Laser Therapy for Pain Management
Certain chronic health conditions can cause chronic pain. There is no cure for many chronic conditions, so managing pain becomes a daily task for many people. Some patients resort to taking pain medications, which can seriously affect their health and quality of life. Fortunately, laser therapy can help manage pain without using risky drugs.
Pain is one of the ways that your body tells you that there is something wrong. Specifically, your nervous system tells you that cells or tissue in your body are injured and that you need to take action. Your brain, spinal cord, and nerves are the primary components of your nervous system. Your brain sends messages through your spinal cord to tell your muscles to move, for example. The cells and tissues of your body can also send messages of pain to your brain.
Injured cells can also release chemicals that cause inflammation and pain. Bradykinin is one such chemical — it tells the nervous system to send pain messages to your brain. This chemical can also speed up the pace at which pain messages reach your brain.
The discomfort from pain can range in severity from mild and easy to tolerate to severe and debilitating. Doctors often categorize pain as acute or chronic: Acute pain is temporary and goes away on its own, while chronic pain lasts three months or longer and can be tough to manage.
Doctors sometimes prescribe strong pain relievers to treat pain, especially if the pain is chronic and debilitating. Certain painkillers, known as opioids, deliver effective pain relief but are also associated with addiction, overdose, and even death. Over-the-counter drugs, such as acetaminophen, are safer but may not provide adequate pain relief for acute pain. Even these medications can cause long-term problems when treating chronic pain. Non-pharmacological pain management techniques, such as laser therapy, provide complete relief without side effects or complications.
Laser Therapy for Pain Management — Without the Use of Drugs
Laser therapy helps alleviate acute pain, such as post-surgical healing. Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) boosts cellular activity to help cells repair themselves or improve cellular function to speed recovery. Laser therapy does this by stimulating the cell’s mitochondria, also known as the “powerhouse of the cell.” Stimulating the mitochondria boosts energy production within the cells — armed with extra energy, cells affected by surgery can heal faster.
In addition to giving your cells an energy boost, laser therapy improves blood circulation. Blood brings oxygen, fluids, and tissue-healing compounds, speeding up tissue healing.
Laser therapy is a painless approach to pain management and also relieves inflammation or swelling. Inflamed tissue presses against nerve endings, and this pressure causes the nerves to send pain signals to the brain. Laser therapy alleviates pain by reducing swelling.
The same effects to relieve acute pain also diminish chronic pain without the side effects or risks of taking pain medications for months. This makes laser therapy a safer alternative to opioids or other strong analgesics, especially with long-term use.
Laser therapy is effective for pain and discomfort associated with scarring. Scar tissues develop due to trauma to the skin or other tissues deeper within the body. When tissue heals, collagen proteins accumulate to stimulate new tissue growth. Typically, collagen fiber cells align to form a neat lattice that bends and stretches like normal skin. These collagen fibers are sometimes misaligned, so they do not stretch or bend normally, which can cause pain. Laser therapy can promote the reorganization of collagen fibers to ease pain from scar tissue.
Laser Therapy Treats Pain from Various Conditions
Laser therapy can reduce pain caused by several health conditions, such as:
A condition that causes chronic pain all over the body, sleep problems, fatigue, and mental distress and requires typically long-term use of analgesics. Laser therapy provides relief from fibromyalgia without the use of medications.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Caused by pressure against the median nerve, carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the arm and hand. Laser therapy helps reduce pressure against the nerve.
The high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can cause long-term nerve damage, resulting in diabetic neuropathy.
Acute and chronic inflammation
Inflamed tissue can press against nerves to cause pain. Laser therapy reduces both acute and chronic inflammation to decrease pain.
Repetitive motions can lead to overuse injuries, such as tendinitis, runner’s knee, tennis elbow, arthritis, and other conditions that affect the joints, especially those in the hand and wrist.
For more information about laser therapy for pain management, consult with your doctor, physical therapist, or trainer. The sooner you start laser therapy, the faster you can return to your routine, pain-free, active lifestyle.
This blog was originally published on January 24, 2022, and was last updated on March 30, 2023.