The difference between ‘continuous’ and ‘super pulsed’ low level laser therapy

There are several different ways laser light operates: Continuous Wave, Pulsed-Modulated and Super Pulsed. The Continuous Wave diodes emit continuous laser energy with a fixed power output for the entire duration. Pulse-modulated diodes create a ‘pulse’ by cutting the beam, or turning the laser on and off at regular intervals.  Super pulsed diodes emit a series (frequency) of radiation impulses with high amplitude in an extremely short duration (typically 100 to 200 nanoseconds).

Super pulsed lasers are made of a Gallium Arsenide (GaAS) diode and use a specific wavelength of 904-905nm.  These particular wavelengths are widely known to be beneficial for effective penetration. 

Continuous wave lasers are made of a Gallium Aluminum Arsenide (GaAlAS) diode and commonly use wavelengths in the sub 800nm levels. 

Compared to continuous wave lasers (with similar power parameters), super pulsed lasers achieve more effective penetration into the tissue by virtue of the controlled light energy being delivered at very high peak power (25-100 Watts) but very short duration (100-200 nanosecond) pulses and low average intensity.

To effectively reach tissue, the Super Pulsed 904-905nm wavelength, is considered optimal. In a study (1) investigating the skin penetration of super pulsed and continuous wave low level laser light energy, the penetration of 904nm super pulsed light energy was found to be 2-3 easier compared to 810nm continuous wave.

Benefits of Super Pulsed Low Level Laser Therapy

  • Effective penetration: Super pulsed low level laser achieves more effective penetration (1) of light energy due to very high peak power and very short pulse duration.

  • Fast Acting: Super pulsed low level laser therapy is fast acting; comparing low level lasers with the same parameters

  • No Heating: The very short duration of the pulses mean there are no thermal effects so the patient feels no heat.
(1) Skin penetration time-profiles for Continuous 810nm and Super-Pulsed 904nm lasers in a rat model

Joensen J, Ovsthus K, Reed RK, Hummelsund S, Iversen VV, Lopes-Martins RÁ, Bjordal JM. Dec 2012

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