Laser-focused

Podiatrist Mitchell Waskin (Photo by Jay Paul) Podiatrist Mitchell Waskin was no stranger to therapeutic lasers, having used them in his practice, The Foot & Ankle Center , to treat such conditions as pain in post-operation patients after bones had been reset.

After one treatment, he says, it would reduce pain.

But Waskin, fitting the stereotype about doctors, was great at giving advice, but not so much at following his own recommendations. After limping around for nine months due to a pinched nerve in his foot, he decided to use the office laser on himself.

“In 20 minutes, I was literally pain-free,” he says. “I responded very well. It has the potential to very quickly get rid of pain because it gets rid of chemicals that cause pain.”

Chiropractor Bryan Lowry of Advanced Wellness Centre in Richmond explains that the infrared laser photo energy passes through a cell and stimulates its mitochondria to produce Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which supplies energy for cell activity. Waskin says that by increasing ATP production, the laser enhances what cells do to aid healing.

There are three uses for the devices: Pain relief, inflammation reduction, and tissue repair and healing. They are often used in sports medicine and by podiatrists, chiropractors, physical therapists, veterinarians and dentists. Conditions treated with these lasers range from plantar fasciitis to acne.

Waskin says lasers seem to rapidly decrease pain and inflammation, following a typical regimen of three treatments per week, every other day, for two weeks. About 70 percent of patients respond well to it, he says.

He also says he’s had good responses to the treatment from people with painful neuropathy. Veterinarian Randy Mortimer treating a cat with cold laser therapy (Photo by Jay Paul) Veterinarians use the devices on their furry patients for pain relief after surgery and in wounds and burns to promote healing and reduce inflammation, says Randy Mortimer of Quioccasin Veterinary Hospital , whose practice has been using the devices for about six years. Mortimer says treatments take five or six minutes. A six-treatment regimen generally is effective in pets with orthopedic conditions, and the relief can be long-term, requiring a follow-up every two or three months. Therapeutic Laser Tips and Trivia

HOT AND COLD

Before there were therapeutic lasers, there were surgical devices that used lasers to cut because of the heat generated. The therapeutic products are known as cold lasers because they don’t generate enough heat to cut; they may simply feel warm in the area that’s being targeted. Treatments frequently are not covered under health insurance policies; they’re considered experimental, according to providers.

BY ANY OTHER NAME

“Cold laser” is a common term for the devices, but they should be described as therapeutic lasers, according to Nelson Marquina, founder and chief technology officer of Laser Biotech International in Richmond. These devices have been in use since the 1970s in Europe and elsewhere, but they weren’t cleared for use here by the Food and Drug Administration until 2002.

SAFETY

Unlike surgical lasers and stronger devices, there is no heat buildup, and the lasers are safe to use, says podiatrist Mitchell Waskin.The devices have not been shown to have actual harmful effects, he says, but they are generally not used where cancer is suspected or in pregnancy.

Marquina says the use of these products is prevented in growth plates in children and that their use should be avoided on a fetus, but they can be otherwise employed on a woman who is pregnant.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

There are a variety of devices used by professionals, as well as lasers that can be bought online for home use. Consumers need to be cautious and research treatments and products.

One consideration is how deeply and effectively the light will penetrate the skin, a key to effectiveness. “To get results, the laser has to reach the target tissue,” Lowry says. Some devices, he says, may produce little more than a laser pointer or level. “There’s a huge difference,” he says.

Waskin recommends an initial visit to a provider for a consultation. Don’t feel obligated to undergo a treatment, he says. Ask what type of laser they are using, and the manufacturer. Do some research online and investigate what’s been done.

PLANTS AND PEOPLE

That lasers may expedite cell growth should be no surprise: Laser, after all, is a form of light, and look at what light does in plants, Marquina says. He notes the similarity between chloroplasts in plants and mitochondria in people in terms of producing energy.

“At the end of the day,” he says, “the human body is more of a plant than we imagined.”

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