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Low Level Laser Therapy

Fifty years ago lasers were discovered, and by 1967 their use in medicine became evident.  Different from heat generating cutting lasers used in surgery, low level laser therapy (LLLT) is a safe and effective non-invasive method of healing.  Gaining more and more acceptance in mainstream medicine, LLLT has a wide array of applications.

LLLT, also known as photobiomodulation, delivers light energy to cells and influences how they operate.  It is thought that the mitochondria inside cells are the principle target exhibiting photoreceptors.  When photobiomodulation happens, there is an increase in adenosine triphosphate (ATP), creation of reactive oxygen species, an increase of intracellular calcium and a release of nitric oxide.  These events effectively give the cell more energy and promote healthier cellular respiration.

Because mitochondria are like power generators, their job is to produce ATP, cellular fuel.  One of the main components of the electron transport chain in the mitochondria is sensitive to photonic exposure and is considered a main chromophore, a light sensitive complex.  This chromophore, cytochrome c oxidase (CCO), interestingly contains two copper and two iron centers.  This reminds us how critical our metals are in cellular metabolism.

Secondary effects involve gene expression, cell longevity, and cell protection.  The latest research in this field of photobiomodulation shows relevance in sports medicine, opthamology and neurology.

LLLT is being used to produce significant recover after ischemic stroke. (Lampl, 2007; Oron, 2006)  The treatment is used transcranially.  The beneficial effects may be due to stimulation of new blood vessels, neuronal migration and other neuro protective effects.

LLLT is being studied with relevance to traumatic brain injury.  It is thought that a reduction of inflammation and an upregulation of cell protective enzymes like super oxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidise help reduce long-term brain damage.

Degenerative neurological disease is showing promise with LLLT.  LLLT improved mitochondrial function and axonal regrowth in cases of Parkinson’s disease (Trimmer, 2009), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Moges, 2009) and spinal cord injury (Rochkind, 1988).

LLLT is just coming on the scene in preventative and restorative medicine.  It has yet to take its rightful place, soon not to be overshadowed by pharmaceuticals, especially since LLLT has no reports of adverse effects.  I would like to see LLLT positioned as an adjunct to other proven therapies in order to maximize recovery.