Updated: Apr 9
LASER is a type of electrotherapy which stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Low level LASER therapy has a beneficial effect on the musculoskeletal system without causing tissue trauma. Its innovative qualities have made it an increasingly used therapeutic practise in veterinary medicine. It is predominantly used in practise for pain management and to improve tissue healing. The light energy creates a photochemical tissue response whereby the light is absorbed into cells to increase the production of ATP.
ATP plays a role in the creation of proteins which have an important part in tissue repair, reduction of inflammation and pain relief. These effects significantly benefit musculoskeletal problems. Laser has also been proven to help with arthritis, wound healing, nerve regeneration and much more. Laser therapy can be used daily, weekly or monthly for treatment and prevention.
In all honesty, before reaching the final few years of my degree, I didn’t really believe in electrotherapies. I think I struggled to believe in them because my father, an osteopath, (who helped grow my passion for musculoskeletal physiology) has always emphasised the need to feel the tissues with your hands. Therefore, I used to believe this meant manual therapies (ie using your hands only) are the only answer. It was not until the final years of my degree that I was really able to see electrotherapies in practise and see first hand, the results they gave to the animals we treated. Although manual therapies (such as massage and stretching etc.) alone can make a big difference, when dovetailed with electrotherapies, the results appear just that much greater.
Case Study: Sonny
Sonny is my husbands’s 11 year old Jack Russel Terrier and, after a few years, Sonny and I have built a good and trusting relationship. However, he will not let me, or anyone else, touch his back because it is so tight and sore. It sounds ridiculous that as a vet physio, I can’t even treat my own dog- but there is no way he will let me massage it. However, with the LASER, because it is far less invasive than massage, I have already completed a few successful treatments, administering some pain relief and reducing the muscle tightness.
I could not believe it, but after his first laser treatment yesterday, he was already feeling better and allowed me to touch and massage his back this morning, more than I have ever done before! This is incredibly exciting and shows that the LASER treatment has given some pain relief to Sonny. I can't wait to see how he progresses.
*UPDATE* MARCH 2021:I have now been treating Sonny's back for a few months with LASER therapy, and he appears far more comfortable. He lets me and many others now stroke his back and the tissues are feeling far softer and more accepting, not tight and sensitive as they did before.
Sonny enjoying his first ever back massage!
If you think that LASER therapy may be beneficial to your horse or dog, would like to book an appointment or find out more, please feel free to contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), message me on social media or via my website chat.
Haussler, K., Manchon, P., Donnell, J. and Frisbie, D. 2020. Effects of low-level laser therapy and chiropractic care on back pain in quarter horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 86 p. 102891.
Jang, H. and Lee, H. 2012. Meta-analysis of pain relief effects by laser irradiation on joint areas. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, 30 (8), pp. 405-417.
Mama, K. and Hector, R. 2019. Therapeutic developments in equine pain management. The Veterinary Journal, 247 pp. 50-56.
Paterniani, V. and Grolli, S. 2018. Laser florence 2017: Advances in laser medicine. International Society for Optics and Photonics.
Schlachter, C. and Lewis, C. 2016. Electrophysical therapies for the equine athlete. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice, 32 (1), pp. 127-147.