When someone says laser treatment, most people think about a cutting laser. For example one used to perform laser eye surgery. But there are different types of lasers. Veterinarians use cutting laser for surgery. They help to decrease the bleeding while in surgery and seem to decrease the pain associated with the surgery. But what about other types of lasers? Veterinarians are starting to use what is called a therapeutic laser or a cold laser. This type of laser doesn’t cut through the skin but releases low wavelengths of light into tissue. This is common use for post surgical patients, arthritic patients, or to treat chronic problems.
One of the ways cold therapy works is for post surgical patients. This means after they have undergone surgery, the area is treated with the laser to help the tissue and incision heal faster. For example in patients who have a knee surgery to repair what is equivalent to our ACL (Anterior Cruciate ligament). This surgery usually needs to manipulate the knee and can be very invasive. The surgeon enters the joint and must cut through muscles. The laser is used after the patient is finished with surgery to help stimulate the cells to heal faster and decrease the pain to area.
Another use for laser therapy is in arthritic patients. The light wavelengths in the laser again stimulate the cells within the body. It helps them to repair and function well. The laser also stimulates blood flow to the area that is being treated. This is not a cure for arthritis, but it helps to relieve some of the pain associated with arthritis. Patients seem to move better and have less pain after just a few treatments. This is a very simple and non-invasive treatment that has good results. Patients come into the clinic for a 10 minute treatment and then they are good to go again.
At the start of the laser protocol, the treatments are more often. Usually every day for 2-3 days and then two to three times a week and then a couple times a month. This is all dependent on the reason for the treatments and how the patient responds. For post surgical patients it is common to do every day for the first 2-3 days after surgery if possible and then twice the next week. Where with arthritic patients we have a longer protocol as it is a chronic condition. More frequent treatments in the beginning help stimulate the cells and encourage more blood flow from the beginning and then it can be maintained with less frequent treatments.
This is still a fairly new option to Veterinarians. It isn’t used as much as it could be, but is becoming more common. This is such a good way to help patients that is non-invasive, easy, and not very time consuming after the initial treatments. The only protective equipment needed is for those involved in the treatment to wear special glasses while the treatment is in progress. It is hopefully something we will start to see more of in the future.