What is a laser?
In order to understand laser therapy better this blog will briefly touch on the fundamentals of laser light and what to expect at your appointment. Laser is an acronym that stands for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. To create a laser beam there must be a lasing medium such as a solid, gas, semiconductor or liquid that contains atoms and when excited by energy creates light in all directions. The next component in a laser is the excitation mechanism or energy pump which is the source of energy used to excite the medium and lastly the optical resonator which reflects the laser beam through the active medium for amplification.
Light is an electromagnetic wave and the unique properties of laser light are monochromatic (single wavelength), collimated (narrow beam in one direction) and coherent (light waves are in phase). Different wavelengths in the visible spectrum are seen by the eye in different colors however there is also a nonvisible spectrum too. The process the therapeutic laser uses is called Photobiomodulation which is when photons from the laser source are delivered to specific chromophores (organelles which absorb light) or cells in the red and infrared spectrums creating a process called photobiochemical. This method results in biochemical change or response creating a cascade of events within the tissues that result in the reduction of inflammation, edema (fluid in tissue that causes swelling) and pain. Laser therapy can be comparable to photosynthesis in plants since the body receives usable energy that was converted from the laser light.
Different Classes of Laser:
Lasers are classified by the potential of the laser beam to do harm ranging from class I to class IV with three sub categories. This is done by incorporating the energy, wavelength, pulse characteristics and power as the main factors.
Class I: This class has two subsections and both are inherently safe unless items such as compact disk players and laser printers are disassembled.
Class II: The aversion response (blink reflex) typically prevents eye damage unless one stares directly in the beam. A Point of Sale barcode scanner used at your local grocery store would fall into this group.
Class III: This class has 2 subcategories as well and both can potentially be injurious. Grouped in this section are laser pointers and low power lasers under 500 mws.
Class IV: Direct and indirect viewing of the beam can be are designed to deliver laser radiation for the purpose of altering biological tissue to reduce inflammation, pain and increase the healing process.
Laser first appeared in the veterinary practice in the late 1970’s and over the decades the advancements of laser technology has grown right along with it. This therapy can be known as soft laser therapy, cold laser therapy, low power laser therapy, bio-stimulation therapy, therapeutic laser therapy and low-level laser therapy (LLLt) and is used on domestic pets, horses and humans in the medical field.
What to expect at your LLLT appointment:
Wheeled in on a cart is a unit called the Companion Laser Therapy categorized as a Class IV laser manufactured by Litecure. The main unit has all the components needed to craft a laser light that then radiates through a fiber optic cable transmitting laser energy to the hand piece which attaches to one of the four probes shown above. There is the large and small contact heads that have a ball design that is meant for deep tissue penetration whereas the non-contact probes are superfical-treatment applicators. Laser therapy is not considered as heat therapy but it can generating a gentle and relaxing warmth from either the pulsing or continuous beam being emitted.
The doctor, veterinary technician or veterinary assistant will start off by greeting our friendly companion in a fear free manner and work with the owner and pet during this non-invasive procedure finding the most comfortable positioning for the patient. To make this a positive experience we recommend bringing in your pets favorite treats such as a Kong, peanut butter, hot dogs, or even a toy. The rooms atmosphere should be relaxing so soothing music is playing and depending on which one of our furry friends are visiting a synthetic pheromone (Adaptil/Feliway) will be diffused in the room for calming and appeasing effects.
Before the treatment starts everyone in the room including the pet will need proper eye protection. As previously stated, the class 4 laser can potentially cause damage to the eyes with direct or indirect contact from the laser. The eye protection for both the pets and humans have lenses specifically designed for the optical density and wavelengths that the laser emits so your favorite pair of sunglasses may look cool but they won’t offer much protection.
Now that everyone is safely protected, the laser technician will have already calculated the therapeutic dosage and program the unit. Timing and number of treatments vary based on species, condition being treated, hair coat, skin pigmentation, and size of patient. Once situated, the person performing the laser will take the hand piece with the appropriate attachment and then carefully moving it vertically and horizontally over the targeted area with a continuous sweeping motion to get complete coverage.
The procedure can be stopped at any time to reposition and or give the pet a little break. Range of motion exercises may be performed at the same time to enhance treatment. Once the therapeutic dose is met for that area the individual performing the laser treatment will move to next designated area. Once all areas are treated and the laser beam is turned off the patient and everyone in the room are safe to remove their glasses or doggles and go about their day.
Stay tuned for next week to see the advantages of laser therapy and see if your pet would benefit from a few treatments.
Definition and Properties of Laser Light
written by Amanda Haebig, Veterinary Assistant
Amanda was born in Indiana but has lived in Stevens Point most of her life. She joined the Oakview team in March of 2016 and has quickly become part of the family. She enjoys Motorcycle riding and Horseback riding when not working. She shares her life with her significant other, Kevin and their Siberian Huskies Storm and Hale.