It’s All about the Power!
The single most important factor that determines the effectiveness of Laser Therapy is the power output (measured in milliwatts (mW)) of the Laser Therapy Unit. It is important for the following reasons:
1. Depth of Penetration: the higher the power, the deeper the penetration, allowing for treatment of tissue damage deep within the body.
2. Treatment Time: more power leads to shorter treatment times.
3. Therapeutic Effect: the greater the power the more effective the laser is in treating more severe and painful conditions.
Different Classes of Laser Therapy
Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada recognize four different classifications of lasers (Class I – Class IV), only Low Level Class IIIb and High Level Class IV lasers have been demonstrated to provide health benefits to patients.
Low Level Laser Therapy (Class IIIb):
Power Output = 25 - 500 mW
Depth of Penetration: Less than 0.5 cm
Class IIIb Lasers have been in use treating a variety of healthcare conditions for many years and are defined as having a total power output of 25-500 mW. These lasers are commonly referred to as “Cold Laser” or “Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)”. Due to their extremely low power output, these “Cold Lasers” are only capable of penetrating up to 0.5 cm into the body and treatment times for simple conditions can be as much as 1-2 hours. These Cold Lasers are limited to conditions related to the skin or just below the skin, such as superficial ligaments and nerves in hands, feet, elbows and knees. Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) has virtually no impact on the treatment of joint, muscle, nerve, bone or spinal disc conditions since most of these body structures are located deep beneath the skin. Therefore, Cold Laser Therapy is often considered obsolete by Laser Therapy standards.
K-Laser High Power Laser Therapy (Class IV):
Power Output = 1 - 12,000 mW (24 times more powerful than Class IIIb Lasers)
Depth of Penetration: > 4 cm
Class IV High Power Lasers are able to treat all the same conditions that respond well to Cold Laser Therapy as well as many more. Because High Power Lasers are able to penetrate more deeply into body tissues, the vast majority of muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, nerves and skin can be treated effectively.
Treatment times are also dramatically reduced when treating with High Power Laser Therapy. As mentioned above, Low Power Lasers (25-500mW) often require 60-120 minutes in order to deliver a therapeutic dose to the affected body part. High Power Laser Therapy (500mW – 12,000mW), on the other hand, delivers an equivalent therapeutic dose in a fraction of the time. In fact, the 12W K-Laser High Power Laser can deliver a therapeutic dose of laser energy to many injured parts of the body within 5-15 minutes!
In summary, High Power Laser Therapy can treat many more conditions in much less time with far better results than cold laser.