The feeling of rolling an ankle is one that nearly everyone is familiar with, as is the sense of frustration that follows, because well, ankle sprains just take a long time to properly heal.
R.I.C.E. or rest, ice, compress and elevate has long been the standard procedure to treat sprains, and though it is necessary to incorporate these components into care, there is a much faster and more effective way to help a sprained ankle heal so that you can return to play in all arenas, and it involves the use of laser therapy.
Laser therapy was used widely in Europe before making its way to North America in the early 2000’s. Also known as “cold laser” or “low level laser,” therapeutic lasers utilize red and near-infrared wavelengths that produce a gentle warming sensation, in contrast to the lasers utilized in surgery which have much higher power outputs and are intended to cut or cauterize tissue.
There are very specific and beneficial physiologic effects that occur in the body with cold laser. You might be surprised to learn, that similar to plants which have a light-sensitive pigment called chlorophyll that absorbs light to create energy for the plant, humans also have light-sensitive structures called chromophores that are targeted with laser therapy!
These light-sensitive structures are hemoglobin (carry oxygen on red blood cells), melanin (pigment in skin), water (most of our constitution) and a component of the mitochondria (powerhouse of the cell), but the beneficial effects laser light has on the body exceeds the physiological changes that arise by this mechanism alone.
Let’s look at what happens when we sprain an ankle: there is tearing of ligaments, stretching of tendons, muscles and even nerves. Bones in the foot and ankle are thrown out of alignment, we see visible bruising, swelling, and at times so much pain that you can’t weight bear!
Laser therapy reduces swelling and accelerates healing of ligament, cartilage, tendon, muscle and nerves. This is done by activating cells that function as the clean-up crew, removing tissue that is no longer functional, stimulating formation of new blood and lymphatic vessels, and supporting the healthy cells in making more energy so that they can repair the damage and regenerate new tissue as needed. These effects of laser therapy can reduce healing time by as much as 50%!
Cold laser also has the ability to directly lower pain levels by reducing the ability of the pain-transmitting nerves to fire, while also lowering the levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals that linger with injury. This way you get the benefits of reducing inflammation without the potential hazards of prolonged used of anti-inflammatory medications taken by mouth.
At evolve, we have the highest power therapeutic laser on the market, the K-Laser. Especially when used in conjunction with adjustments to maintain normal alignment through the healing process, we have seen dramatic results with sprains and many other conditions. For more information on laser therapy, click on the link below.
Author: Dr. Kelsey Horsting, DC