Photobiomodulation Therapy vs Cold Laser Therapy vs Low-Level Laser Therapy—Which Is Best?

Photobiomodulation Therapy vs Cold Laser Therapy vs Low-Level Laser Therapy—Which Is Best?

When it comes to revitalizing the body from the trails of aging, pain, and inflammation, it’s a great idea to explore the wide world of laser therapy to help get you back on your feet and enjoying all the activities you love. But for the novice, figuring out what kind of laser therapy to engage with is often the hardest part.

You’ve probably heard several terms thrown around regarding the different kinds of laser therapies, things such as Photobiomodulation Therapy, cold laser therapy, and low-level laser therapy. So how is the discerning consumer to know which of these applications is the best one to go with to relieve their aches and pains?

Well trick question—they’re all the same thing!

Photobiomodulation Therapy

Let’s take it from the top, one by one. Photobiomodulation Therapy, or PBMT for short, is a high level description of using non-thermal non-ionizing light photons (400 - 1100 nm) to promote physical and chemical changes in tissue cells.  The treatment produces many benefits to the body, including pain relief, inflammation reduction, wound healing, and tissue regeneration. Here’s a handy mnemonic device to remember this by:

Photo, as in light

Bio, as in biology (and in this case, the biology of our bodies)

Modulation, as in change

Cold Laser Therapy

Specifically , Cold Laser Therapy describes the process by which  a device emits the non-thermal, non-ionizing light mentioned above, usually within the red light (610-700 nm) and near infrared light (700-900 nm) spectrum into the body. As you may expect, the results are the same with Photobiomodulation Therapy. The treatment promotes analgesic pain relief and healing of the tissue cells. While not “cold” these devices under 500 millawatts (mW) are not powerful enough to create a thermal effect. In addition, high quality cold laser devices use laser diodes which efficiently transfer light energy into the body without the by-product of heat. The lack of thermal effect produces a target and safe at home treatment. 

Low-Level Laser Therapy

Lastly,  Photobiomodulation and Cold Laser Therapy is also referred to as Low-Level Laser Therapy due to the classification of the laser’s abilities by way of comparison to other kinds of lasers. Check out the following chart for a handy illustration:

 

source: chiroeco.com/therapeutic-lasers

So, for example, a class 1 or 2 laser could be represented by something like a DVD or barcode scanner at your local grocery store—not powerful enough to penetrate the skin, nor to have a therapeutic effect on your tissue. A class 3b laser, at 5-500mW of average power is the optimum window for treatment. The laser will provide you the theraputic benefits you need with minimal safety requirements. A class 3b laser is the perfect choose to utilize Photobiomodulation, Cold Laser Therapy or Low Level Laser Therapy in your home.Finally, class 4 lasers are those which require certification to operate. These lasers are no longer considered to be ‘cold’ nor low-level; they necessitate consistent movement and expertise to wield, as they can burn the skin if not properly administered due to their high-powered nature. You’ll find most of these lasers in medical practices and provider offices…and you’ll certainly be paying a pretty penny to have them utilized by physical therapists and the like for your pain management needs!

That’s where Cold Laser Supplies comes in.

The benefits of at-home, Cold Laser treatment

While Level 4 lasers can be a great way to alleviate scores of aches and pains within the body, they also require the aforementioned license to operate due to their potentially dangerous ‘heated’ nature—which means that you won’t be able to purchase one for at-home usage anytime soon!

As a result, that means you’ll have to make a trip into your local clinic or medical practice each and every time you wish to feel the benefits of laser therapy to help the cells of your injured tissues heal, which can be both time-consuming and incredibly expensive.

The problem comes in when we consider the most common kinds of injuries that can benefit from laser therapy: sore backs, stiff shoulders, aching muscles, and the like. These kinds of physical encumbrances require repeat and frequent treatments for the pained person to receive the full benefits of the therapy, which entails frequent trips to the provider to stay at an optimal level.

However, when you purchase a quality product for at-home use, there are no cumbersome offices to work into your hectic schedule—and the device will all but pay for itself! What’s more, at-home laser devices can be utilized indefinitely, saving you not only money but time as well Sounds great…but where should I get started? Great question!

Getting Started with PBMT / CLT /  LLLT

If you’re going to wade into the healing waters of Photobiomodulation, it might be beneficial to kick things off with a few things to avoid. There are several products available that fall far short of delivering the kind of healing, revitalizing power you seek. As with most things in this life, you get what you pay for when it comes to cold laser therapy!

In fact, many of the  low end, low power models are typically LED-based, which might sound like a great thing…but buyer beware. While LED-based technology is a wonderful thing for your big-screen television and outdoor patio lighting, it’s far from the idea when it comes to cold-laser technology. Due to its non-coherent nature, LEDs are simply less efficient than Laser Diodes at transferring light photons into the body. The comparison here would be akin to utilizing a shotgun vs. a laser itself—this is precision work, after all, which requires far more control and accuracy than most cheap LED-based devices can deliver.

Having said that, there are a few LED-based devices that overcome efficiency through power.. Take the LZR Ultrabright, for example: it has 10W, 12.5W and 20W options that produce a power density of 750 mW/cm^2 which is similar to class 4 lasers without the price and safety considerations. However, the majority of lower powered LED products will not treat your symptoms and will end up wasting your time and money.  

 Next, you’ll also want to know both the power and the wavelength of any potential new purchase, as these two factors ultimately determine your results.

In general, the formula to keep in mind is: Power (wattage) multiplied by time (seconds or minutes of application equals energy (in Jules). 

While time can make up for some loss in power, generally buyers need to make sure that their device has enough power to deliver the desired targeted results.. For example, if the total power of your device is too low for your needs, then no amount of time your skin spends under it will have an effect, as the light will simply not be able to penetrate the skin. Don’t go scanning that aching back with the barcode scanner at Whole Foods—you could be there all day and night and wouldn’t realize any benefit!

source: cryospaiowa.com/blog/the-power-of-light

Finally, when it comes to Wavelengths, current research demonstrates red light at 650-700 nm and Near Infrared Light (NIR) at 700-900 nm provide the deepest penetration in to the body. These wavelengths are the biological sweet spot to promote healing in the body’s deeper tissue cells.

And sure, that all makes sense…but you’re probably still asking: do you have any specific device recommendations for me to get things started?

We sure do!

How to choose your first Cold Laser Device

It’s important to remember that everyone’s body is different, which means that there are no one-size-fits-all applications when it comes to low-level laser therapy. Having said that, here are a few devices renowned for their healing capabilities and all-around quality of design:

  • The Power Medic Power Laser Pro 1500: A Class 3B unit, this awesome device comes in at around 3,000mW of peak power. . That might not seem like a lot of power, but this capable unit doesn’t need very much, because the Power Medic Power Laser Pro utilizes a laser diode! 
  • TerraQuant Solo TQ Solo Ultimate Cold Laser Package: FDA Cleared, safe, and effective, this awesome device provides 9 diodes of light through 3 wavelengths and 15,000 mW super pulsed power effectiveness and control. An excellent choice for at-home and professional usage alike!

  • Multi Radiance Medical MR4 ACTIV Laser: A step up from the TQ Solo, the MR4 Activ is also FDA Cleared and produces 25,000mW of Super Pulsed Power. The device includes an additional blue light for antimicrobial benefits and 3 more pulse settings. Athletes and the athletic-at-heart alike use the cordless MR4 ACTIV to relieve acute and chronic pain, reduce stiffness and muscle spasms, increase microcirculation and more in the training room—and now you can too, all from the comfort of your living room!

No matter what applications you’re seeking, you’ll find them at Cold Laser Supplies, where we help you discover the perfect cold laser therapy equipment for your specific needs. Dedicated customer service is both our passion and our specialty. And if you’re curious to hear more about all the benefits of cold laser technology, then be sure to read our next blog for a powerful story of just how restorative Photobiomodulation has been to a user who recently adopted it into their health routine.

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