Photobiomodulation therapy (PMBT) or laser therapy is an additional therapeutic tool that we offer at Hopewell Animal Hospital. PMBT uses light in the near infra red wavelength of 810-980 nm to penetrate tissue and affect a positive change in our patients. Laser therapy is a very strange treatment modality, after all you can not see it, you can barely feel it and yet it really works. We have put together a list of commonly asked questions and answers regarding this tool to help you understand more about it. As always, if you don’t see an answer to your question please ask us.
What is Photobiomodulation therapy and why is it called that?
PBMT has been called many things: laser therapy, low level light treatment, cold laser, LLLT, and light therapy among other things. None of these other names really describes what this modality is. PBMT is now the accepted term because it describes what it is, Photo: light, it describes what it affects, Bio: or biological systems and what it does, Modulation: produces changes at the molecular level within an organism.
How does it work?
PBMT uses light in a very specific wavelength range of 810-980 nm to penetrate tissue to make changes to cytochromes within the mitochondria of the cell. These changes cause the cell to ramp up a process known as the Krebs cycle, which causes the cell to produce more ATP, nitric acid, and other factors which lead to an increase in metabolism in the cell.
So what does an increase in cellular metabolism do?
By increasing metabolism within the cell, we can reduce pain, decrease inflammation, and accelerate healing.
How does PMBT affect inflammation?
PMBT causes change to the cell which causes an increase in cytokines which are anti-inflammatory as well as reducing prostaglandins which are pro-inflammatory it also causes an increase of angiogenesis which causes new blood vessels to enter an area to increase blood flow.
How does PMBT affect wound healing?
PMBT causes collagen production to increase which is vital to wound healing and it increases the rate of wound contraction (closure) after damage.
How does PMBT affect pain?
Pain is a very complex condition within the body, we use drugs to block pain at specific points in the pain pathway, we use acupuncture to affect other pain pathways as well. PMBT reduces pain by causing an increase in endogenous (made within your own body) opioids, as well as reducing the number of nociceptors (pain nerves) and it increases the stimulus threshold (the amount of stimulation required to make the nerve fire and send a pain signal to the brain).
Is there research to back up PBMT therapy?
A recent search of PubMed showed over 6000 citations for Photobiomodulation Therapy and over 89,000 citations for laser therapy. PMBT is a very well researched clinical tool.
Is PMBT safe?
PMBT is a very safe modality as long as certain patient and operator safety standards are in place. In our hospital, all of our staff that provide PMBT therapy have received extensive safety training on equipment use and laser therapeutics. The major risk from PBMT comes from direct contact between the laser beam and the retina, to protect against that all operators, patients, and clients in the treatment area are required to wear protective eye wear. Due to the increase in angiognesis (new blood vessel formation) there is a risk of spread of cancer that is in direct contact with the PMBT beam. That being said, there are cases where, with informed consent, suggest laser therapy for palliative care.