Since ancient times, people believed that rays of light could carry magnificent and mysterious powers and we have been in a search for those powers even to modern times.
Interest in radiation (rays of light) increased around the start of the 20th century with the discovery of radio, X-rays and radioactivity. The term “laser” originated as an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. The first laser was built in 1960 by Theodore H. Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories.
When first discovered, the laser gave rise to many fantastic hopes and was heralded as an answer to many of the world’s problems. Lasers would be used to melt dangerous icebergs, replace the existing telephone networks or carry millions of volts of electricity from one place to another. Leaving aside some of the more far-fetched (or premature in the case of telecommunications) applications, by 1965 people envisaged using lasers as scalpels in surgical operations, minimizing skin scarring, helping wounds heal faster and affecting cellular metabolism. It was hoped that Laser would help facilitate nuclear fission, be used as a precision measuring device and cutting tool for metals or as a means to store information (CDs) or to produce 3D images (holography).
In the 1970s serious research began in China, Russia and the US and by the 1980s, due to numerous positive reports, laser started to gain recognition as an effective method of stimulating acupuncture points without the use of needles.
Today, photobiology is the study of how light affects living things, and includes studies of single-celled organisms, plants, animals and humans. Laser acupuncture is an important field of study within photobiology.
Lasers used in acupuncture are known as low-intensity or “cold lasers,” because they don’t produce heat. These are not the same as “hot lasers” used for surgery, which are used as a scalpel to cauterize or cut. Studies show that low-intensity lasers can help regenerate cells, decrease pain, reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and stimulate tissue regeneration and growth.
In 2003, at the National University in Seoul, Korea studies were undertaken that that addressed laser acupuncture and meridian theory. Researchers shined laser light on acupoints on limbs of the body and found that the laser light traveled subcutaneously to other related acupuncture points along regular meridian pathways. The light did not travel to places on the limbs that were not associated with acupuncture meridians. It appeared that the body contains a sort of fiber optic network—where light enters an acupuncture point, travels through the meridian and was detected at other places along the meridian with sensitive photon detectors. This study shows how light energy may actually be received and transmitted throughout the body. Additionally the study proved the existence of the acupuncture meridian network.
Recent studies on laser acupuncture have also included advanced brain imaging, as well as several other modern protocols for measuring various physiological effects to the body. These studies show that laser acupuncture has physiological effects, not only locally, but also in the brain, similar to needle acupuncture.
Scores of random clinical trial studies published in Chinese, North American, Russian and European journals over the last 30 years have concluded that the use of laser light can be used as an alternative to needles. Evidence was found supporting the use of laser acupuncture in the treatment of myofascial pain, postoperative nausea and vomiting and for the relief of chronic tension headaches and many other conditions. Laser acupuncture represents an effective form of acupuncture for the management of these conditions and should be considered as a viable adjunct or alternative to more traditional forms of acupuncture point stimulation. As more studies are done the database of conditions treated with Laser therapy will undoubtedly grow.
Traditional Chinese medicine has used moxabustion as a source of radiant heat therapy on acupoints for millennia so the transition from moxa to laser is not a big leap clinically. The light emitted from a red, low-intensity (635nm wavelength) laser corresponds to the glow of the moxa stick and is in fact also seen as being a yang, stimulating type of therapy. Laser light, in Chinese medicine, is used to break through stagnant qi which is one source of all pain and illness. Laser light also nourishes vacuous qi at the applied acupoint, qi deficiency being the other source of all pain and illness. Laser light is one of only two methods of directly introducing yang energy into the body, the other method being electro-acupuncture.
Laser therapy is completely pain free and can be used on up to fifteen points per session with each point being activated for 20 – 30 seconds each time for up to three repetitions. The Laser treatments are advised two to three times per week for the duration of the course of treatment. Laser therapy can also be used in conjunction with auricular (ear) acupuncture and standard body acupuncture in which cases the ear beads or needles are directly stimulated by the laser light.
Laser acupuncture is offered at our Vero Beach clinic along with cupping, moxa, electro acupuncture, gua sha, Chinese herbal medicine, pulse and tongue analysis and dietary therapy.
Yours in good health,
Robert Kienitz, DTCM