Early in my career, I realised that conventional medicine didn’t offer much for chronic pain. Almost every treatment called for drugs and painkillers which may have been harmful, because back then, physical therapy was a relatively new practice. What this meant in short was that getting an NHS appointment was a challenge, for limited long-term results.
At the time, I studied traditional Chinese acupuncture. As a practice, it was deeply fascinating, but stark cultural differences made it quite difficult to understand. Fortunately, doctors and acupuncturists soon adapted the theory to form a new model, to make it easier to grasp for Western practitioners. These methods proved effective for some types of acute and chronic pain. However, I found that the effects of acupuncture were mostly short-lived – so, I looked for alternatives.
After some time, I came across low intensity laser therapy (LILT), and trialled using a laser device instead of needles. I didn’t find it particularly effective but was keen to learn more. During my research, I found plenty of evidence for the beneficial effects of light, but much controversy too.
Since LILT was discovered, there’s been an explosion of interest in the way light interacts with our bodies. It’s been used to heal wounds, reduce pain, stimulate cartilage and bone repair, prevent tissue death, treat sports injuries, remediate failed spinal surgery, and much more. Recent advances even suggest that light can be applied to neurology and ophthalmology.
The common denominator is LILT’s ability to modify and resolve inflammation at certain wavelengths and energies. What’s more, it’s proven to give a lasting clinical benefit.
I’ve been very lucky to be able to introduce LILT to my practice now that laser diodes and LEDs have become easier to manufacture. The ‘doses’ of light have been developed and refined in the last 10 years by innovative centres all over the world, and devices suitable for clinic use have become widely available. Treatments have demonstrated remarkable effectiveness with minimal or no incidence of harm.
LILT has revolutionised the way I treat many conditions that were difficult or impossible to help by other means. I believe that we’ll hear more of this exciting form of treatment in the next few years, and we can only speculate as to the many conditions it could help to treat.