Lasers are classified according to their power output:
- Class 3a—maximum of 5 milliwatts of power (standard laser pointer)
- Class 3b—maximum of 500 milliwatts/0.5 watts
- Class 4—anything over 500 milliwatts/0.5 watts
The most significant issue with the clinical use of lasers is the depth of penetration. Some practitioners make the mistake of using low-power Class 3 lasers, which basically amounts to a standard laser pointer.
Most Class 3a lasers only use a red wavelength – 635 nanometers in the visible red. When you look at the depth of penetration with laser, red laser light only penetrates about one to two millimeters (far less than 1/8 inch) into the human body.
Granted, red laser is highly useful for treating superficial wounds, cuts, abrasions, and perhaps even for the treatment of vitiligo, but they will not penetrate far enough for deep seated pain reduction. However, infrared lasers (around 800 nanometers) penetrate far deeper and able to go several centimeters, into your body which will reach most tissue injuries.
Power is also another crucial factor when it comes to laser therapy. Power is measured in watts, and you can think of it as the brightness of the light. A higher-powered laser is a brighter light, and it can produce more energy per unit of time. When it comes to doing laser therapy treatment, a higher-powered laser (Class 4) provides two benefits:
- A therapeutic dose of laser light can be applied to a much larger volume of tissue
- By shining that brighter light at the surface, photons of light are able to penetrate deeper into the tissues, which allows you to treat deep-seated pain conditions
What You Need to Know About Lasers
Health Benefits of Class 4 Laser Therapy
Basically, three things happen during Class 4-Laser treatment. First, laser therapy treatment helps reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance tissue healing—both in hard and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, or even bones.
Finally, the treatment stimulates the cytochrome oxidase enzyme in the cells’ mitochondria. This is really one of the key discoveries in the whole science of laser therapy. Specifically, injured cells are targeted because damaged cells are more readily accepting of photons of light, whereas healthy cells don’t need this extra energy.
Now, lasers are also used in other areas of medicine, specifically in surgical interventions where they’re used for cutting, removing tattoos, and a lot of other dermatological applications. But the class 4 Laser does not do that. The class 4 Laser can produce up to 15 watts, and the laser light is allowed to diffuse to a spot size about that of a quarter, whereas ablative lasers, the ones used for surgical cutting, are closer to 100 watts, and the laser light is focused to a tiny spot size.
The infrared wavelengths used in the class 4-Laser allow for targeting specific areas of the body. Therefore allowing for deep penetration into the body to reach areas such as your spine and hip.