for sporting activities and lifting large or heavy objects is essential to reduce strain on the back. Individuals regularly moving heavy objects can develop pain over time, even when lifting correctly. Standing for long periods in unsupportive, uncomfortable, or worn-out shoes can also cause back pain.
Prevent back pain by adjusting chairs and car seats for your size to support your back properly, being mindful of your posture when lifting or carrying heavy objects, and wearing supportive shoes whenever possible.
Acute injury, such as a fall or motor vehicle accident, can cause lasting, chronic back pain even after the injury has healed. While accidents happen, taking precautions, being mindful of form and posture, and avoiding risky behaviors can prevent many acute injuries.
Arthritis, osteoporosis, and skeletal irregularities such as those caused by scoliosis can also cause back pain. Arthritis is often caused by the wearing away of connective and supportive tissues, which leads to bone rubbing against bone and causing pain. Osteoporosis primarily affects post-menopausal women and causes bones to become porous and brittle, which can lead to compression fractures in the vertebrae. Scoliosis is a condition that develops during adolescence in which the spine curves irregularly, but pain may not develop until later in life.
Treatments for Back & Neck Pain
Depending on the cause of the pain and its severity, treatments may differ. Generally, back pain is treated with one or a combination of the following:
- Medications: Over-the-Counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen are common starting points for treating back pain. Prescribed pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and topical pain relievers are also used to treat back pain.
- Injections: Cortisone injections are also used to relieve back pain, especially where medications haven’t helped and if the pain radiates down one leg.
- Physical Therapy: Using different therapies combined with special exercises, physical therapists can relieve pain and build strength.
- Chiropractics: Spinal manipulation by a chiropractor can help relieve back pain.
- Surgery: Surgery is only used in cases of severe pain that hasn’t responded to another treatment method.
Laser Therapy for Back & Neck Pain
Laser therapy is a treatment that utilizes specific wavelengths of red light to target inflammation and reduce pain. Red light targets the mitochondria of our body’s cells to increase cellular energy production. This helps with several natural responses to cellular damage:
Anti-inflammatory: Laser therapy increases inflammatory mediators to accelerate and resolve the natural inflammatory process and target enzymes that make inflammation worse.
Vasodilation: A temporary widening of blood and lymphatic vessels improves circulation, allows more nutrients to be delivered to an affected area, and aids in removing waste.
Decreased Bradykinin: Laser therapy reduces the production of the pain-eliciting chemical, bradykinin, normalizes ion channels, and releases endorphins for an analgesic (pain-reducing) effect.
Muscle Tissue Repair: Laser therapy stimulates cell proliferation, which helps repair and regenerate muscle more quickly.
Benefits of Laser Therapy for Back Pain
The back and neck can be particularly sensitive parts of the body, especially when they’re injured and you’re experiencing pain. Laser therapy is a painless, non-pharmacological treatment with no downtime. Most cases can be resolved in 6 weeks (acute) or 12 weeks (chronic), and after treatment, patients can return to their regular activities.
Additionally, laser therapy can be combined with spinal manipulation or physical therapy to help alleviate pain, build up strength, and improve range of motion. Physical therapy combined with laser therapy has been shown to be more effective than physical therapy alone.
Back pain is likely to affect most of us at some point in our lives. If you’re looking to add more services to your practice to help your patients struggling with back pain, Aspen Laser can give you the power and versatility you need to treat pain for every patient with our class IV laser therapy systems. Click the link below to learn more about our different laser series.
This blog was originally published in May 2020 and was last updated October 10, 2022.