What Is Laser Therapy?

Low Level Laser Therapy (or LLLT) is a form of light therapy. Together with LEDs, light therapy is now known as Photobiomodulation (or PBM). Most LLLT is in the visible to infrared wavelengths (400 nm to 1072 nm).

What Can LLLT Treat?

Laser light has been used for over 40 years as a treatment for a number of conditions. Laser was used in the 1970s to treat the radiation ulcers from the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Over the years there have been many clinical trials and laboratory and animal studies that have shown the effectiveness of LLLT for many diseases and conditions. LLLT has been shown to effectively:

  • treat acute and chronic pain
  • promote wound healing and treat wound infections
  • treat ulcers, including oral ulcers and chemotherapy ulcers
  • relieve muscle fatigue
  • treat sports injuries, promote tendon repair and remodel collagen
  • reduce tinnitus
  • reduce arthritic pain
  • rejuvenate skin and treat skin conditions such as vitiligo and psoriasis
  • treat tendonopathies, fibromyalgia neuralgia
  • reduce swelling and edema
  • reduce dental pain and accelerate tooth movement during orthodontics
  • treat headaches
  • treat macular degeneration

There is also some tantalizing evidence from the laboratory and animal models that LLLT might be useful in a number of other conditions such as: 

  • treatment of cardiac disease
  • ischemic stroke
  • neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease 

learn more about scientific studies into laser treatments >

How does LLLT work?

LLLT has a number of primary effects in cells, produced by phtostimulation and photochemical effects. In other words, the light is absorbed by photoreceptive molecules, which then trigger chemical responses in the cells. Light is known to be absorbed by cytochrome C oxidase in the mitochondria as well as porphoryns, flavins and various melanin and opsin molecules. The range of responses in cells include:

  1. increased ATP production learn more >
  2. retrograde mitochondrial signalling learn more >
  3. nitric oxide synthase (NOS) modulation learn more >   
  4. modulation of inflammatory cytokines learn more >
  5. modulation of growth factors and cell signalling molecules learn more >
  6. modulation of  cytoskeleton molecules, especially in nerve cells learn more >

What wavelengths and dose parameters are used?

The wavelength that is used is very dependent on the condition that is to be treated.

The dose is dependent on the whether the treatment is superficial or lies deep.

it is also important to remember that laser therapy has a biphasic dose response, where increasing laser dose results in an increased effect but only up to a certain point. After this maximum, an increased dose evokes no response or even a negative effect. This is the so-called "dose window". learn more >

The World Association of Laser Therapists (WALT) have published dose guidelines.

Want to Learn More?

To learn more about how to treat using LLLT, as well as wavelength and dose, the Australian Medical Laser Association (AMLA) runs introductory and advanced laser courses.

learn more >