Cold-Laser Therapy to Relieve Pesky Pains

Our writer's a believer in this alternative treatment. Read about her experience.

I’m trying my best to avoid sounding like one of those annoying, anonymous actors on TV commercials promoting some new drug treatment. “This stuff changed my life! Call your doctor right now!” And in hushed tones: “Some possible side effects may include … you die.”

Maybe that’s what people think about me when I go on and on about my experience with cold-laser therapy to treat my pesky pains. But I can’t help but want to share it with people—it’s affordable, noninvasive, relaxing and, most important, it worked for me.

So here goes: I was never much interested in trying out a chiropractor, especially after watching my mom get her neck snapped week after week. It gave me the heebeegeebees every time. But when my mom told her chiropractor that I’d been having constant, aggravating lower-back pain for months, he said he had a solution for me. At the time I’d been squirming in chairs for months and pasting on Icy Hot patches because it was so awful to have to sit up.

When I finally broke down and agreed to come in, he told me that the pain likely stemmed from a spinal tap I’d received a few months prior. He said that sometimes a slight tear of the spinal tissue could occur, and his technique, called cold-laser therapy, would help speed up the healing process and dull the pain.

To be honest, the thought of a laser was unsettling at first. For one, it was to be administered by someone who didn’t have an MD after his name. But when he rolled a cart around the corner and explained that all I’d have to do was lay there while he laid a few warm lights on my back, I relaxed.

I’m happy I gave it a shot because it worked. After only two visits, the pain I’d been dealing with for almost three months was gone. I never had to get treatments for my spine again after that. Ever.

Now I get it for the carpal tunnel syndrome that’s crept its way into my hands. I’m a guitar player, an avid drawer and writer, and I sew and knit—so pretty much everything I love to do requires using my hands. I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t grasp my guitar or even hold a book between my fingers, so I was hopeful that cold-laser therapy could help.

It has. Now, I don’t notice any pain until months after a visit. Yes, unlike my back pain, this issue requires follow-up visits here and there—maybe once every two months. But they only take five minutes for each hand, and all I have to do is sit there while the doctor runs the laser wand across both sides of my hands. Treatments typically cost between $50 and $75 a piece.

I talked to local chiropractor Stuart Katzen, who sees patients in Narberth and Philly, to find out what he thinks about the treatment. He says a patient’s cold-laser treatment plan depends on the kind of pain he or she is experiencing, but on average, he might treat a person twice a week for four weeks.

“What it does is stimulate the body cells and promotes the natural healing of the body. It’s effective in speeding up healing time and recovery,” he says, adding that he sees the best results when the treatment is accompanied by other therapies.

He’s used cold-laser therapy to treat lower back pain, strains, sprains, herniated discs and spinal decompression—all with good results. Athletes and people with more physically demanding jobs, such as construction workers, also have found the treatment to be useful.

“What I tell skeptics is that it’s noninvasive, and although you might feel a little warmth, most people don’t feel anything,” he says. “There are also no negative side effects, no drugs or surgery. We’ve seen it to be very effective.”