Laser Therapy & Shockwave Therapy: What To Know
Pain and inflammation can negatively affect your quality of life. If you are like most people with pain and inflammation, you want a non-invasive and drug-free treatment that is safe and effective. 78% of Americans would rather try a drug-free approach to addressing their physical pain, according to the Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic Annual Study of Americans.
Fortunately, advances in medical technology have created new ways to address pain and inflammation without the need for risky drugs or invasive surgical procedures. Laser therapy and shockwave therapy are two drug-free and non-invasive approaches that bring meaningful relief to those with pain and inflammation. Before choosing one of these advanced therapies, learning about laser and shockwave therapy is always helpful.
What You Need To Know About Laser Therapy
Laser therapy is a type of photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) that uses light’s therapeutic power to cause beneficial cellular changes. Specifically, laser therapy devices emit specific wavelengths of light that stimulate chemical reactions within the body. These chemical reactions increase the health and energy of the treated cells.
Laser therapy treats several conditions, including:
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle strains
- Neck pain
- Lower back pain
- Ligament sprains
- Knee pain
PBMT can deliver red and near-infrared light deep into musculoskeletal tissue to treat muscle pain at its source. Deep muscle treatment can speed recovery, improve the function of nerves, and even stimulate your immune system.
Deep tissue lasers emit light at specific wavelengths to promote different effects. Scientists discuss these wavelengths in nanometers; one nanometer (nm) equals one-thousand millionths of a meter. Deep tissue lasers usually emit one of three wavelengths to create different therapeutic effects:
- 810nm wavelength stimulates oxygen delivery to help muscles and tendons regenerate
- 980nm to ease pain, improve blood circulation, and enhance muscle relaxation
- 1064nm that activates metabolic processes in deep tissue
Laser therapy also treats health conditions that cause inflammation, such as:
- Many types of arthritis, including fibromyalgia
- Musculoskeletal injuries, including sprains and dislocations
- Tendonitis from repetitive movements
Laser therapy may be right for you if you have any of the above conditions and want a drug-free approach to pain relief and inflammation.
There are several types of laser systems, classified according to their power and settings, such as continuous wave, pulsed and super-pulsed. Lasers of a higher power can penetrate more deeply into the body than a lower-power laser, so a high-powered laser is more appropriate for deep muscle or bone pain. In contrast, a low-powered laser is better for the less-dense regions of the hands and wrists.
The FDA classifies lasers according to the potential harm the laser may cause if misused, especially to the skin and eyes.
What You Need To Know About Shockwave Therapy
Shockwave therapy, sometimes known as shock wave therapy or extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), is another type of non-invasive treatment. Instead of light waves, though, the shockwave therapy device emits high-energy pulses of sound waves. These sound waves move so fast that they break the sound barrier to create a shock wave.
When delivered to soft tissue, it can reduce pain and promote healing. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine say that shockwave therapy is appropriate for patients with conditions that do not respond to rest, ice, orthotics and braces, therapeutic exercise, and other treatment types but are not yet ready for more invasive options or surgery.
ESWT effectively treats chronic tendinopathy, for example, which is a painful, long-term condition that causes inflammation of the tendons that connect muscles to bones. Tendinopathy often develops when overuse puts repeated strain on a tendon until tiny tears occur. The condition occurs most commonly in the shoulder, wrist, knee, shin, and heel.
Shockwave therapy is effective for treating tendinopathies affecting medium- to large-sized tendons and the area in which the tendons connect to bones. These conditions may include:
- Plantar fasciitis: affects the tissue that connects the heel to the toe
- Achilles tendinopathy: causes pain in the Achilles tendon connecting the heel to the calf
- Retrocalcaneal bursitis: causes inflammation in the bursa, or cushioning sac between the heel bone and the Achilles tendon
- Medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow)
- Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
- Patellar tendinosis (jumper’s knee)
- Calcific tendonitis: occurs when calcium builds up in the tendons or muscles
- Morton’s neuroma: thickening of the tissue around one of the nerves near the toes, which causes sharp, burning pain in the ball of the foot
- Chronic stress/non-union fractures: a broken bone that does not heal
Research shows that shockwave therapy can relieve pain and improve functionality and quality of life in people with various types of tendinopathy.
Laser therapy and shockwave therapy are drug-free, non-invasive approaches to relieving pain and decreasing inflammation. For more information on these therapies, consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.