For athletes, even a minor injury can cause a significant problem. In addition to the personal discomfort, pain and inconvenience that the athlete experiences, injuries often mean missing training or playing time. Depending on the timing and level of competition, this can be a minor inconvenience or a major disruption to not only the individual, but also the team. Especially at higher levels of competition, there is a tremendous push for the athlete to recover quickly in order to return to play.
Hungarian physician, Endre Mester, is known to have developed the first low-level laser therapy device in 1967 and tested its effects on skin cancer. He later used the device to show the effects of laser light on wound healing processes. The FDA first approved a low-level laser therapy device in 2002. As a non-invasive therapy, it has been the subject of a great deal of study in recent years as researchers find more ways that it can be safely utilized with positive results. Many studies have focused on its use as a therapy for treating injuries.
One such study was a 2004 comparison of three protocols for treating edema (swelling) in second degree ankle sprains (not requiring immobilization with a splint) by using placebo-controlled environment. Researchers recruited forty-seven soccer players with 2nd degree ankle sprains who were divided into three groups. Group 1 was treated with conventional treatment (RICE, rest, ice, compression, elevation). Group 2 was treated with the RICE method plus placebo laser therapy. The final group was treated with RICE and laser therapy. All participant’s edema was measured prior to any treatment, and at 24 hours, 48 hours and 78 hours post treatment. Group 3, treated with RICE and laser, experienced a “statistically significant reduction” in edema after 24 hours (40.3mL), 48 hours (56.4mL) and 72 hours (65.1mL).
Another study was a 2016 double-blind, randomized, comparative clinical study regarding the efficacy of low-level laser therapy both in time, and degree of pain relief, on sports injuries. Participants for the study were 32 college athletes with motion pain. There was no limitation on the location of the injury which allowed the laser therapy to be tested on multiple sites including the foot, ankle, knee, back, elbow, and shoulder. Pain during motion was assessed for all participants utilizing the Modified Numerical Rating Scale and they were randomly divided into two groups. One group was given low level laser therapy while the other received a placebo. Immediately after, the participants were asked to rate their pain during motion again. This rating was subtracted from the initial rating to determine the change in pain intensity.
After only one session, the group who had received the laser therapy experienced a significantly greater decrease in pain. Their ratings decreased by 36.394% where the placebo group rates only decreased 8.2% – a difference of 28.74%! Further, 75% of the athletes in the laser group experienced this pain relief. This led researchers to conclude that low-level laser was effective at providing immediate pain relief.
Conservative care like chiropractic often includes various treatment modalities such as laser therapy which can be a beneficial option for athletes in the treating of musculoskeletal injuries. Not only are chiropractors trained in a variety of treatment techniques to use for various conditions and injuries affecting the bones, joints and muscles, they are also trained to modify those techniques for special situations. This allows them to cater the treatment to the individual’s current health status and goals.
When needed, chiropractors can coordinate care with other health care providers and/or trainers to help ensure the patient athlete returns to activity safely. Additionally, with a focus on posture, balance, and a strong musculoskeletal system, chiropractic care can help patients maintain good health and prevent injuries.
Whether a young athlete, a weekend warrior, a pro athlete or someone wanting to stay in shape for wellness, choosing #chiropractic1st for your care can help keep you in the game! Talk to your chiropractor about your activities and learn how the array of techniques and therapies they offer can help your overall health as well as treat, and even prevent injuries.
Takemori, A. et.all. Immediate pain relief effect of low level laser therapy for sports injuries: Randomized, double-blind placebo clinical trial. JSAMS. 2016 Dec;Vol 19:Iss 12:980-983.
Stergioulas A. Low-level laser treatment can reduce edema in second degree ankle sprains. J Clin Laser Med Surg. 2004 Apr;22(2):125-8. doi: 10.1089/104454704774076181. PMID: 15165387.
Theralight. “A Brief History of Red Light Therapy” https://www.theralight.com/a-brief-history-of-red-light-therapy/ accessed 9/12/22