BioFlex Light Therapy
Pain and injuries can be frustratingly slow to heal. If you have tendonitis, back pain, or even surgical wounds, many factors can slow the healing process, such as less-than-ideal eating habits, lack of sleep, even chronic stress. All of these factors contribute to inflammation that causes pain and slow healing, and even increases your risk for heart disease.
What Causes Inflammation?
Inflammation is a process by which the body heals. If there is injury or illness present, the body’s immune system will begin a chemical cascade that causes swelling, redness, heat, and soreness in a particular area. This phenomenon is most obvious when it happens close to the skin where we can see and feel it, such as when someone falls and bumps a part of their body, such as their shin. The swelling and redness can quickly become obvious. While our instinct is to suppress inflammation, such as with ice or anti-inflammatory medicines, inflammation is actually critical to the healing process in the acute stages. If however, inflammation persists for a long time, it can do more harm than good.
One of the major factors behind heart disease is inflammation, where damage to the blood vessel walls causes an inflammatory response as the body tries to heal itself; inflammatory chemicals are sticky and attract other substances, and a plaque is formed from cholesterol in the blood. If this plaque becomes large enough, it can block an artery and cause a heart attack or stroke. Antioxidants in our healthiest, most colourful foods help to fight inflammation, as does lowering stress, exercise, sweating, laughing, getting good quality sleep, and a host of other healthy activities.
Inflammation can also happen to our internal organs as well. Infection creates whole-body inflammation, which creates symptoms of fever, body aches, malaise, chills, fatigue, headaches and loss of appetite. Autoimmune diseases are also highly inflammatory. In these diseases, the immune system becomes confused and, instead of attacking a virus, it attacks a part of the body instead, such as the kidneys, thyroid, joints, even the blood vessels. These attacks damage the tissue and result in inflammation, which can be very painful. If you know someone who has rheumatoid arthritis, you might see that their joints, such as their knuckles, may be painful and swollen. This swelling is the result of an inflammatory autoimmune disease.
There are other reasons why inflammation can persist longer than necessary. An injury can last a long time because we don’t give it enough time to heal and return to full activity too soon. This often happens with athletes who are eager to get back to their sport. Chronic, repetitive motions, such as those done during someone’s job or someone’s sport can also cause or worsen injury. Muscle imbalances from very specific sport or job-related movements can cause injuries which are slow to heal. The lifestyle factors mentioned above can also contribute to poor injury healing.
The Science of Low Level Laser Therapy
One effective way to combat local inflammation is through laser therapy. While some medical lasers use heat to target tissue, cold laser, or Low Level Laser, has distinct advantages.
By using light wavelengths, the laser gently stimulates the tissue and increases healing. The laser restores the tissue’s original function, which helps to reduce pain and swelling, increase flexibility and improve function of the tissue.
When an injury occurs, multiple processes happen within the body, tissue, and cell to promote healing. The laser accelerates the body’s natural healing process. Endorphins and cortisol are released by the body in the short term to control pain. However, energy production in the cell is increased over the medium and long term to jump start the cell’s healing process. ATP and DNA, the body’s energy and genetic compounds, are increased to increase tissue production. Nerve conduction is also boosted by the increased secretion of nerve chemicals acetylcholine and serotonin. The cell’s energy factories, also known as mitochondria, are stimulated to help repair the damaged cell and create new cells that have died as a result of injury. These natural healing responses are accelerated by laser.
The laser emits light, but not heat, which penetrates the skin and reaches the deeper layers of tissue. The can reach 2-5 centimeters below the skin’s surface. Each cell in the body’s tissue responds differently to different levels of light. Scientists are not yet entirely sure of the exact healing mechanism that is triggered by laser, but they hypothesize that when cells absorb light from the laser, the energy production increases and the healing potential of the cell is stimulated. As a result of the laser, the damaged cells in the tissue therefore heal faster than they normally would, and proper tissue function is restored.
The laser triggers the following tissues to heal:
- Blood Vessels – getting blood flow to tissues helps to clear inflammation byproducts and get proper nutrients to the cells. Increased blood flow to an injured tissue is critical for helping it heal, and injured blood vessels can compromise proper blood flow. Laser can help these blood vessels heal and re-establish proper blood vessel networks.
- Cartilage – this is the tissue that lies between your bones in your joints. There are different types of cartilage for different joints and different movements. When cartilage breaks down, such as in arthritis, the resulting inflammation from the bones of the joint rubbing together is very painful. Increasing the rate of cartilage production in the joint, typically by increasing collagen, can help provide relief in arthritis conditions.
- Bone – while the laser is not approved to treat fractures, and patients should absolutely see an orthopedic specialist for any broken limb. However, bone is made up of collagen, and collagen production is stimulated by laser. Bone relies on a network of tissue that is constantly being broken down and rebuilt, and laser can restore the healing process.
- Collagen – collagen is the main building block of muscle, tendons, ligaments, skin, and other tissues. It provides the matrix skeleton on which tissue can form. Stimulating collagen production is not just a cosmetic procedure. In fact, it can help you heal from injury. Collagen must also be properly set in a specific pattern to prevent scar formation.
- Nerves – nerve damage can occur from trauma, surgery, nutrient deficiencies, and even other diseases like diabetes. Increasing growth factors in the nerve cell can help promote growth and recovery of neurons.
- Muscles – muscle fibres can get strained or otherwise damaged or weakened if they are not used daily at their regular strength. Injury can cause muscles to atrophy, and laser can help to stimulate them not only to heal, but to promote growth of muscle tissue to bring them back to original strength.
What Conditions is the Laser Effective In Treating?
The BioFlex laser has FDA approval to treat pain conditions and wounds. By promoting cellular healing, Lower Level Laser therapy reduces pain and inflammation for the following conditions:
- Sports injuries, such as tendonitis, pain from ligament sprains, muscle damage such as strains and tears
- Osteoarthritis, which is a gradual degeneration of joint cartilage that causes painful inflammation
- Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints, reducing cartilage and causing inflammation
- Spine problems, such as neck pain, bulging or herniated discs
- Rotator cuff injuries which affect the shoulder. There are many delicate muscles that are easily injured in the rotator cuff of the shoulder, which may require surgery if severe enough.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome, which is caused by inflammation in the tendons of the wrist, causing pain and nerve compression symptoms such as tingling and numbness. This condition is often caused by poor ergonomics when using the computer.
- Tennis/golfer’s elbow, resulting from damage to either the medial or lateral epicondyles of the elbow. The elbow’s epicondyles, which is simply a name for bony protrusion, are an anchor point for a host of tendons that flex or extend the wrist. You do not need to play golf or tennis to get these conditions, but they are commonly seen in overuse injuries, which are common in tennis players and golfers.
- Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome that involves specific pain points on the body. These points can be targeted by laser to relieve pain.
- Ulcers and other lesions can be slow to heal, depending on their cause. From bruises to surgical scars to ulcers, speeding healing time can reduce the likelihood of infection.
- Shingles, an incredibly painful disease, is the result of an infection by a member of the herpes family of viruses. Related to chicken pox, shingles creates painful blister-like lesions along a specific line of the body. Even after the infection has cleared, post-shingles nerve pain can persist even a year after infection. Laser can help heal the damaged nerves that cause so much suffering after shingles.
What is it Like to Receive BioFlex Laser Treatment?
The laser is operated by one of our therapists, who uses the handheld device to point the small laser at the affected area for several seconds to several minutes, depending on the patient’s needs. The laser itself is not painful to receive, nor will the patient feel any heat.
Laser is advantageous in that is does not require medication or surgery, is low-risk and easy to provide. There is little recovery time involved. Apart from some short term pain or tenderness that may arise from treating old injuries, there is very little risk to laser treatment when used effectively by a trained therapist. This minor aggravation should resolve in a matter of a few days.
The ideal laser treatment schedule will be determined by your practitioner, but more frequent treatments multiple times per week has been found to be beneficial. It can take many treatments to see an appreciable response, but it’s worth it to have tissue level healing instead of relying on anti-inflammatory medications to blunt the body’s natural pain and healing response.
Treatment by BioFlex laser is not covered by OHIP, but it is covered as a modality under extended health benefits coverage when it is performed by a licensed physiotherapist, massage therapist, or chiropractor.
We highly recommend that you compliment your hands-on treatment by one of our manual therapists, such as our chiropractor, osteopath, or massage therapist, with a laser treatment to accelerate the therapeutic effects. Both methods of healing work together to help you get out of pain faster and both assist the body’s healing in different ways.