LASER stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Laser Therapy is a mechanism that is non-invasive and is used to soothe any aching muscles of an athlete’s body. It helps athletes recover from sports injuries and improves their general wellness. This therapy uses a more intense, strong beam of light to soothe the injured body tissues. Laser Therapy has the following properties; it relieves pain, improves vascular activity, reduces fibrous tissue formation, activates stem cell growth, and accelerates cell growth and tissue repair 1,2.
Laser Therapy was invented in 1960, but it was used mostly in veterinary medicine until 1970, when it was embraced in human treatment. Since then, the therapy has been used globally. Research has shown that laser therapy does not pose any health threat to an athlete.
Why Is Laser Therapy Important to Athletes:
Athletes need to embrace Laser Therapy because it has the following benefits;
It enables them to heal quickly; it reduces anxiety, improves their memory, increases their energy on the field, enhances better sleep patterns, and increases their ability to learn new skills and techniques4.
Essential Hormone Secretion
In addition to these benefits, Laser Therapy also enhances the secretion of two critical hormones in the body, serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin helps carry messages within the human body and between the nerve cells in the human brain. It plays fundamental roles in wound healing, mood stabilization, sleep, blood clotting, and digestion4. On the other hand, melatonin helps in regulating day and night cycles or wake-sleep cycles.
Laser Therapy has the following benefits; it relieves pain with few side effects, helps heal strains and sprains in the body, it helps repair superficial injuries such as ulcers and wounds, some of these injuries take a long period to heal4.
Improved Blood Circulation
Laser Therapy also improves blood circulation throughout the body and helps treat athletes with chronic conditions such as back pain; with this therapy, athletes experience long-lasting relief.
It is important to note that once an athlete starts this therapy, one must finish the recommended days of treatment. Otherwise, some of the symptoms are likely to reoccur. Laser Therapy treatments vary depending on the athlete’s condition and acuity. Many athletes experience relief after several treatments4.
How Does Laser Therapy Affect Athletic Performance?
Enhanced Muscular Performance
Studies have shown that Laser Therapy affects organelles such as mitochondria. Light Therapy increases Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) and mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) in myotubes between three to six hours. Athletes have used Laser Therapy before exercise for many years to enhance their muscular performance5.
However, uncertainty remains regarding the optimum time to use this therapy before any activity. The Laser Therapy mechanism is known to stimulate respirational activities of the mitochondria in the human muscles5.
It also stimulates the production of ATP needed for any physical exercise. The mitochondria organelle is crucial in the human body because it is responsible for producing energy in the cells.
Therefore, this organelle is essential in maintaining homeostasis and cellular functioning. The mitochondria organelle has a unique architectural design responsible for generating ATP, the fundamental energy supplier for any cellular activity6.
Intense sports activities cause many injuries. The common athletic injuries for recreational athletes are Subacromial Impingement Syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, and tendonitis. Subacromial Impingement Syndrome affects tendons known to connect shoulder joint bones and muscles.
It also affects the rotator cuff. The tearing and inflammation of these tendons cause loss of mobility and pain. A study conducted in 2014 found that Laser Therapy was the only effective treatment for this condition7.
Plantar Fasciitis affects the tissue connecting the toes to the heel. Inflammation and pain are usually experienced, but the remedy is Laser Therapy. Tendonitis is the inflammation of the connecting tissue between the bone and muscle and is caused after prolonged overuse of the elbow, hands, knees, and hips. Laser Therapy is often used to treat the tendonitis condition.
A Laser Therapy treatment plan is usually dose-dependent. An athlete’s injury needs to be treated using the right amount of Laser Therapy over a predetermined time, spreading across multiple weeks. Usually, Laser Therapy sessions last between three to twelve minutes, depending on the injury and the dosage prescribed by the healthcare provider.
Depending on the healthcare provider’s recommendation, treatment plans can span six to twelve sessions. An athlete can resume regular training between and after the therapy treatment.
How Laser Therapy Helps With Muscle Soreness
Since the 1970s, Laser Therapy has been used to treat athletes’ musculoskeletal conditions. Laser Therapy is the new approach to relieving athletes’ muscle pain. Laser Therapy has proved to be more efficient than cryotherapy and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Laser Therapy, sometimes referred to as LLLT or low level light therapy, helps alleviate muscle soreness by improving blood circulation and stimulating the peripheral nerves around the injured muscle8.
Clinical studies have shown that use of Laser Therapy on athletes before and after gameplay significantly reduced muscle soreness. Further, Laser Therapy helps the overall muscular health of an athlete and also in the recovery of soreness of muscle tissues. As the laser beam reaches these tissues, they increase blood flow and start a cell regeneration process. Blood flow, cellular regrowth, and cellular regeneration prevent further cell death that causes tissue damage. Laser therapies ease muscle soreness, less stiffness, and fewer spasms8.
An athlete exposed to open surgery takes a long time to heal compared to Laser Therapy. Laser Therapy offers painless remedies to athletes’ injuries. A qualified health professional is helpful because the correct evaluation of the number of sessions is critical for optimal outcomes. An athlete can get back to training after Laser Therapy and play more. Laser therapeutic remedies combined with physical therapy treatment plans to bolster the results.
Learn more about How Therapeutic Lasers work in our eBook.
- Hamblin, M. R. (2017). Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation. AIMS biophysics, 4(3), 337. https://doi.org/10.3934/biophy.2017.3.337
- Zielińska, P., Nicpoń, J., Kiełbowicz, Z., Soroko, M., Dudek, K., & Zaborski, D. (2020). Effects of high intensity laser therapy in the treatment of tendon and ligament injuries in performance horses. Animals, 10(8), 1327. https://doi.org/10.3390%2Fani10081327
- Palanker, D. (2016). Evolution of concepts and technologies in ophthalmic laser therapy. Annu. Rev. Vis. Sci, 2, 295-319.
- Stergioulas, A., Stergioula, M., Aarskog, R., Lopes-Martins, R. A., & Bjordal, J. M. (2008). Effects of low-level laser therapy and eccentric exercises in the treatment of recreational athletes with chronic achilles tendinopathy. The American journal of sports medicine, 36(5), 881-887.
- Parrish, J. A., Anderson, R. R., Harrist, T., Paul, B., & Murphy, G. F. (1983). Selective thermal effects with pulsed irradiation from lasers: from organ to organelle. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 80(s 6), 75-80.
- Hernández-Aguilera, A., Rull, A., Rodríguez-Gallego, E., Riera-Borrull, M., Luciano-Mateo, F., Camps, J., … & Joven, J. (2013). Mitochondrial dysfunction: a basic mechanism in inflammation-related non-communicable diseases and therapeutic opportunities. Mediators of inflammation, 2013.
- Canosa-Carro, L., Bravo-Aguilar, M., Abuín-Porras, V., Almazán-Polo, J., García-Pérez-de-Sevilla, G., Rodríguez-Costa, I., … & Romero-Morales, C. (2022). Current understanding of the diagnosis and management of the tendinopathy: An update from the lab to the clinical practice. Disease-a-Month, 101314.
- Hawkins, D., Houreld, N., & Abrahamse, H. (2005). Low level laser therapy (LLLT) as an effective therapeutic modality for delayed wound healing. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1056(1), 486-493.
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