You may have heard of laser vein removal or laser tattoo removal, but did you know that same laser can be for pain removal? A type of laser called Nd:YAG (neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet) is being tested for its ability to help sore, arthritic knees.
As we age, our joints become worn down with use and knee osteoarthritis is one of the top complaints of the older population. Sadly, it typically only gets worse with time. But recently, High-Intensity Laser Therapy (HILT) has been shown to provide some pain relief and even growth of new cells!
Powerful Nd-YAG lasers are special because of their ability to deeply penetrate the skin all the way down into the knee joint. The laser energy is delivered using long pulses which are converted into heat in the tissue. Those warmed up cells become activated, ready to make positive changes in the knee or other joints. But don’t be scared- the laser does not cause any pain.
Nd-YAG lasers stimulate your body’s natural healing mechanisms by increasing the cells’ metabolic activity. Stimulated blood vessels and increased microcirculation bring in more nutrients and oxygen to the area. A stimulated lymphatic system takes away needless fluids to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Your cartilage even begins to repair itself and build more tissue . The laser also soothes your pain receptors and limits the amount of pain-causing chemicals that your cells release which leads to significant pain reduction without medications .
Studies done within the past year show promising results [2, 3]. In one, researchers compared the results of 3 groups: one group with a strong Nd: YAG laser, one with a weaker laser and one with a placebo laser. After 8 weeks, the group receiving the stronger laser showed the most improvement with pain reduction, muscle strength, mobility and range of motion .
Another published this year studied the effects of the Nd-YAG laser combined with exercise versus a placebo laser and exercise . At the end of 6 weeks, the folks in the Nd-YAG laser group again had significantly less pain and a significantly higher quality of life. The effects were still present 3 months after the treatment.
While you sit comfortably, clinicians will target your knee from both the front and back to access as much tissue as possible. However, using lasers for pain is not a one-time fix. Instead, doctors recommend at least 10-16 treatments at about 15 minutes each to show improvement. Fortunately, the results can last several months although they are not thought to be permanent .
During the weeks of treatment, it is also highly recommended to engage in physical therapy and exercise which also lessen pain and improve mobility. Other recent studies demonstrate the importance of being active. A physician or physical therapist can guide you through the best stretches and strengthening exercises.
While exercising, a compression brace will further limit swelling and afterward, some cold therapy would feel great. You can find all of these adjunct therapies packaged conveniently into one easy Knee Osteoarthritis Care Kit.
Don’t just deal with Knee Arthritis- there’s real hope for knee pain relief through lasers!