The term laser is an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, which would be a bit of a mouthful if you had to say that every time! Light therapy or phototherapy is the use of light for therapeutic purposes and has been prescribed for thousands of years in the form of sunlight. More recently as humans have become more sophisticated we have been able to reproduce very specific wavelengths of light and harness these in the form of laser devices. Lasers are used in both medicine and industry…did you know that barcode scanners are a type of laser machine?
Therapeutic lasers, such as the one we use in the clinic, have become increasingly popular in both small and large animal rehabilitation for a variety of conditions. The lasers used in rehabilitation help to modulate cellular functions in a process known as photobiostimulation (nonthermal interaction of monochromatic radiation with a target site).
Laser therapy can be used to promote wound and surgical incision healing, to stimulate nerve, bone, ligament and tendon repair and to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. The laser does not even need to touch the skin making it ideal to use over tender areas after surgery or very sore arthritic joints. Normally the laser is held over the affected area for a few seconds or minutes depending on the nature of the problem and how far under the skin the target area is. The deeper the target area the longer the laser needs to be used for. Normally the only sensation felt is a gentle warming, which most pets actually seem to enjoy. We do have to be a little careful as some of the pets feel much better straightaway and try and overdo it! Sometimes only a few laser sessions are needed but in other more chronic or severe conditions the laser may need to be used more frequently or on a regular basis.
While pets are having laser treatment us humans do have to wear some very attractive sunglasses as staring very closely at the laser light could cause damage to the retinas of the eye. It seems that a few of our patients quite like wearing the glasses too!