High Intensity Laser Therapy For Knee Osteoarthritis

Infrared Laser Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis on the Gold Coast

High intensity laser therapy is a therapy where certain wavelengths of light are shone onto the skin over an injury or degenerative area of the body. The beneficial wavelength of light is in the invisible, near infrared spectrum.

This process occurs naturally to some degree when we are exposed to sunlight but near infrared wavelengths of light from the sun only penetrate a few millimetres into the body. A high powered laser causes the light to penetrate to a depth of up to 10cm allowing deep injured tissue to benefit.

At BePainFree, we provide infrared laser therapy for patients living and working in the Gold Coast. We’re also only a short drive for surrounding suburbs, including Southport. Learn more about how infrared laser therapy can help with knee osteoarthritis.

What is knee osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the knee and is sometimes referred to as the ‘wear and tear’ of the knee. It involves a gradual degeneration of cartilage in the knee joint. It occurs mostly in people aged 50 years and older but sometimes can be found in younger people.

Knee osteoarthritis is extremely painful and disabling for patients. Patients experience a significant decline in their ability to use their joints, resulting in a weakening of muscle strength. When joints become weakened and painful a person’s physical function is reduced.

How can infrared laser treatment help?

High intensity laser (HILT), also known as hot laser therapy or infrared laser treatment, uses  a specific wavelength of near-infrared light to penetrate deeply into the knee tissue, creating therapeutic effects such as increased cellular energy production, reduction in inflammatory mediators, increase in growth factors, pain relief and increase in blood flow.

Our bodies are constantly trying to achieve healing. In an osteoarthritic knee this process involves the local influx of white blood cells, mainly macrophages and fibroblasts, which kill any infection, debride the damaged tissue and produce collagen to regrow the damaged tissue.

These white blood cells use up a lot of energy during this healing process. During laser therapy, mitochondria, the energy producers of the cell, absorb near infrared light and turn that light energy into cellular energy. This recharges the exhausted cells and stimulates them to work faster. This mechanism is thought to be one of the main reasons that high intensity laser therapy increases the rate of healing.

The light at 980nm from the hot laser also has an impact on nerve cells by altering their cell membranes which blocks the transmission of pain to the brain.

The warmth imparted to the knee from the laser, increases the diameter of blood vessels (vasodilation) which not only increase the infiltration of the necessary cellular and chemical components of healing but also aids the removal of waste products from the site.

Patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis, who are treated with hot laser therapy, find that their pain reduces very quickly. As a result, they start to become more mobile, using the knee and surrounding joints and muscles in a more healthy, functional way. This increase in function strongly improves the transport of chemical and cellular healing components into the knee and also aids the removal of waste products, further speeding the recovery.

Infrared laser therapy – pain relief or healing?

Despite the often long-term reduction in pain and function of an arthritic knee from high intensity laser therapy, there is yet no evidence to suggest that the knee has actually regrown cartilage.

This treatment approach is very new, and we look forward to these types of studies being carried out. In the lab it has been demonstrated that shining an infrared laser on a cell culture of chondrocytes (cartilage producing cells), the cells do actually manufacture cartilage at an enhanced rate. Whether this process occurs in the human body is presently unknown.

Clinical research supporting infrared laser treatment

Many of research studies have helped us understand that when the cell is exposed to light of certain wavelengths a number of biological processes are greatly enhanced at the cellular level.

Clinical studies have been conducted to measure the effectiveness of high intensity laser therapy for reduction of pain in osteoarthritis of the knee. The results are extremely encouraging 1,2.

Pain Research and Management, Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 9163618 cites the results of a clinical study about the effects of high intensity laser therapy in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, provided by Anna Angelova and Elena M. Ilieva – Medical University of Plovdiv, Plovdiv, Bulgaria. 72 patients, aged between 39 – 83 years, with clinical and radiographic proof of their knee osteoarthritis were included in the study. The study split the patients into two groups. One group (therapeutic group) was given high intensity laser therapy and the other (control group) a ‘sham’ laser.

Each patient was asked to measure their pain level using a visual analogue scale (VAS). Both groups were given a single application of laser therapy per day for 7 days. One group was treated with an imitation laser whereby the laser was directed onto the area of the knee without turning on the light beam (sham laser).

Pain levels of the therapeutic group, measured by VAS, decreased significantly over the 7 days. The study summarised the results as, “The results after seven days of treatment show more intensive and cumulative effect after the application of high intensity laser therapy (HILT) in comparison to sham laser. This is the reason why HILT can be a method of choice in the treatment of gonarthrosis” (arthrosis of the knee).

In a similar study examining the effects of high intensity laser therapy on pain and function of 20 patients with knee osteoarthritis, cited in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, November 2016, concluded that “High intensity laser therapy is considered an effective non-surgical intervention for reducing pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis and helping them to perform daily activities.

How long has laser therapy been used by medical practitioners?

The use of therapeutic lasers began in 1967 due to the discovery by Hungarian physician and surgeon, Dr Endre Mester. Since then the therapeutic use of laser therapy, approved by the FDA, has increased significantly producing positive results for patients suffering from pain.

How many treatments are required?

The number of treatments depends on the severity of the osteoarthritis and the amount of degenerative damage. The effects of the hot laser therapy are cumulative, meaning that each treatment builds on the one before. A long-term arthritic knee may take 8-14 treatments. Many patients experience a reduction in pain from the first treatment. Each treatment takes about 10 minutes and patients find it relaxing and soothing.

Is ongoing laser treatment required?

Yes, in most cases ongoing treatment is required. Although pain relief for more than 6 months is often reported after a course of high intensity infrared laser therapy, osteoarthritis is an incurable degenerative disorder. For many patients the only long-term treatment option is surgery. A laser treatment every 2-3 months to keep the knee functioning and in many cases pain-free, is a preferable to the other treatment options.

Book your infrared laser treatment in the Gold Coast today

Infrared laser therapy can help patients with knee osteoarthritis as well as those suffering from chronic pain and joint disorders. If you would like to learn more about how this treatment can help you, please book a consultation by contacting our reception team on (07) 5597 5711. Our clinic is based in Benowa, making us only a short drive away for patients in Southport and throughout the Gold Coast.

References:

1. Kim G-J, Choi J, Lee S, Jeon C, Lee K. The effects of high intensity laser therapy on pain and function in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2016;28(11):3197-3199. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.3197.

2. Anna Angelova and Elena M. Ilieva, “Effectiveness of High Intensity Laser Therapy for Reduction of Pain in Knee Osteoarthritis,” Pain Research and Management, vol. 2016, Article ID 9163618, 11 pages, 2016. doi:10.1155/2016/9163618