New research demonstrates the effectiveness of laser therapy for Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. Even if your pain is not in your shoulder, you’ll want to read this because the findings can apply to joints other than just shoulders.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Back Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, found that patients experienced a significant reduction in shoulder pain, disability, and sleep disturbances after receiving Low Level Laser Therapy five times a week for two weeks. Study participants were evaluated both one month and three months after treatment ended.
Shoulder Impingement Therapy and the Monkey Bars
Shoulder Impingement Syndrome is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain and the #1 precursor to rotator cuff tears. In fact, about half of people complaining to their primary care doctor about shoulder pain are diagnosed with Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. The condition develops when the rotator cuff muscles are pinched, irritated, or inflamed.
When I was a kid, I loved the monkey bars. I’d swing on those bars all day, every day, if I could. When I first start swinging and hanging on the bars, my hands got a little sore and irritated. That pain was my body’s way of trying to protect me by saying, “Hey, that doesn’t feel so good. You need to stop.” Yeah right, I kept playing.
Over time by body realized that the pain signal was not enough to prevent me from gripping and swinging on those bars. So, it began to add extra tissue to the area of my hands to protect them from the constant irritation. Before long, I had developed calluses on my hands. Now, those calluses didn’t bother me one bit, in fact, I considered them a badge of honor.
But what if those calluses had formed INSIDE my hands?
That’s right, there are times when that extra protective tissue can form inside of your joints. This is pretty common in the shoulder due to repetitive movements like those done by a factory worker on the line, a person who types at a keyboard all day, or athletes such as swimmers and baseball players.
The first few times you do a new movement, it might irritate a joint, but it doesn’t cause enough harm to cause pain. Now, if we continue to do that movement over and over, we might feel a little bit of pain or irritation (a signal from your body to stop). But what if you can’t stop (because it’s your job) or don’t stop (because it’s your passion)? When the pain signal isn’t enough to get you to stop the movement, your body needs to take another step to protect the joint from the constant irritation. At this point, a bio-chemical change takes place, and your body will lay down extra tissue (scar tissue) to protect the joint.
But, that protective measure can have unintended consequences.
In the case of your shoulder, the rotator cuff runs through a narrow space called the subacromial space. When your body adds tissue to protect the joint, it can take up the valuable space that’s intended for the rotator cuff muscles, tendons, and bursa causing them to become pinched, irritated, or inflamed. This impingement of the shoulder can lead to muscle weakness, loss of movement, and pain.
Laser Therapy Relieves Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
Successfully treating shoulder impingement syndrome is a two-step process. First, you need to loosen up the joint so that the initial irritation that caused the pain and formation of the scar tissue is no longer occurring. Second, you need to address the scar tissue that has already formed. Both of these steps are enhanced with High Intensity Laser Therapy.
The infrared light from High Intensity Laser Therapy penetrates into your body to reach the cells deep within your joints and help you to heal. Laser therapy has many benefits including:
- Softens up old, gnarly scar tissue to help regain movement and mobility
- Reduces pain by increasing production of endorphins and enkephalins
- Resets the chronic pain cycle by suppressing pain signals in the interneurons
- Speeds tissue repair and cell growth by starting DNA and RNA repairs inside the cells
- Improves blood flow which brings more oxygen and nutrients
- Reduces swelling and improves nerve function
Combining manual therapies (to take out the friction) with High Intensity Laser Therapy (to heal and remove scar tissue), has yielded fantastic results for patient suffering from Shoulder Impingement Syndrome and has helped some to avoid surgery.
High Intensity Laser Therapy vs. Low Level Laser Therapy
The study referenced at the beginning of this article was done utilizing Low Level Laser Therapy. The biological effects of low level lasers are the same as those of high intensity lasers, but there is a KEY DIFFERENCE.
The difference between the two is the wattage and frequency of the infrared light beam. The High Intensity Lasers used at Integrated Pain Solutions are 1000’s of times stronger than low level lasers enabling them to reach deeper into the cellular tissue and treat surrounding tissues to provide better, longer-lasting results for the patient.
Dr. Curt Draeger, DC, DACBOH, CCST is the treating doctor to Team USA’s Olympic decathletes, founder of Integrated Pain Solutions, and co-developer of the latest generation of High Intensity Therapeutic Lasers. His unique chronic pain treatment protocol provides lasting relief and healing to anyone suffering from chronic pain by combining High Intensity Laser Therapy with other manual therapies once reserved exclusively for professional athletes.
Umer, et al. Subacromial impingement syndrome. Orthopedic Reviews (2012). 4(2): e18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3395987/
Yavus F, et al. Low-level laser therapy versus ultrasound therapy in the treatment of subacromial impingement syndrome: A randomized clinical trial.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24346151
Luck, Laser Therapy Soothes Shoulder Impingement , Chiro Nexus.net (2013) http://www.chironexus.net/2013/12/laser-therapy-soothes-shoulder-impingement