Pharmacist uses light therapy to ease pain

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      Harlan Lahti found the light after he tore his shoulder more than two years ago.

      The Vancouver-based pharmacist was recalling how he learned about light therapy, a treatment for pain and wounds that uses low-intensity lasers.

      Also known by other names, such as low-level laser therapy and cold-laser therapy, the remedy is among the services offered at Lahti’s Finlandia Natural Pharmacy & Health Centre.

      “Because the laser is so potent, it reduces the inflammation, and the inflammation is what causes the pain,” Lahti told the Georgia Straight during an interview at his West Broadway store. “It’s like a concentrated light bulb that goes into the tissue and starts to accelerate the healing.”

      In the winter of 2008, while shovelling snow at his home, Lahti tore some ligaments in his right shoulder. “I’m a tennis player and skier, and it absolutely put me out of commission for six months,” he said.

      The former resident pharmacist at Vancouver General Hospital tried physiotherapy and massage therapy. “After spending $700, I wasn’t much better,” he related. “I still could not hold my tennis racket after seven months of traditional medical treatment.”

      In 2009, Lahti went to a medical trade show in Seattle and saw someone demonstrate laser therapy. He took off his shirt and got a one-hour treatment. After that, he said, he was doing a full range of motions with his arm with minimal pain. He went back the next morning and got a second treatment. “At the end of that treatment, the pain was 100 percent gone,” he said. “I had full mobility. I had full rotation. I came back to Vancouver, and my shoulder started to heal up again.”

      Lahti wrote the Swedish company that produced the laser-therapy device, and was informed that the firm was holding a seminar in New York. Lahti attended the event and was certified by the company as a laser therapist.

      Ontario-based Meditech International Inc. manufactures Health Canada–approved light-therapy systems like the one shown by Lahti during the interview. “When the light source is placed against the skin, the photons penetrate several centimetres and get absorbed by the mitochondria, the energy producing part of a cell,” Meditech explains on its website about the therapy. “This energy fuels many positive physiological responses resulting in the restoration of normal cell morphology and function.”

      Since the late 1990s, the College of Massage Therapists of B.C. has been calling on the provincial government to include light therapy in the scope of practice of its members.

      A position paper prepared for the regulatory body in 2009 notes that the use of low-level laser therapy is within the scope of practice of many regulated professionals, including physiotherapists, athletic therapists, naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, medical doctors, dentists, veterinarians, and aestheticians.

      CMTBC registrar Doug McRae told the Straight in a phone interview that the college intends to ask the government again to allow registered massage therapists to do the same.

      The paper also points out that although clinical trials looking at the effectiveness of the therapy were often “poorly designed” in the past, recent published studies indicate that it is “quite effective for a number of musculoskeletal conditions”.

      At his store, Lahti acknowledged that many medical general practitioners aren’t aware of light therapy. He showed before and after photos of a woman’s leg that had a bad wound that was taking months to heal.

      “I sent her back to the wound clinic, and they were so uninformed about laser therapy they warned her against coming to get the treatment,” Lahti said. According to him, the woman came back, and after three treatments, her wound was gone.



      Susan Gordon

      Feb 22, 2011 at 11:45am

      I was trained in the practical application of light as therapy in 1991 through the College of Syntonic Optometry. CSO trained practitioners use specific frequencies of coloured light for a variety of ocular problems, many of which are symptoms of other medical issues. Due to the approval of red light in medical devices, I began to focus on that portion of the spectrum for healing and over the past 19 years of working with this modality, can testify by personal experience and observation that the claims made by this article are absolutely consistent with the results I've seen in both animals and humans. There are no known adverse side-effects, and everything from severe wounds to sports injuries to post-surgical pain can be alleviated using red light. It literally saved the life of one of my horses, and I have a very long list of other successfully treated cases throughout the years.

      Vern Hannah

      Jun 8, 2012 at 9:15pm

      I have arthritis - quite painful and a friend suggested light therapy using green and indigo lights
      Could you supply further information ?
      e-mail -
      Thank you.