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May, 2010

Understand the Tech Before Buying a Laser

By DCPI Staff

It's not news that many chiropractors want to be on the cutting edge of providing services to their patients. Having the latest high-tech gear can broaden your patient base, improve results and make your practice unique. And it doesn't come much more high-tech than laser therapy. If results are to be believed, a simple beam of light can cure patients of many ailments.

Well, before you invest in a piece of equipment that comes with an operating manual the size of a phone book, take a moment to read what our vendor experts have to say about purchasing laser therapy equipment. All of them agree that the most important thing is to have an understanding of the technology involved. Once you understand the tech, it is much easier to make a decision on the right laser for your needs.

(Editor's Note: In preparing this story, Dynamic Chiropractic PracticeINSIGHTS asked a panel of industry experts how they would go about investigating laser therapy equipment if they were in the market to buy one themselves. Obviously, an expert allied with a particular company will tend to be biased to that company's products. Therefore, in this series, we report the comments that reflect a consensus on the general characteristics that make for a good product in order that you may make an informed decision as you do your research into a particular product or service.)

The Future Is Now

Let's face it, a vast array of knobs, dials, buttons and levers can be intimidating. On top of that, you need to have a clear picture of what a laser device actually does, as well as how it performs that task. As Doug Johnson of Multi Radiance Medical (, based in Solon, Ohio, explains: "Clinicians need a clear understanding of the technical aspects [of a laser device] to effectively evaluate devices and avoid overpaying for a device that is nothing more than a flashlight."

Keep in mind that from your patients' standpoint, a laser is something futuristic. Therefore, you want to invest in the best possible product to give your patients the best results. Phil Harrington, DC, CMLSO, of K-Laser (, in Franklin, Tenn., stresses the importance of making sure you have the best-quality product for your investment. He noted, "If you choose to implement laser therapy into your practice, you will be offering a service that seems far out and futuristic to most of your patients. As the adage says, 'If you are going to do it, do it right.' A quality therapy laser should be able to give consistent clinical results, with changes that are noticeable in just a few visits."

Getting the Best Results

So let's get down to the nuts of bolts of what a laser does (as well as what it doesn't do). At a very basic level, a laser device has a biological effect on tissue that can have such results as faster wound healing or reducing pain. In the consumer magazine To Your Health, Harrington provided a very neat summary of laser therapy: "Laser therapy is the application of low levels of laser light to areas of the body that have been injured or damaged. Contrasted with high-powered lasers used in health care that cut tissue, such as surgical or hair-removal lasers, therapy lasers produce beneficial photochemical and photobiological interactions that can help relieve pain and repair injured/damaged tissue.

"The photons of laser light penetrate through your skin and are absorbed by special components in your body's cells called chromophores. Just as photosynthesis creates energy for plants, the absorption of the photons by your cells causes increased production of cellular energy. In areas of injury or damage, this means there is more energy available to improve the rate and quality of healing. This is called biostimulation.

"Because of its biostimulatory nature, laser therapy has the potential to help any scenario whereby the body's cells are not working to their optimum potential. Studies on tissue cultures reveal a wide range of beneficial physiological effects, including increased levels of endorphins, prostaglandins and other beneficial components; reduced levels of harmful compounds including C-reactive protein and interleukin-1; pain modulation through a variety of mechanisms; and increased rate and quality of tissue healing."

However, there is more to it than just that. As Johnson said, "Choosing the right laser therapy device not only dictates understanding the mechanism of how light interacts with biological tissue but the diverse set of parameters necessary to produce therapeutic effects. Though critics of laser therapy may continue to debate its overall effectiveness, the overwhelming scientific and clinical outcomes support the successful use of this new modality. It should no longer be a question of whether light has a biological effect on tissue, but rather what are the optimal parameters for the successful uses of these light sources."

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