Last month, a long time Greenbriar regular began coming to me for laser therapy. He had begun to show signs of many classic older dog problems that materialized in weakness on his hind end, being unable to go up and down stairs, struggling to stand up from laying down, and generally losing his ability to get around well. Discussions had even been had about his quality of life and whether or not he was really happy anymore without being able to do so many things he’s always enjoyed, like our day camp program. At one of our trainer’s recommendations, he began coming in twice a week for laser therapy.
After just one treatment, his Mom was already seeing a huge difference in his comfort level and mobility. After the 2nd, she came to me and said, ” I don’t know what this laser does, maybe it’s voodoo magic, but he’s like a new dog. I’m even thinking he could go back to camp he’s getting around so much better!” Obviously, I was thrilled to hear this, and that reaction is why I do this at all. All of the struggles and heartache at lost patients and general road blocks in recoveries are all worth it in moments like that. Her comment also really got me thinking- do people really know how and why laser works? I mean, I understand it, but I’ve spent a lot of time studying and making sure I’m well versed in laser language. I have a little talk I give to new clients, explaining laser therapy and the basics of how and why it works, but owners have to agree to treatment generally before they find their way into my exam room. So This blog post is dedicated completely to explaining laser therapy. Simply saying, ” trust me, it works!” isn’t really a thorough explanation. So, here it goes!
As a reference for all of this information, I turned to “Laser Therapy in the Companion Animal Practice,” by Ronald J. Riegal, DVM.
First of all, cold laser therapy, also referred to as Photobiomodulation (say that five times fast), isn’t like the laser you see in a photocopier or the laser pointer professors favor in lecture halls. There are actually four classes of lasers. The classes break down like this:
– Class I: Laser printers and CD players. Under normal use and operation, they can’t cause any biological damage and are often invisible.
– Class II: These lasers fall into the visible range of light. Due to their bright red color, we often avert our eyes, so they don’t usually present a hazard. However, if looked at head on or for an extended period of time, damage to the eyes can occur. Bar code scanners would be a Class II laser.
– Class III: A Class III laser would cause a biological hazard if used improperly. It can even damage the eyes if seen in a reflection. The laser that comes from a laser level fall into this category.
– Class IV: Class IV lasers are reserved for the medical field. These lasers have the power to create serious change in tissues, whether is be cutting as with surgical lasers, or healing as with therapeutic. These lasers have no limit no limit on output power and therefore, it’s important to always have your eyes protected when you’re exposed to a laser.
Next, let’s cover what it is that these therapeutic lasers actually do. There are four things that happen when the laser is used. Photobiomodulation creates an increase in cellular health and energy through the release of photons, Photons contain this energy, and transfer is to the unhealthy cell. The way I explain this to clients, is that the laser produces a wavelength of light that our (and our pets) cells can use and convert into energy the same way a leaf absorbs and uses sunlight.
So, how does it work? Okay, the energy goes into the cell, that’s great. Then what? Why do this cells need that energy and we can’t just let them figure it out on their own? Well, we could. Because bodies do heal when left to their own devices, however there is a limit the bodies natural ability to heal quickly and relieve discomfort. Laser therapy defies these limits and and offer an incredible amount of relief for our bodies from painful situations.
The list of laser therapy effects is pretty impressive. Dr. Riegel defines at least 10 of them just in his book. Here are a few of them, broken down.
Pain relief- Laser therapy relieves pain in the treatment area. The laser stimulates the release of endorphins, or activate the an analgesic affect. laser also activates acupuncture points.
Inflammation reduction- Laser therapy “promotes lymphatic flow, reducing inflammatory edema. Edema, or abnormal fluid build up, causes discomfort for your pet.
Increases and accelerates tissue repair- This one is pretty straight forward, but laser therapy puts the energy into your pet’s cells that they need to heal and regenerate, increasing the speed with which cells can grow and repair.
Improves circulation: New capillaries are stimulated to form within the damaged tissues of your pets injury, and more blood flow means more healing!
Increases production of cellular activity- Basically, more cellular activity means the creation of healthy cells and in the long and short of it, healing.
Reduces scar tissue formation: By allowing wounds to heal faster, laser therapy reduces the formation of scar tissue, which can often be painful and uncomfortable in and of itself.
Improves nerve function: Laser allows nerve cells to regenerate at a faster and more efficient rate, getting your pet back to normal sensation and feeling and quality of life sooner rather than later.
Speeds wound healing- Laser therapy, or PBM, increases the production of fibroblasts, which essentially help build collagen, an essential element of tissue repair. With more collegan, tissues heal faster.
Stimulates accupuncture and “trigger points”- This gives your pet the benefit of acupuncture, immediate pain relief and stress reduction, without needles!
Alright. So basically, laser therapy, or PBM, “stimulates [your pet] to heal themselves.” All of the benefits of laser therapy are things that, as medical professionals, we have been hoping to be able to offer our patients. Thankfully, laser therapy has answered our prayers.
I hope that this information has cleared up some of the most common questions that clients often have when I start talking about laser therapy.
It’s difficult to explain sometimes, as not everyone can easily understand scientific terms and explanations (I know I can’t! Hello, liberal arts degree!). However, Dr. Riegal was able to break down the basic components and benefits of laser therapy in a way that I could even understand. It’s so important to me, and everyone here on Greenbriar’s rehab team, that you really understand why this is such a great option and plays a crucial part in your pets recovery from whatever ailment they may have been suffering from.
Still not convinced? Well, you’ll just have to see it to believe it 🙂
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