Other common name(s):
Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT), Low Power Laser Therapy (LPLT), Soft
Laser, Biostimulation Laser, Therapeutic Laser, Laser Acupuncture
Scientific/medical name(s): None
The term cold laser refers to the use of low-intensity or low levels
of laser light. Proponents claim that cold laser therapy can reduce pain
and inflammation. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers
these laser devices investigational (experimental), and allows them to
be used in studies based on some evidence that they may provide
temporary pain relief. Cold laser treatment is thought to help some
types of pain, inflammation, and wound healing, although stronger proof
is needed. These lasers are used directly on or over the affected area.
Cold lasers are also sometimes used for acupuncture, with laser beams
to stimulate the body's acupoints rather than needles (see Acupuncture).
This treatment regimen appeals to those who want acupuncture but who
fear the pain of needles.
Cold laser therapy providers advertise this method as a way to help
people quit smoking, and some TV stations have reported this as news.
The treatment is supposed to relax the smoker and release endorphins
(naturally-occurring pain relief substances) in the body to simulate the
effects of nicotine in the brain, or balance the body’s energy to
relieve the addiction. Despite claims of success by some cold laser
therapy providers, there is no scientific evidence that shows this is an
effective method of helping people stop smoking.
There is a great deal of variation in types of lasers that are used
and how they are used. Some devices do not have the output that they
promise, and others are little more than light-emitting diodes (LED
lights). Some advertise that they can help herpes, high blood pressure,
migraines, wrinkles, cerebral palsy, and other conditions for which
there is little or no evidence. The FDA forbids statements that a
treatment can help or cure diseases if scientific studies have not found
it to be true. It has warned at least one seller of low level lasers to
stop making such claims.
Well-controlled scientific studies are underway using reliable low
level laser devices for pain, wounds, injuries, and other conditions.
Certain types of cold laser treatment may eventually become part of
conventional medical care.
This method should not be confused with conventional laser surgery,
which is used as a valid treatment for some cancers. Hot lasers may be
used to shrink or destroy tumors on the skin or on the surfaces of
internal organs. They are sometimes used to remove colon polyps or
tumors that are blocking the windpipe, colon, or stomach. They can help
relieve symptoms of cancer, such as bleeding. Laser surgery for cancer
is usually combined with other treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy,
or radiation therapy.