Red Light LED/Laser Therapy - Cold Laser Therapy

What is It?

This therapy uses red and near infrared light, whether by LED Arrays or Low Level Lasers. This therapy has some 30 years of clinical research behind it, and there are treatment protocols for many types of injuries (for healing) and conditions (to slow or stop degenerative diseases; to reduce or eliminate pain). There are probably over 70 alternative names for this therapy, but the most accurate is Photo Bio Modulation Therapy (PBMT).

WARNING: There are several home remedy sources for this treatment. I will suggest that they are of questionable value (though they certainly are expensive) and may actually be dangerous. The danger lies in the power usage. See "How Dangerous Are The Lasers?" below.

What is Red Light LED/Laser Therapy Good For?

Clinical Research with Red Light Therapy has been in progress for some 30 years, and it will continue into the future. This is because it has gotten positive results in so many areas. The most positive discovery is that there are No Known Side Effects! So, right away, we can be confident that, if it is properly used, you can be assured that nothing negative will happen.

For starters, Red Light Therapy can be used for the following:

  • Reduce or Eliminate Pain
  • Reduce Inflammation
  • Promote Faster Healing of Injuries
  • Musculoskeletal Conditions
  • Dermatological Conditions
  • Neurological Conditions
  • Wound Healing
  • Decrease Scarring
  • Earlier Discontinuation of NSAIDs and Opioids
  • Decrease Edema and Stiffness
  • Increase Range Of Motion
  • Decrease Recovery Time
  • (Possible Cosmetic Applications)


How Does Red Light LED/Laser Therapy Work?

The full explanation is extremely technical, so I will give a simpler explanation to cover the basics:

The red and near infrared light frequencies are shown to increase metabolism in the cells, so that they can maintain peak performance.

LED Arrays are used to reach areas from the surface of the skin to a depth of about 1 cm. The body absorbs this light energy quite readily, so penetration is shallow. To reach deeper tissues, a laser device is used.

Local and Systemic Benefits

Any type of therapy will have elements of both Local and Systemic Benefits. Local refers to a treatment is a specific area with benefits in that specific area. Systemic refers to a treatment in a specific area having benefit for the entire person - entire system.

If you have knee surgery, nearly 100% of the benefit will be local, and little, if any benefit, will be systemic.

Traditional massage (including my own more thorough massage) provides about 95% local benefit, and very little systemic benefit. That may sound counter to your intuition and experience, but the reason you may think otherwise is that massage is generally provided for the entire body, so it is actually many local benefits being felt.

My own "Myoskeletal Alignment Therapy (Extended)"™ modality is 50% or more systemic benefit. This is because I treat the nervous system, which hooks into all parts of the body. Many of the techniques also provide localized benefit, particularly for all types of mobility.

Red Light Therapy is somewhere in the middle, perhaps 80% local benefit and 20% systemic benefit. The systemic benefit comes from the blood that is treated in the local area. Since the blood doesn't stay there, and circulates throughout the body, other areas will see some benefit, too.

How is Red Light LED/Laser Therapy Provided?

Like most therapies, Red Light LED/Laser Therapy can be used as a standalone treatment, or in conjunction with other treatments, for a synergistic effect. Synergistic just means "The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts."

If you want the best outcome in the shortest time, you would combine Red Light Therapy with my MAT(E)™ modality and thorough traditional massage. Another reason to choose this combo is that it is necessary if you want coverage for direct billing and your massage insurance plans. See "Is Red Light Therapy Covered by Massage Insurance?" below.

Specifically for Red Light Therapy, that portion of the session will follow specific protocols which may be adjusted for your own physical and medical considerations. In general, this will mean that you start with Red Light from an LED Array, followed by Near Infrared Light from that same array. The final step is deeper point treatment with a Low Level Laser device using Near Infrared Light. Depending on the issue being treated, and how large the area to be treated is, this process may be repeated one or more times. In all cases, the LED Array and Laser Device will be in direct contact with the skin.

What is the Cost of Red Light Therapy?

The medical grade equipment used for Red Light LED/Laser Therapy in my practice is high quality and very expensive, manufactured by Meditech/Bioflex in Canada. As such, I must recover the costs. However, I do not want to increase prices for massage and MAT(E)™ sessions, since those patients should not have to subsidize patients who are getting Red Light LED/Laser Therapy. The result is two pricing schedules.

If Red Light Therapy is combined with massage and MAT(E)™, there will be an additional $6.00 per 6 running minutes added to the specific combo session, for a minimum of 30 minutes. What this means is that if 30 minutes is devoted to the Red Light LED/Laser Therapy portion of your session (set up and treatment, but NOT cleanup), you would be charged an additional $30.

If you have a standalone, Out of Scope, Red Light LED/Laser Therapy session, the charge will be $150/hour with a one hour minimum.

How Many Treatments Will I Need?

There seems to be an overwhelming attitude that a single session should fix anything and everything. First, consider how long it took to create the issue you want to have treated, or how severe it is. Reversing or fixing an issue takes time. Single treatment results are rare, but very rare.

My patients (before I made Red Light Therapy available) understood that I do not, in principle, like using Treatment Plans. They presume that I know everything about you - your finances, your attitudes, your schedule, how well you heal, and more. Clearly I can't possibly know all of these things. What I do know is that the more often you are treated, the longer the sessions are, and the more you follow any assigned homework, the faster you will heal. With massage modalities, that's true for any type of issue you are treating. Even taking care of normal day to day wear and tear requires maintenance, that that is widely considered to be a monthly treatment schedule - if you have real issues, you need a more aggressive treatment schedule until you go into a maintenance schedule.

For Red Light Therapy, my Massage Association requires that a treatment plan be in place. With all of the specific protocols developed for Red Light Therapy, this actually makes sense, as protocols are based on a large base of clinical trials. However, because everyone is different, I will make adjustments to the treatment plan each session, if it is indicated.

While I cannot force you to follow the treatment plan (just as your doctor cannot force you to take your pills), a treatment plan will be part of any Red Light Therapy treatment.

If you want to know in advance what your treatment plan will be, I can provide a general guideline if you contact me and provide me with as much info as possible about what it is you want treatment for.

Side Note: As with most/all manual therapies, the best results are had by starting it as soon as possible and following an aggressive schedule, meaning every day or every other day for the first sessions.

SIDE NOTE: I have some patients who see me every year, whether they need it or not. (They ALWAYS need it!). There is even one lady who gets one hour of treatment for each year since her last treatment - her last was a 3.5 hour session, since it was 3.5 years since her last massage. On the flip side, one couple actually budget for their health (since, they say, they budget for everything else). So, each pay they set aside an amount so they get their regular treatments.

Is Red Light LED/Laser Therapy Covered by Massage Insurance?

Yes, and no!

Red Light LED/Laser Therapy is known as an "Adjunct" therapy to massage modalities. This means that it is not actually a massage modality, but can be used to supplement massage modalities. (There are several such Adjunct therapies, since massage seems to be a catch-all when it comes to therapy types.)

If an Adjunct Therapy is used 30% or less for your total treatment time, it is considered In Scope treatment and will be covered by massage insurance plans. If you were to have a 100% Red Light Therapy treatment plan, it would be considered Out Of Scope, and NOT be covered by massage insurance. (However, it MAY be covered by other types of insurance or employment benefit plans, such as Health Spending Accounts- check with your provider.)

How Dangerous are the Lasers?

First, you should understand that there are various types/classes of lasers used for laser therapy. Specifically, I only use devices manufactured by Bioflex. These are Class 3b, which are very low power. One reason the treatment is called Cold Laser is that there is no heat generated within the tissues. Other systems, however, use higher power and generate heat within the tissue - the danger is that heating the tissue can negate the therapy, and even cause injury, such as burns. With Bioflex lasers, the laser will not function unless it is pressed firmly into the skin. There are only a few areas, such as the eyes and thyroids, where this treatment should not be used. To date, with over 30 years of clinical studies, there are no known side effects with this treatment. It is extremely safe.

Another factor to consider is that Alberta is the only province (at the time of this writing) to require lasers (of all types) to be inspected and registered with Occupational Health and Safety, as mine are. (Unfortunately, there are many clinics that do not know this, and may be subjecting themselves to severe penalties for failure to do so.) You are within your rights to request the clinic's inspection and registration certificates, and even their training certificates! I would do so.