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A relatively new method of stimulation, laser acupuncture usually uses low-energy laser beams — instead of traditional acupuncture needles — to influence the flow of current at the acupuncture points. Beyond conventional medicine, this procedure is usually the preferred procedure for effective treatment of painful conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, arthritis of the knee, and chronic headache in children. Most practitioners have an in-depth knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine and a clear understanding of how various acupuncture points function.
A laser acupuncturist typically aims a beam of light from a laser tube onto an acupuncture point, stimulating it similar to the way acupuncture needles do. The visible red laser beam, radiating from helium and neon gases, usually heats up the point. During the procedure, a practitioner may hold the beam steadily for a period that can range from ten seconds to a maximum of two minutes. The duration of the beam usually depends on the amount of tissue the laser must penetrate, and the power the acupuncturist needs to apply on a point. Sometimes, a practitioner may also have to use invisible infrared lasers.
Laser acupuncture is primarily used to serve two purposes: an anesthetic effect and the stimulation of acupuncture points in a therapeutic program. The procedure has some distinct advantages over the traditional needle method. Many patients who are usually afraid of needles, such as children, prefer lasers. The use of a laser makes it a typically noninvasive, aseptic procedure, which significantly reduces the pain and recovery time associated with invasive treatments. Generally, this method can also treat the same range of complaints as needle acupuncture.
While laser therapy significantly reduces patient trauma and is usually a good choice for treating conditions where the risk of cross-infection is high, the effectiveness of this treatment is often limited to peripheral points. The acupressure points on a patient’s hands, feet, and ears often respond to laser treatment, but deeper abdominal points do not usually benefit, as most of the laser beams used cannot penetrate beyond 0.19 inches (5 mm).
Some acupuncture clinics have invested in a user-friendly and intelligent laser acupuncture system. This relatively new system can largely be controlled and monitored remotely over the Internet. In such systems, the software typically automatically recognizes the meridian points and monitors the laser beam for more controlled treatment.