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Physio Explains: How Does Laser Therapy Work?

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Laser therapy is an FDA-approved treatment that uses laser light to penetrate the skin. It has been used for years to reduce pain and inflammation. Laser therapy is a non-invasive treatment that does not involve surgery or any injection. It is a popular treatment for pain relief, and many people swear by its effects. This blog post will take a closer look at how laser therapy works. We will also discuss the history of light therapy and its effects on the body!

Laser therapy works by using light energy or protons that penetrate the skin and stimulate specific cells, particularly the mitochondria (our ‘energy-producing’ cells). This activation of mitochondria means more energy (ATP) that can be used to repair and restore damaged cells.

The increased blood flow caused by the laser means toxins and inflammatory cells can be flushed out, and essential nutrients needed for repair can be delivered.

does laser therapy work muscle cell

The History of Light Therapy

The first form of laser therapy was used in 1967 when Endre Mester wanted to investigate if laser radiation could potentially cause cancer in mice – but to his surprise, the laser did something very different. The hair grew back in the area of the mouse that Mester had shaved and where he applied the laser. The 694 nm ruby laser demonstrated the first example of ‘biostimulation’ or biological change using lasers.

the history of laser therapy

How Does Laser Therapy Work?

Laser therapy is also referred to in scientific literature as ‘photobiomodulation’ – ‘photo’ meaning light or proton, ‘bio’ meaning natural or living, and ‘modulation’ meaning change or adaption. Therefore, laser therapy is the application of light energy on the body to achieve positive change or adaptation – aka cellular repair. But how does it achieve cellular repair and reduce pain?

man getting laser therapy for neck pain

Laser therapy is a cutting-edge treatment that uses light energy or protons to stimulate specific cells, particularly the mitochondria. This activation of mitochondria means more energy (ATP) that can be used to repair and restore damaged cells. The increased blood flow caused by the laser means toxins and inflammatory cells can be flushed out, and essential nutrients needed for repair can be delivered. Laser therapy is a safe, non-invasive treatment that is FDA approved and backed by numerous clinical studies. It is an effective treatment for various conditions, including pain, inflammation, and tissue damage.

Laser therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including:

What Is Happening On A Cellular Level?

This is where it gets interesting – several different things happen as the laser or light is applied to an area. The effect of the laser or light depends on several factors, for example, the wavelength, the dose, and how it is applied.

First of all, there is an increase in blood flow. The laser or light increases the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which plays a vital role in cell energy. It also decreases inflammation by reducing pain-causing chemicals like Substance P and CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide).


Laser therapy can help repair damaged cells and tissue by increasing collagen production. It also helps to reduce scarring and promote healing.

Lastly, laser therapy has an analgesic (pain-relieving) effect by stimulating the release of endorphins. Endorphins are our body’s natural painkillers!

So, as you can see, laser therapy is a complex treatment with many different effects on the body. It is no wonder it is such a popular treatment for pain relief!

Why Wavelength Matters

When it comes to laser therapy, the wavelength is critical in determining the outcome or effect. Within the spectrum of visible light, the wavelength also determines the color of the light. For example, you may have seen blue light being used on neonates in a neonatal ward in a hospital because blue light is effective for reducing excess bilirubin in the blood and, in turn, for treating jaundice. The Mayo Clinic states, “The light changes the shape and structure of bilirubin molecules so they can be excreted in urine and stool.”

blue light for jaudice

Near Infra-red Light – Class 4 Laser (High Level Laser Therapy)

The kind of laser we use at Dublin Chiropractic & Physical Therapy is a class 4 laser, emitting a wavelength between 600-1100 nm, a near-infra-red (NIR) light, within the invisible spectrum.

The Effects Of Near Infra-Red (NIR) Light

  • Enhanced mitochondrial function.
  • Increased microcirculation/capillary density.
  • Increased tissue oxygenation.
  • Increased muscular function.
  • Enhanced fatigue resistance.
  • Improved peak V02 max.
  • Reduced concentrations of lactate and muscle damage biomarkers.
  • Reduces oxidative stress.
  • Reduces apoptosis and necrosis.
  • Increases fibroblast proliferation and collagen production.

how does laser therapy work

Using Laser Therapy For Chronic Systematic Conditions

A study published in 2020 by the Korean Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery stated that photobiomodulation (PBM) can cause “anti-apoptosis by increasing ATP and reducing oxidative stress,” meaning PBM slows down natural cell death and degeneration significantly and reduces the effect load or stresses have on our body – reducing the effects of chronic disease and slowing down their progression.

woman getting laser therapy for pain disease

Does Cold Laser Therapy Cause Pain?

The laser does not hurt – it is very soothing, and most people feel the warmth as the laser is applied. It is non-invasive and promotes the body’s natural healing properties.

How Many Sessions Will I Need?

The recommended dosage of laser therapy varies significantly in the literature. However, many clients benefit from 8-15 sessions of laser therapy, and 2-5 day intervals between sessions.

man with knee pain laser therapy

How Long Is Each Session Of Laser Therapy?

Each session lasts between 15 – 20 minutes; however, you may require more time if multiple areas are being treated.


Laser therapy is a popular and effective treatment for pain relief. It has many different effects on the body, contributing to pain reduction. If you are considering laser therapy, be sure to consult with a qualified healthcare professional to ensure it is the proper treatment for you.


[1] https://www.jkslms.or.kr/journal/view.html?uid=206&vmd=Full&#:~:text=Photobiomodulation%20(PBM)%2C%20formerly%20known,cells%20respond%20favorably%20to%20light.

[2] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2022.808374/full#:~:text=Many%20studies%20have%20shown%20that,and%20finally%20improving%20tendon%20recovery.

[3] https://www.cellularhealing.net/blog/how-laser-therapy-works-and-how-it-can-help-stem-cell-therapy

[4] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/infant-jaundice/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20373870#:~:text=Your%20baby%20may%20be%20placed,diaper%20and%20protective%20eye%20patches.

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    by | Jul 27, 2022 | Uncategorized

    <a href="http://dublin-chiropractic.com" target="_blank">Kate Ryan Physio</a>

    Kate Ryan Physio


    My goal is to help people get out and stay out of pain. With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience as a chiropractor, I learned the value of living pain free for a happy and healthy life. I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.
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