More and more veterinary practices offer their patients laser therapy. A new laser device, the MLS laser, makes it easier for the veterinarian to treat pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory medication at the same time. Since this laser is also used in the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, we have Dr. med. Marion Müller from the Outpatient Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Question: Mrs. Müller, what is the principle of laser therapy, what are the effects of the laser beams?
Dr. Müller: Laser devices work with invisible, bundled light; the therapeutic range is around 900 nanometers. The good thing about laser beams is that the light particles are taken up directly by the mitochondria – the power plants of the cell – and immediately converted into energy. So light energy is converted directly into cell energy. This is especially beneficial for cells whose health has already been compromised – for example, in the case of arthroses or injuries – and cells in pathologically altered tissue, which have a particularly high energy requirement for coping with their tasks. Laser therapy can help the sick cells to work adequately again.
How does the organism react to the laser therapy?
Dr. Müller: It is well known that laser beams improve blood circulation, which means that painkillers are transported away faster and healing is promoted. So you can achieve similar effects as with a massage, but with the difference that in the laser therapy even the finest blood vessels in the capillary area are widened, which causes a very good wound healing. The analgesic effect of the laser is not only caused by the already mentioned faster removal of painkillers, but the laser pulses are also faster than the pain impulses, so that they are not perceived – the nerve tracts are blocked, so to speak by the laser. Whereas pulsating laser light is responsible for the attenuation of pain, continuous laser beams have an anti-inflammatory effect. In the case of the MLS laser, these two radiation outputs are coordinated and synchronized, which at the same time has a pain-suppressing and anti-inflammatory effect. Laser therapy also achieves a rapid reduction in swelling and edema. Another advantage of the MLS laser is that it is very strong and, unlike conventional lasers, very quickly introduces a lot of energy into the tissue, which shortens treatment times. For the resident veterinarian the ease of use of this laser device is certainly important, as it has pre-set programs for the various health disorders, such as muscle injuries, arthritis or chronic pain. This saves the veterinarian from dealing with wavelengths, duration of treatment and the like. The display can and must be adjusted to the hair and skin color. The reason for this is that black animals require a longer treatment time because they absorb a lot of laser light from the hair and skin. Bright animals need less treatment time.
What are the most common indications for laser therapy here at the ambulance?
Dr. Müller: We use the MLS laser for tendon diseases, arthrosis in the acute and chronic stage, for back pain and tension – and, of course, for wound healing. So we always laser wounds when dressing, which takes place two to three times a week. In the case of arthrosis, we use the laser for pain therapy, but at the same time treat with physiotherapeutic treatment methods, such as underwater therapy, to stabilize the joints and build muscle. The laser therapy is also good to combine with electrotherapy and acupuncture.
How many treatments are usually needed?
Dr. Müller: On average, eight to twelve treatments are sufficient; These should be done at least twice a week. Here at the ambulance we did a study with dogs that had problems with the biceps tendon and were clearly paralyzed. On a treadmill with force plates, the ground reaction forces were measured before and after the laser therapy. After eight treatments, which lasted over four weeks, all dogs were doing much better.
Are there any side effects when using the MLS laser? I’m thinking about burns, for example …
Dr. Müller: Burns are fortunately not possible with the MLS laser. But there are cases where you can not do laser therapy. For example, with implants because laser radiation is reflected by them. Laser is also contraindicated in the area of tumors, since the high laser energy could increase the rate of cell division and thus accelerate tumor growth. Especially in small dogs we sometimes notice an initial deterioration – often in backcaps hmerzen. The animals are even tense one to two days after the therapy, then it comes to improvement. The reason could be that the body is starting to work towards therapy. Since the laser light could cause retinal damage, it should not come into the eyes. It is therefore necessary for the four-legged patient, his therapist and the pet owner to wear laser glasses during the treatment.
What should the pet owner consider when bringing his animal to laser therapy?
Dr. Müller: Although the laser therapy is very well tolerated, the animal should be spared on the day of therapy. And the pet owner should be aware that a precise diagnosis is important before the laser treatment. The animal must be examined orthopedically and neurologically, and an ultrasound examination must be made in case of suspected tendon injuries. If the joint problem is unclear, computed tomography may be necessary. Like any therapy, laser therapy is not suitable for anything and everything. And most importantly, laser therapy can not replace surgery, but can be used as a supportive treatment. Thus, painkillers and anti-inflammatories can be reduced by the laser therapy and shorten the time of their ingestion.
Mrs. Doctor Müller, thank you for the interview.