Powerful Healing with Low Level Laser Therapy

Low level laser therapy is a very powerful tool when combined with lymphatic drainage therapy. Imagine a therapy that harnesses the power of light to stimulate healing within the body. That’s the essence of low level laser therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation (PBM). By exposing tissues to low levels of red or near-infrared light, LLLT triggers a cascade of biological responses at the cellular level. From wound healing to pain management, this non-thermal laser therapy is emerging as a powerful tool for promoting tissue repair and vitality. And some wavelengths are especially potent for the lymphatic system.

The typical LLLT wavelength is in the red and near infrared spectrum, 660-905 nm. The laser I use in my holistic occupational therapy practice is manufactured by Rian Corp, 904 nm, and is the only cold laser currently approved in the United States for therapeutic use on the lymphatics.

Understanding Low Level Laser Therapy / PBM

Photobiomodulation is low intensity light therapy that works photochemically, not unlike photosynthesis in plants. Photons from light exposure get absorbed by receptors in the cells and induce chemical changes at the cellular level. Mitochondria, the small energy factories in our cells, increase their ATP production, and this increased energy can then be used in various ways to assist with healing.

Light therapy nourishes our healing cells much the way photosynthesis nourishes plants.

The Physiological Benefits of Low Level Laser Therapy for Healing

  • Low level laser use modulates the inflammatory process and boosts lymphatic capacity in the following ways:
    • Increasing macrophage and neutrophil activity to breakdown protein molecules AND activate the immune response
    • Increasing capillary flow to reduce venous backflow
    • Reducing fibroblasts
    • Reducing fibrosis, improving tissue comfort and promoting better collateral lymphatic channels
    • Increasing the natural rhythmic pumping action of initial lymphatics
    • Increasing the diameter of lymphatic vessels, increasing the rate of flow of lymph

At the right dose and frequency, LLLT offers an incredible array of benefits, facilitating and amplifying the body’s natural healing responses.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Low Level Laser Therapy for Healing

Integrating Low Level Laser Therapy and Lymphatic Drainage Therapy

Guidelines for effective low level laser use during lymphatic drainage therapy sessions are emerging as more and more studies are done. Each client’s condition and their response to the LLLT/PBM over the course of treatment will influence a therapist’s treatment plan. All studies indicate that the cold laser has a cumulative effect, with varying time and dose required, the benefits building over a course of treatment.

For instance, scars may improve in just in 1-2 sessions.

Lymphedema in a limb, head, neck, or breast typically requires a more extensive exposure. Current guidelines recommend 2-3 treatments per week initially, tapering to 1 per week as pain, fibrosis and swelling diminish, then 2 per month, with treatment continuing over two to several months.

The Benefits of Combining Lymphatic Drainage Therapy with Low Level Laser Therapy

Lymphatic drainage therapy often incorporates gentle manual drainage massage with more aggressive scar mobilization and antifibrotic techniques.

Scar and antifbrotic techniques can make more work for the lymphatic system.

The acute effects of scar and antifbrotic work is often an increased burden on the lymphatic system as waste products are mobilized from the tissues and returned to the blood stream via the elegant network of lymphatic vessels, nodes, and ducts. The increased energy production offered at the cellular level by LLLT/PBM works synergistically with the lymphatic system to boost its capacity, efficiency, and effectiveness. The 2 together are a power couple!

Contraindications and Precautions for Low Level Laser Therapy

There are very few contraindications for laser use. The following are based on our current and always growing understanding. Laser use is contraindicated:

  1. During the course of radiation therapy: My local radiation oncologist requests no laser use during the course of radiation therapy, but recognizes its therapeutic potency pre- and post-radiation.
  2. During pregnancy
  3. With active cancer
  4. On still-knitting fractures 

What to Expect During a Session of Lymphatic Drainage and Low Level Laser Therapy

Low level laser therapy is generally offered concurrently with other therapeutic modalities. A typical session in my holistic occupational therapy practice will involve applying the laser directly to my client’s tissues with one hand while my other hand engages in gentle manual drainage techniques, often while guiding my client through a progression of lymph-mobilizing breath work. The LLLT/PMB is a seamless addition to therapy sessions, maximizing the impact of all my other skills and tools.

How to Get Started Integrating Low Level Laser Therapy in Your Treatments

If there are no contraindications in your current health status, simply booking an appointment with me will get you started. You can request low-level laser be a part of your treatment plan, and after assessment of your involved tissues, I will recommend a likely frequency and duration of sessions to achieve your health goals: pain reduction, scar and fibrosis softening, mitigating radiation effects, resolving axillary cording, swelling and limb-volume reduction, release of capsular contracture, and more.

A Powerful Tool for Reducing Inflammation and Promoting Immune Vitality Combined with Lymphatic Drainage Therapy

We are still learning the extent of the benefits of photobiomodulation on healing and our immune function. What is clear is that sufficient dose and frequency provokes a cascade of healing responses in damaged tissue at a cellular level. The effects appear far-reaching for chronic and acute conditions like lymphedema, lipedema, radiation fibrosis, and scarring; conditions that can often feel “beyond repair.” I am so excited to share this form of therapy with you and learn together what is has to offer your unique healing.

Disclaimer – This blog is for general information purposes only. Furthermore, the information contained in this blog is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your licensed healthcare professional for advice on your specific condition.

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