Lasers are a part of everyday life, whether we realize it or not. They can also be of great benefit to our equine partners, thanks to a modality called cold laser therapy.
Cold laser therapy goes by several other names, including low level laser therapy (LLLT), soft laser therapy (as opposed to the hard lasers used in surgical procedures), and low power laser therapy. In some circles, it’s referred to as therapeutic laser therapy, to differentiate it from thermal or surgical lasers. Whatever name is used, the goal is always the same – to heal.
What it is
The word “laser” stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Cold lasers supply energy to the body in the form of non-thermal (non-heatproducing) photons of light. This light is transmitted through the skin and fat layers of the body and has the unique property of being able to penetrate two inches or more, causing an increase in cellular metabolism which in turn assists in healing. It does not cause or produce any heat.
When cold laser light waves penetrate deeply into the tissue, they optimize the immune responses of the blood. This results in both anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects.
Is it safe?
Lasers do not emit x-rays, nor do they produce the damage x-rays do. Cold laser therapy is extremely safe, and has been approved by the FDA. It has been around for over 30 years with no reports of injury. Studies have shown conclusively that cold laser therapy restores balance, energy and oxygen to sick cells without damaging or affecting healthy ones. This restoration results in accelerated healing and cell regeneration.
In contrast to other modalities, cold laser therapy can be started at any phase during the healing process. It’s important to remember, however, that the earlier it becomes part of the treatment process, the better and more rapidly the benefits will manifest.
What it can do
Studies have shown that cold laser therapy works by supporting the natural healing process of the body in a variety of ways:
• Naturally produces endorphins, reducing pain in the body
• Increases blood circulation
• Increases the flow of healing enzymes to the injured area
• Stops the influx of fluid to body tissues
• Releases the muscle tightness that creates pain, joint problems and decreased mobility
• Speeds bone repair
• Reduces swelling, redness and heat
• Shown to be antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial and anti-parasitic
Cold laser therapy has been shown to outperform ultrasound treatments and electrical stimulation therapy in enhancing the healing process. Overall, studies have proven that it is the best treatment for reducing injury damage while increasing the strength of repaired tissue and structures. If accelerating the healing process is the ultimate goal, cold laser therapy will return the patient to full function sooner, with less discomfort and minimal long-term deficits.
Professionals and equipment
Chiropractors, physicians and veterinarians are all discovering the benefits of cold laser therapy for their clients and patients. Cold lasers are also making their way into physical therapy and rehabilitation centers. Although the actual treatment is simple to do, it’s helpful to have some knowledge of anatomy, muscle structure and acupuncture points, so it’s a good idea to work with a professional practitioner. In fact, most cold lasers are aimed at the professional, whether he/she works with humans or animals.
Many cold lasers look like flashlights with one control: on and off. These models are usually under $1,000, but programmable systems can range from $1,500 to well over $25,000. Programmable lasers have varying power levels to assist the professional in a more complete treatment depending on the condition of the patient. Many manufacturers require that you take classes and get certification before you purchase and operate their lasers.
Once you locate an experienced professional who works well with your horse, you’ll find that cold laser therapy can be a valuable tool when dealing with a wide variety of equine injuries and stressors.
Note: Cold laser therapy cannot diagnose problems in your horse. Be sure to work along with your veterinarian.
Lynette Partridge-Schneider has worked with animals all her life. After working in the human medical field for over 20 years, she took her knowledge, and the knowledge gained from other training and certifications, to work with animals. To learn more about cold laser treatments, call 618-979-3192, email QREquineUnltd@aol.com and check out www.quailridgequine.com. Photo provided by: Lotty Merry, a Healing Laser Therapist who runs laser courses at Rose Farm College of Equine Studies. www.rosefarmequine.co.uk.