Tendons are tissue in the body that are under tremendous amounts of stress and strain. Tendons can eventually become injured with repeated stress and strain. Laser therapy is an excellent therapy to help tendons repair faster. Before we talk about the repair mechanisms please consider tendon injuries.
Tendons are like ropes in your body. They connect the contractile muscle tissue in your body to bones. When muscles contract they develop force that is transmitted through the tendons and "pull" the bones. Muscle can develop tremendous amounts of force in a single pull, or muscles can make thousands of small pulls. Tendons also absorb our body's forces from walking, running, and jumping. Tendons are designed to absorb forces but they can become injured with repeated stress or trauma.
For example, think of your hammock in the back yard. Each end of the hammock is securely attached to trees by a rope. When you lay in the hammock the extra weight is transferred from the hammock to the tree by the ropes. If you started swaying in the hammock, the rope fibers would start fraying. Over time and repeated swaying the fibers would become damaged. Some days would produce a little damage and other days lots of damage. Eventually the rope would become severely damaged. Most of us wait until the rope is severely damaged to begin fixing it. However, at this stage we have many frayed fibers and continue placing stress on it every day.
A hammock rope is a great analogy for tendons. Tendons are the body's rope for transferring muscle pulling power from the muscle to bones. Tendons commonly become damaged where they attaches to bone, where the "rope" transmits all the forces.
Just like rope, tendons can fray with repeated stress. The body tries to heal the fraying tendons, but sometimes we are breaking down fibers faster than they can be repaired. Eventually this process will lead to tendinitis or tendinosis injuries.
For example, if you hurt a tendon that attaches to your knee you would want it to heal and repair quickly. However, with every step you take you place stress on the tendon. Some days you will damage it more than others. Some days you will be able to repair the tendon more than you damage it. The trick is getting the tendon to heal faster than you are damaging it. Many people complain of taking three steps forward and two steps back with these types of injuries. That is an accurate statement, but sometimes you take three steps forward and four steps backward too.
This dynamic process of forward progress and sliding backwards is common until healing gets to about 70-80%. At this point it is more likely to take three steps forward and only one step back. Eventually, the tendon is strong enough to handle the daily stress and still make daily healing progress toward 100%.
Sometimes the trick in physical therapy is getting you out of the 50-70% zone and into the 80%. Different therapies help accomplish this healing, but one of our favorites is cold laser therapy.
Cold laser therapy is a treatment that works at the cellular level to speed healing. It works by "ramping up" the normal healing process. It also works to decrease inflammation and pain in the tissue. We find using cold laser helps get people from the 50% level to 80% faster than traditional physical therapy treatments alone.
Cold laser therapy increases cellular energy levels that give it more energy to repair. Mitochondria are the energy makers in cells. Laser therapy speeds the mitochondria up, producing more energy for repair. Think of an assembly line and turning it up to high speed. More energy will be produced than if the assembly line was running on average speed.
Laser therapy also helps reduce fibrosis or scar tissue. Scar tissue has a place in healing, but too much scar tissue creates problems and slows the overall healing process. Utilizing cold lasers in treatments decreases scar tissue formation, resulting in faster and better healing to the 80% mark.
Blood flow is important in healing. Cold lasers cause increase blood flow to an area, resulting in more nutrients for cellular repair. More blood flow means more healing.
Most patients appreciate the pain relief from laser therapy. Laser therapy shuts of pain nerves. If the nerves are sending less pain signals to the brain, then you will perceive less pain. Cold lasers also help nerves to heal faster which is why lasers are an excellent treatment for neuropathies.
Laser therapy is very beneficial in treating tendon injuries by speeding the healing and repair. Lasers help reduce swelling and decrease pain too. Combining cold laser treatment with physical therapy reduces the overall healing and recovery time. Consider laser therapy for your next tendon injury.
Not all lasers are equal. Some lasers are much more powerful than others, and have a much greater healing effect. We see cold laser therapy advertised by many different providers but the results of a class IV lasers cannot be compared to a class III. Most offices have a class III laser.
Click here to find out more about the differences and benefits of Cold Laser Therapy.
The moral of the story is take care of fraying tendons early, and don't wait for them to break. However, when you have them eventually you will have to deal with them. There are numerous treatments for specific tendinosis and tendinitis. Some of them are discussed in grater detail on Plantar Fasciitis, IT Band , Achilles Injury pages.
Chronic tendon injuries often develop fascial adhesions or scar tissue. Scar tissue is like duct tape for the body. It will use scar tissue as a quick and cheap patch to get through a few days. The body's intention is to replace the scar tissue as quickly as possible, but in some injuries the scar tissue continues to accumulate. This large patch of scar tissue eventually leads to a structurally weak area causes chronic tendon injuries. Graston Technique is one of the procedures we use to get rid of scar tissue. Find out more about Scar Tissue Treatment .