I get asked this question all the time by patients. And when I treat athletes at the LADABC Fantasy Camp (with retired Dodger and Angel legends), I always get a strange look from players and trainers when they come over with a hamstring or ankle injury and I go right for my laser before the ice.
Same thing when a high school or college athlete comes in on crutches. I can see the subtle snicker or that they think I’m a little crazy when I pull out my laser, which looks like a bar code scanner or laser leveler, and start to use it on their ankle sprain.
However, when they walk out with less pain and better range of motion, they know I wasn’t crazy, but it still looks like “voodoo” to them.
Well, now there are some studies that show that there actually is a method to my madness, and that it is supported by these studies.
In general, we think of using ice first because it decreases inflammation, pain, and swelling, and not starting with heat until 48 hours have passed. But a recent study has found something that really surprised me.
In the March 2014 edition of Lasers in Medicine and Surgery, they actually found that Cold Laser was superior to both ice and topical medications for acute (fresh) injury. Here is the link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23812849
They measured the amount of inflammatory molecules, interleukin-1β and interleukin-6 (IL-1β and IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), immediately after injury, and then after treatment with either ice, topical medication, or cold laser.
Only cold laser decreased the levels of these inflammatory molecules. Ice and topical medication did not.
So what does this mean for you? Well, it doesn’t mean not to use ice or topical creams, as those do decrease pain. But if you are an athlete or want to heal much faster, adding in cold laser will actually have a greater impact than either ice or topical creams.
In my office, when I treat sports injuries or auto accidents, we always get them on a laser ASAP because it rapidly increases their healing rate. We have noticed that patients that get laser usually get better 30 to 50% faster than those who choose not to receive cold laser for their acute injuries.
This study in the May 2014 edition of Lasers in Medicine and Surgery found that cold laser also had a positive impact on neutrophils and macrophages in acute injuries. Here is that study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24173911
When you add in the other studies that show lasers stimulate the formation of new cells, increase ATP (energy production) in cells, increase glutathione (antioxidants), and improve circulation, cold lasers are being shown to be very important for athletes, weekend warriors, and auto accident victims who want to get better faster.
Additionally, Cold Laser has been shown to even Enhance Sports Performance and even Protect Against Injuries and Inflammation. You can read about that by clicking the link.
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I could not imagine treating injuries today without cold lasers, as that would be like riding a bike to get to work when I could teleport there instead…
As always, please consult with your personal physician before trying any of the methods discussed in this article. This article is not intended to provide a diagnosis or offer a treatment plan or medical advice for any condition.