Therapeutic laser treatments have been around since 2002.
K-Laser Therapy, the first therapy to use two wavelengths of light at the same time, first received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration in March 2005.
Just last year, the K-Laser Class 4 Therapy Laser received FDA clearance, according to Phil Harrington, manager of training and clinical support for K-LaserUSA. There are seven chiropractors in the state of Iowa that offer K-Laser therapy.
One of the locations to offer the specialized treatment is Chiropractic Health Care Associates at 515 7th Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids. Specifically, the office uses the K-Laser Class 4 Therapy Laser.
So what exactly is the K-Laser and how does it work?
"The K-Laser is a painless therapy that uses specific wavelengths of light that creates therapeutic effects such as increasing circulation, decreasing pain, inflammation, decreasing swelling and it also improves healing time," said Samantha Kennedy, a chiropractor at Chiropractic Health Care Associates.
Cells absorb the laser light. The result is increased circulation, which in turn brings oxygen, water and nutrients to the cells that were damaged, Kennedy said.
"It creates an optimal healing environment," she said. "Just the normal process in your body trying to heal itself, but with the laser it just speeds up that healing process."
K-Laser Therapy is intended for patients with acute conditions, Kennedy said. For these patients, one to six treatments are required.
For chronic conditions, between six to fifteen treatments can be required, depending on the specific ailment and the individual patient's needs.
Zmoos Chiropractic Center on 4045 River Ridge Drive NE in Cedar Rapids offers the Class 4 12-watt K-Laser. In addition, Progressive Rehabilitation Medicine in Cedar Rapids offers laser therapy.
The Class 4 laser uses four wavelengths of light, Harrington, the K-Laser manager of training and clinical support, said. Three of them are infrared; one is visible red.
"The three infrared wavelengths penetrate much deeper into the body," Harrington said. "We use those three different wavelengths for a specific reason."
This type of laser is effective at treating "almost any neuromuscular skeletal complaint," he said, including headaches, sinus headaches or seasonal allergies as well as hip and lower back pain.
Compared to standard medical options such as taking painkillers, the laser therapy treatment is virtually free of side effects, Harrington said.
He also said the treatments work quickly. If a patient is going to benefit from the use of the laser technology, he or she will notice something within three treatments.
"The patient does not have to undergo an extremely long treatment plan before they decide if it is going to work for them," he said. "Typically you'll get some sort of increase in range of motion or decreased pain or reduced muscle spasms or some positive effect fairly quickly."
Robyn Costello, an employee with Chiropractic Health Care, is receiving the treatments to help with pain from her CrossFit workouts.
"It's like a warm sensation; it's actually really relaxing," Costello said as Kennedy moved the laser around her right shoulder.
Costello said she has had the treatment on her sinuses during the winter. By the time she went home the night of the treatment, she could feel an improvement.
"With something like this, it might take two to three treatments," Kennedy said of Costello's shoulder treatments. "Some people feel the effect right away. Some people it might take two to three treatments and she would be better after that."
Kennedy said the K-Laser goes deeper into the tissue than other treatments, increasing healing time versus comparable procedures such as ultrasounds or electrical stimulation.
The treatment is not for individuals who are taking medicine that makes them photo sensitive, Kennedy said.
The most common treatments provided are along the spine and shoulder-related issues. Kennedy said more than 50 percent of treatments performed are work-related issues.
The cost for a single treatment is $40 at Chiropractic Health Care Associates. Patients can also get five treatments for $175.Due to the non-invasive nature of the treatments, Kennedy said she anticipates more laser treatments will be used in the future. Insurance does not coverage the cost of the therapy now. If it were to in the future, she said that would also make the treatments more prevalent.