Cold Laser Therapy Equipment Guide & Overview
Cold Laser Therapy Education & Equipment Guide for the 21st Century
Are you trying to make sense of this seemingly new language that encompasses the many facets of cold laser therapy and cold laser therapy equipment?
In this Cold Laser Therapy Equipment Guide you will learn about common terminology such as laser power, measured in milliwatts (mW) or Watts (W). There are 1000mW in 1 W. You will also learn about laser wavelength, measured in nanometers (nm), FDA Classification 1 through 4 ratings, approvals and clearances. At DiscoverLasers.com we have a 20 year history of specializing in therapeutic lasers, and offer Cold Lasers manufactured in the US with a proven history of success with tens of thousands of satisfied customers. Cold lasers come in many varieties and they are not all created equal. The Scalar Wave Laser (SWL) is particularly popular because of numerous factors that set it apart from others. Learn more about using laser therapy to energize and activate your inner healer. Learn about the benefits of Scalar Waves when used in conjunction with cold laser therapy. Learn about the 5 different Quantum Scalar wave Laser packages which are comprised of the just the main unit SWL cluster type laser with over 36 diodes or the more concentrated pulsar probes, which come in 3 specialty wavelengths and allow for the widest range of treatment options including the ability to treat acupuncture points and auricular therapy points, trigger points and deep hard or soft tissues.
This guide was created to support you on your quest for reliable and trustworthy information. It will help to guide you through the wash of misinformation currently on the worldwide web about cold lasers and PhotoBioModulation (PBM), which is a fancy way of saying Cold Laser Therapy (CLT) or Phototherapy and was originally touted as Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT). 1st off, it’s vital to understand the difference between Cold Lasers and Hot Lasers. A Cold Laser, which falls under FDA class 1 through 3b is typically any laser that uses laser diodes with a power output under 500mW. A couple of manufacturers are pushing the envelope with advanced heat sync technology to maintain cool temperatures with more power output. The important thing to understand about a Cold or Cool Laser is that it will not ever heat tissues to the point where any kind of damage can occur. This makes them extremely safe for the masses. Hot Lasers on the other hand do generate heat, but when used correctly, offer a myriad of additional therapeutic benefits such as quickly delivering more photonic energy healing power to a treatment area, which can be helpful in some cases. However, Class IV Lasers are much more expensive than cold lasers and are typically reserved for practitioners who need it for their practice. In addition to delivering photons to tissue for fast pain relief, they can also be calibrated to cut or vaporize tissue with specialty emitters and cutting tools. Hot lasers are FDA Class 4 Lasers, and these laser devices are available for purchase by a licensed practitioner only.
Therapeutic lasers have proven their efficacy over more than 50 years. There are over 5000 clinical studies and hundreds of books, videos and other resources showing the effectiveness of laser therapy that you can search through using our Clinical Studies and Research link, or simply by searching online. There are over 200,000 health care providers using cold lasers in their practice and over 800,000 laser users, so laser therapy is NOT an “experimental” therapy. It is still a mystery why insurance companies like to say that when they deny a claim for a laser, or laser therapy.
In this age of pharmaceutical and surgery dominated medicine, most conventional MDs shy away from laser therapy, outside of commonly accepted laser surgery procedures. However, therapeutic cold lasers primarily, along with some class 4 hot lasers, are increasingly used as complimentary treatment therapy in a wide range of therapeutic practices. There is an increasing spectrum of health care providers that focus on treating both symptoms and the root cause of health issues, while supporting the body on a cellular level. Practitioners that utilize cold lasers include: chiropractors, acupuncturist, physical therapists, massage therapists, skin care professionals, weight control centers, smoking cessation centers, herbalists, osteopaths, functional medicine specialist, vets, dentists, podiatrists and many others. While lasers are not a “cure-all”, there is overwhelming evidence over a 50+year track record, that cold lasers are effective in treating a significant variety of symptoms and conditions.
What sets Cold Laser Therapy (CLT) aka Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) apart from other treatment modalities? Cold lasers have also been called healing lasers, soft lasers, biostimulating lasers and more. They offer a means of delivering photons (energy packets) directly to cells and target tissues, which is absorbed by the Mitochondria (the power-house of the cell) and instantly turned into a usable form of energy called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). CLT also helps to significantly reduce inflammation by deactivating 7 or the 9 enzymes that cause inflammation by up to 70%. Other touted benefits include increased production of collagen, elastin, osteoblasts, fibroblasts, increased lymph movement and blood circulation and much more.
The majority of therapeutic lasers are used to treat damaged tissue, joints and structural (bone, joint and ligament) issues, and the use of cold lasers to treat trigger points, acupoints and lymph nodes is growing significantly. Most therapeutic cold lasers have a treatment area between the size of a dime to the size of a silver dollar, but laser systems created for trigger point and acupoint therapy focus the energy into a concentrated beam that is commonly smaller than 1/4 inch. Many Cold lasers are typically FDA cleared for pain reduction, inflammation reduction and increasing blood circulation. However, the research shows that far more applications are relevant for treatment and will be revealed over time.
There are 3 main categories that people use to compare therapeutic laser systems:
- Power density (measured in milliwatts [mW] for class 1-3b and watts [W] for class 4 laser systems)
- Wavelength (measured in nanometers [nm])
- Pulsing, which includes: Pulsed laser (PL), continuous wave (CW) laser, Intense Pulsed Lasers (IPL) and Super Pulsed Lasers.
Some lasers are super pulsed, some pulsing only, some continuous wave only and some combine both pulsed and continuous wave).
These are the primary variables that determine the quality of laser light (measured in Joules for power and Hz for pulsing frequency) administered to the treatment area. Lasers that feature superpulsing can be somewhat deceptive in that they boast a high peak power of say 25 Watts. However, what they don’t tell you is that the average power is typically under 10mW which is insignificant. In reality they really are low level lasers posing as high power lasers. This is not to say that they don’t work, because they do, but the amount of time per treatment can be significantly longer than advertised in order to get sufficient results.
A laser’s ability to successfully treat a wide variety of symptoms and conditions is mostly based on power output at an appropriate wavelength, with some added benefit from pulsing with Hz frequencies or the addition of Scalar Waves to help clear cellular memory and improve electrical conductivity throughout the cells.
Many laser therapy protocols call for a specific amount of Joules per cm squared (J/cm2). Pulsed laser therapy reduces the time it takes to build up an energy dosage compared with continuous wave laser. For a fixed treatment time, the addition of pulsing makes up for the lower dosage and the Hz frequency, which causes the pulsing, often lends additional therapeutic benefits.
A common solution is to set the laser on pulsing and increase the treatment time to achieve the same dosage. Most of the scientific research is focused on dosage, which is the total energy put into the treatment area as measure by J/cm2. There is less emphasis in the research on using unusual wavelengths and pulsing frequencies but there is still some evidence that combining cold laser with Hz frequency is also important for achieving maximum benefits. For example: The earth emits an electromagnetic frequency of 8Hz. It has been determined over many decades of research that prominent and successful healers also emit an electromagnetic frequency of 8Hz. Martial artists, Saints, Sages and Healers have known for thousands of years that developing a grounded connection to the earth is good for health, healing and balancing.
Information on production of Joules/cm2 with Healing Lasers:
Joules = Energy. A 780 nm, 650 nm, or 405 nm, 100mW acu-light laser device produces the following energy per given time over a given area measured in joules/cm squared (2):
• 100mW for 30 seconds produces 3 j/cm2
• 100mW for 60 seconds produces 6 j/cm2
• 100mW for 90 seconds produces 9 j/cm2
The SWL Pulsar Probes 405, 650 & 780 all produce approximately 120mW of power. 100mW from the laser diode and 20mW from the 4 violet LEDs..
The Scalar Wave Laser delivers approximately 12 j/in. squared every 4 minutes. This means that you must spend approximately 8 minutes with the main SWL unit on an individual point to equal approximately 1 minute with a probe.
Infra Red lasers of 100mW or more have the power to work deeply (up to 3”) and quickly. Infrared lasers are shown to increase osteoblasts and fibroblasts in addition to supporting ATP production in cells. Ideal for hard tisssues and joints. A 100mW Red light laser works up to 1/4-1/2” deep, and has the most anti-inflammatory effects. It is ideally suited for treatment of soft tissues, shallow muscles, injuries, small joints, wounds and skin rejuvenation. The majority of Red Lasers only produce from 5mW to 30mW. Most Acu-Points only require between 3-12 Joules of energy per treatment. Some practitioners will use up to 30 joules for points of muscle spasm or extreme pain for sedation purposes. Worldwide research shows effective cold laser use on acupuncture points, joint/tendon pain, bone/cartilage regeneration, cavitations, osteoporosis and deep scar reduction. A 780 nm laser device that produces 100mW is a good choice for pain, musculoskeletal conditions & acupuncture protocols, especially if it is a pulsed laser. If treatment is required around the eyes, closing the eyes is a good safety solution. Do not stare at laser beam.
Choosing a wavelength:
Many people are confused and concerned about finding and choosing the right wavelength. This guide will help you to more confidently wade through the noise, hype and claims and make a more educated decision. To begin with, it is important to differentiate between the often-confused Near Infrared or NIR and Far Infrared or FAR, which are totally different. NIR or IR as it is most commonly referred to is what’s used in cold lasers. FAR is used in saunas and heat lamps. While they are both beneficial for health, they do different things. Only cold laser therapy delivers photons directly to cells for conversion to ATP in the Mitochondria of the cells. A defining accomplishment never before achieved by any other therapy or technology.
The 650nm wavelength is popular for soft tissue issue issues. Great for skin, wrinkles, wounds, acne, burns, inflammatory conditions, hair growth, antibacterial, antiviral, antiherpetic and for shallow pain relief as it only penetrates up to 1 inch. The 780nm to 980nm infrared (IR) wavelengths range of lasers are the ones that are most commonly available for deep pain up 3-4 inches, joint and spine issues, musculoskeletal and hard tissue issues. These are the ones that are most highly used and promoted for the simple reason that they work great for pain relief, by maximizing tissue photon absorption to deeper target tissues. The 780nm has been shown to support excellent results for decades. The 810nm wavelength has won preference in Europe and more recently in the US due to its use in PBM. The 905nm wavelength is most commonly used for super pulsed lasers, and 980nm most commonly used in Class 4 lasers.
Although some manufacturers or researchers have made claims of effectiveness in certain situations for an obscure wavelength, doesn’t necessarily mean that other wavelengths would not produce similar or even better results.
The wavelength of the light significantly affects depth of penetration and how it interacts with cells and tissue in the body. Although there is no one right answer, the general consensus is as follows:
- Using different wavelengths allows more flexibility in a treatment. Each wavelength can affect cells in a slightly different way. This provides the option for several different mechanisms to treat the same or multiple issues in a single client.
- Infrared diodes in the 800nm range (780nm to 850nm) are best for deep tissue work because they are not quickly absorbed by hemoglobin or water.
- Many higher-end and more expensive cold lasers and super pulsed lasers offer wavelengths in the 904nm and 905nm range, because they have proven results over many year of successful application.
- Class IV lasers commonly use the 980nm or 1064nm wavelength. This is the preferred option for rapid pain control with expensive class IV lasers. 980nm shares some therapeutic characteristics with 780nm to 850nm lasers, however the bulk of the energy goes to creating thermal gradients in the H2O that increase circulation and blood flow. The increase in circulation allows the bodies natural healing process to accelerate. Consequently, the Class IV lasers have become popular for high-end, speedy pain control and some doctors prefer the 980nm system due to quicker treatment times and high level of pain control. Additionally, 980nm can also serve well in some cases for a surgical laser. The flipside to 980nm is that much of the energy converts into heating water in tissue, which is great for laser surgery but less productive for regenerative therapy where 810nm and 780nm are preferred.
- Emitters in the red laser spectrum of 600nm to 660nm range are recommended for treating, inflammation, root nerve, acupuncture and trigger points. Red light lasers are great for soft tissues and small joints, with shallow penetration up to1”. They are useful as a guiding light when used in combination with infrared lasers.
- The growing consensus in the cold laser industry is that multiple wavelengths are beneficial to effectively treat the widest range of conditions. The type of healing needed will dictate to the laser user which wavelength is preferred.
- For example: Red lasers are great for soft tissue, nerves, skin and shallow muscles. Red laser offers the strongest anti-inflammatory effects.
- Infrared (IR) Lasers, sometimes called Near Infrared (NIR) lasers deliver a significantly longer wavelength, typically down to the bone level and are preferred for hard tissue issues such as bones, tendons, ligaments, spine and large and small joints of the musculoskeletal system.
- Fortunately, protocols that call for treatment of acupoints (acupuncture points) can be treated with nearly all of the therapeutic wavelength lasers because an acupoint is close to the surface of the skin, as revealed by heat and skin resistance sensors. These acupoints are revealed as a small explosion of heat beneath the surface of the skin. Anything you can do with a needle, you can do with a laser, just faster, easier, more effectively and completely painlessly.
- The 905nm IR wavelength is preferred where safety is the highest priority. At this point, it appears that all the wavelengths are appropriate for treating structural or cellular damage.
Laser Power Density Explained
Much of the misinformation about cold lasers (aka low level lasers) is related to power levels and how they affect the safety and effectiveness of the end product. Low power laser manufacturers have many ways to justify why their product is the best, however the growing consensus is that power is the single most important factor in determining the effectiveness of cold lasers, especially when it comes to fast pain relief. The exception is with some class 4 lasers, AKA hot lasers, which are typically much higher power and might have the capability to burn tissue if used incorrectly. More power is frequently better in a clinical setting because it allows practitioners to give patients higher dosage when it is appropriate, without wasting time.
FDA Laser Classification
Lasers come is classes 1 through 4. This classification is often highly misunderstood. In reality it is easy to understand. Lower numbers equal a more user-friendly safety factor and the higher the number, the greater the risk is of injury to the eye.
- Class I, II & IIIR lasers can be purchased for use at home, typically referred to as over-the-counter (OTC) for use on humans and no license or prescription is needed. These lasers have a maximum power of 5mW continuous per diode. Several manufacturers make higher power lasers that qualify as a class 1 or 2 by pulsing or super pulsing higher powered laser diodes or by using LEDs. For the sake of time and effectiveness, it’s a good idea to avoid inexpensive laser pens and pointers as they simply don’t emit enough power to treat a given point or injury in a reasonable amount of time with predictable effectiveness. Those devices typically utilize diodes between 5mW and 10mW.
- Class 3, 3a and 3b. Class 3a lasers are not common or particularly desirable. Class 3b lasers are commonly considered therapeutic cold lasers. They are designed for practitioners but can be purchased for use on humans at home with the recommendation of a health care provider. They can be purchased without any restrictions for use on pets and horses. Class 3b lasers are commonly less than 500mW per laser diode continuous output. Several manufacturers have higher power laser devices that use multiple 500mW diodes that have TOTAL power level in the class 4 range, but are safe enough to qualify as a class 3b device because they have less chance of eye damage and no chance of tissue heating damage. More power translates to a higher cost for device.
- Class 4 lasers. These laser devices feature one or more laser diodes calibrated with a power output in excess of 500mW. Class 4 lasers typically start at 7000mW (7 Watts) and can range all the way up to 60 Watts without doing damage to the eye or tissues, when used correctly. This danger is easily eliminated with training. However, it is important that practitioners utilize Class 4 lasers in a laser safe room with proper signage and while both patient and practitioner are wearing laser safe goggles or glasses. Class 4 lasers are typically just for practitioners and can also be sold for use on animals without any restrictions and are popular with race and show horse owners.
The wavelength of a cold laser is important because it determines three things: depth of penetration, absorption of photonic energy and reduction of inflammation. There is a therapeutic window in which energy is best transferred into tissue. Most lasers operate in a therapeutic range from 405nm (blue/violet), 635-650nm (Red) & 780-1064 Near Infrared (NIR). Most common wavelengths are 405, 635, 650, 660, 780, 810, 830, 850, 905, 915, 980 and 1064nm. These wavelengths have advantages and disadvantages as discussed below.
- 405nm is the blue/violet spectrum which is capable of storing and delivering more information than all the other wavelengths. It is also touted for its ability to activate special enzymes in the body such as the Telomerase enzyme, which supports the lengthening of the Telomeres. 405nm is also used to support emotional clearing and to address a range of skin issues including acne, as 405nm kills the seborrhea. Finally, the violet hue is loved by spiritually minded folks who recognize it as being the color of the crown chakra for use in supporting the awakening process.
- 600nm to 660nm is the red laser wavelength, which is best for shallower treatments up to 1” and for neurological applications. Commonly used in cosmetic and skin care lasers. Good for treating skin, wrinkles, wounds, burns, acne, small joints, lymphatic tissue, acupoint therapy and other shallow areas. It is also popular for more complex issues because much of the energy is absorbed by the blood flowing throughout the body. This activates and supports healing in different problem areas.
- 780nm to 850nm is considered the Infrared Laser sweet spot for combining maximum penetration, depth and a positive photo-chemical reaction. European laser specialist such as Dr. Weber and Dr Hamblin promote 810nm as the optimum wavelength because it is said to produce the maximum interaction with the mitochondria, which is the powerhouse of the cell and responsible for converting the photonic energy from the laser into ATP. 780nm works very similarly, but is typically available for a more affordable price.
- 900nm to 1064nm is very popular in super pulsed lasers and class 4 lasers, with 904-905nm being the standard for all superpulsing lasers. 980nm has become the standard for many class 4 laser systems. At 980nm, much of the energy is converted to heat and absorbed by the water in the tissue so it is less efficient than 810nm at creating photobiomodulation. However, many class 4 lasers make up for the inefficiency with the delivery of more power.
Several of the best lasers offer multiple wavelengths. This gives you more flexibility in treating a wider range of ailments with a single laser.
Continuous Wave vs Pulsing or Super Pulsing
Another factor in understanding and choosing a therapeutic laser is the action of the laser beam. Is it continuous wave (CW), or standard pulse (measured in Hz), or does it utilize a super pulsing feature? To understand this better it is helpful to imagine a flashlight with your thumb on the switch. Turn the flashlight on and it is in CW mode. Now repeatedly flick the switch on and off at different speeds. This “chopping” of the beam as it turns on and off is like standard pulsing, which allows some lasers to deliver one or many different frequencies. Now imagine a computer with a “Q-switch” that is rapidly and repeatedly pulsing the diode on and off at a billionth of a second. This represents super pulsing and allows for much higher-powered diodes to be used safely, without generating heat, because the actual amount of exposure time to the laser is dramatically minimized. The higher power may allow for slightly deeper penetration, but the overall average amount of power delivered is typically in the range of just 5-10mW. Consequently, many practitioners prefer standard pulse or continuous wave to deliver more energy faster to the target tissue.
Other frequency benefits can be obtained from what are called laser sweeps, in which the laser cycles or sweeps through multiple frequencies. A sweep is when the laser operates at a constantly changing pulse frequency. This was made popular with Erchonia lasers starting in 2002 when they were the first cold laser company in America to achieve FDA Clearance for use on humans. Those cold lasers are notorious for having extremely high prices. Erchonia lasers use significantly low power laser diodes (10-20mW), and supports the thesis that the majority of the work is done with the frequency pulsing and not as much the dosage and they prefer the red 635nm wavelength. Another theory is that with continuous wave lasers, the cells can adapt to the continuous input, which can sometimes reduce results. The pulsing helps keep the body from becoming desensitized to receiving benefit from application of the laser light. The pulsing can provide a stronger stimulation effect in the cells.
The original thesis was that Continuous Wave (CW) laser light could provide more Joules/cm2 in a shorter time. However, it is now known that both CW and Pulsed have their place and unique benefits. Consequently some of the more popular professional lasers do both.
According to a recent study of laser therapy research by Huang et all, there is conclusive reason to believe that pulsing is preferable for most applications except nervous system therapy.
Laser Therapy Tips & Things To Consider When Investing In Laser Therapy Equipment
Acute symptoms and conditions are easier to treat with a cold laser and respond faster than chronic issues. Some conditions can take weeks or months of treatments depending on how long the person has had it and how their body responds to the treatment. In order for Practitioners to keep their clients from giving up if they don’t see an immediate improvement, they start out the therapy procedure with a higher dosage than might typically be given. As the patient continues treatments they bring down the dose over time to allow for different levels of regeneration and biostimulation to occur. Utilizing both continuous wave and pulsed wave allows professionals and home users to optimize each treatment protocol according to the issue being treated and the patient’s expectations.
When investing in a Laser, it’s helpful to purchase from a laser specialist who can actually answer your most pressing questions. We understand that Practitioners sometimes prefer a more powerful laser with flexibility in output or frequency options, while home-users want a laser that is safe, effective and easy to use for a wide range of symptoms and conditions. It’s a good idea to purchase from a well-established company who has been around for many years and has a reputation. Discover Lasers LLC is an A+ BBB Accredited Company Since 2008. There are so many variables to consider and a laser specialist, such as the ones at Discover Lasers LLC and DiscoverLasers.com have 20+ year of experience supporting Practitioners and Home Users alike.
Anyone who invests in a therapeutic laser deserves to know how to use it to receive the most benefit for themselves, their family, their pets and their patients. When you invest in a laser from DiscoverLasers.com you receive exclusive support, training and protocols procured by a 20 year laser specialist. Additionally, you will also receive the training and protocols guides developed by the manufacturer of the specific laser of your choice, along with a full factory warranty.
Medical specialties including Sports Medicine, Traumatology, Orthopedics, Dental Medicine, Urology, Gynecology, Physical Therapy, Acupuncture & Veterinary Medicine have all developed highly specialized and unique protocols to utilize cold lasers' unique applications. Almost all professional sports organizations are now using Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT), many of them extensively. In the US, at the professional level, every sport across the board has incorporated handheld lasers, both as a tremendously effective tool for reducing severity of and greatly speeding recovery, and in a preventative and performance enhancing capacity."