Low Level Laser Therapy helping athletes get back on the field

Date Posted:14 August 2014 

As the thousands of runners completed the grueling 14km from Sydney to Bondi in last weekend’s City2Surf, there was a collective groan of aching muscles, stretched tendons and sore tissue that may well be heard well into the following week.

Whether you perform at elite levels or are an enthusiastic amateur, all athletes are at high risk of suffering injury and inflammation.

Sports injuries do more than just put you on the sideline - they can end a season and crush the ambitions of any athlete and sportsperson. Even for the recreational sportsperson, an injury can limit you in many ways and discourage a healthy lifestyle.

For cyclists, runners, swimmers, tennis players or those that play contact sports, there are wide ranging risks to the body – any impact, severe force or stress on the body can cause injury. The cells experience trauma and, in response, inflammatory cells invade muscle tissue.

Being fit and active has enormous benefits to your physical and mental health. The pluses outweigh the injury risks. So if injury happens, the priority is on a speedy recovery and minimising long term damage and ongoing pain, helping you get back to what you love to do.

There are many treatments options, but some are invasive or have other side-effects.

Among professional athletes a non-invasive treatment is becoming widely used: low level laser therapy or LLLT, also known as cold laser therapy. Many athletes use LLLT in conjunction with stretching and exercises, physio, and other treatments, in a multi-modal regime.

Unlike other thermal laser treatments, LLLT does not emit heat. In fact, you probably won’t feel anything apart from the laser touching their skin.

Low Level Laser Therapy works by emitting specific frequencies and wavelengths of light through the surface of the skin to the body’s cellular level. Infrared and visible laser light stimulates blood flow, accelerating the muscle repair process1.

Beyond treating injury, LLLT can also temporarily relieve acute and chronic pain. Athletes also use LLLT to prevent injury, as part of their warm-up regime.

Injuries vary from intensity and severity, ranging from strains or tight muscles to tears, breaks and dislocations. A clinical practitioner can assess and prescribe the correct dose of LLLT to treat the specific condition.

Common sport injuries that have recorded promising clinical results with LLLT include:

  • Subacromial impingement syndrome (shoulder)2
  • Plantar Fasciitis3
  • Achilles Tendonitis4
  • Tennis elbow5

References and further reading:

1 Souza NH, Ferrari RA, Silva DF, Nunes FD, Bussadori SK, Fernandes KP.Effect of low-level laser therapy on the modulation of the mitochondrial activity of macrophages. Brazilian journal of Physical Therapy http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25076002 July 2014

2Kelle B, Kozanoglu E. Low-level laser and local corticosteroid injection in the treatment of subacromial impingement syndrome: a controlled clinical trial. National Center for Biotechnology Information. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24519921 February 2014.

3Catena F, Coughlin MJ, Doty, JF, Jastifer JR, Stevens F. Low-Level Laser Therapy for the Treatment of Chronic Plantar Fasciitis: A Prospective Study. National Center for Biotechnology Information. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24510123 Published February 2014

4Bjordal JM, Iversen VV, Lopes-Martins RA. A randomised, placebo controlled trial of low level laser therapy for activated Achilles tendinitis with microdialysis measurement of peritendinous prostaglandin E2 concentrations. National Center for Biotechnology Information. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16371497 Published January 2006.

5Morimoto Y, Saito A, Tokuhashi Y. Low level laser therapy for sports injuries. Laser Therapy http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24155545 Published 2013