Acupuncture under traditional Chinese medicine is an alternative medicine that treats patients by needle insertion and manipulation at acupoints (APS) in the body. Acupuncture causes collagen fiber contraction, resulting in soluble actin polymerization and actin stress fiber formation, affecting the nervous and immune systems. Besides, acupuncture leads to molecular changes at APs in tissues at the cellular level. The local physicochemical reactions at the APs send signals to the organs via the tissue fluid and blood circulatory systems for optimal adjustment of the body’s organs.
It is believed to have been practiced for more than 2500 years, and this modality is among the oldest healing practices in the world. Acupuncture is based on the idea that living beings have Qi, defined as inner energy, and that it is an imbalance in Qi or interruption in the flow of Qi that causes illness and disease. Acupuncture therapy is focused on rebalancing the flow of Qi, and the practice is progressively gaining credibility as a primary or adjuvant therapy by Western medical providers.
Kaiyan Medical has been working to create ergonomic laser pens to simulate the acupuncture process. Laser acupuncture (LA) — non-thermal, low-intensity laser irradiation to stimulate acupuncture points — has become more common among acupuncture practitioners in recent years. LA is a safer, pain-free alternative to traditional acupuncture, with minimal adverse effects and greater versatility. LA has many features that make it an attractive option as a treatment modality, including minimal sensation, short duration of treatment, and minimal risks of infection, trauma, and bleeding complications.
What is the Difference
In acupuncture, needles are inserted at specific acupoints, which may be manually stimulated in various ways, including gentle twisting or up-and-down movements. Besides, the depth of needle penetration is also manipulated by the acupuncture practitioner. The patient may report sensations of De Qi, which are feelings of pressure, warmth, or tingling in the superficial layers of the skin. Many theories to explain how acupuncture works have been proposed, including the gate-control theory of pain and the endorphin-and-neurotransmitter. Others have postulated that acupuncture modulates the transmission of pain signals and alters the release of endogenous endorphins and neurotransmitters, resulting in physiologic changes.
One clear difference between needle acupuncture and LA is that LA does not physically penetrate the skin. Despite a greater understanding of LA, it is unclear how non-thermal, low-intensity laser irradiation stimulates acupoints. The mechanism of LA may be entirely separate from our present understanding of acupuncture. Current theories postulate that LLLT could positively affect modulating inflammation, pain, and tissue repair, given appropriate irradiation parameters.
Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Lasers
Inflammation reduction comparable to that of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs has been reported with animal studies that used red and near-infrared LLLT, with laser outputs ranging from 2.5 to 100 mW and delivered energy doses ranging from 0.6 to 9.6 Joules. Human studies have shown similar anti-inflammatory effects with LLLT, which may account for many associated positive clinical results.
Cellular Effects of LLLT
LLLT improves cell physiology by increasing the overall cell redox potential toward greater oxidation and increased reactive oxygen species while simultaneously decreasing reactive nitrogen species. These redox state changes activate numerous intracellular-signaling pathways, including nucleic acid synthesis, protein synthesis, enzyme activation, and cell cycle progression.17 LLLT also alters the expression of genes that can enhance cell growth and inhibit cell apoptosis.16 These cellular effects of LLLT might reflect its ability to induce long-term changes in cells and LLLT’s benefits for wound healing, nerve regeneration, and inflammation reduction.
Red and infrared laser wavelengths are absorbed by cytochrome C oxidase protein in the mitochondrial cell membranes. This absorption is associated with increased adenosine triphosphate production by the mitochondria, which. In turn, it increases intracellular calcium (Ca2+) and cyclic adenosine monophosphate, which serve as secondary messengers that aid in regulating multiple body processes, including signal transfer in nerves and gene expression.
The power density of a laser, defined as laser energy supplied per area (W/cm2), influences its energy penetration depth. A 50-mW laser with a beam size of 1 cm2 has an energy density of 0.05 W/cm2. In contrast, the same power laser with a beam size of 1 mm2 has an energy density of 5 W/cm2 — a higher energy density results in deeper energy penetration through the skin.
Energy transmission through the skin is also affected by the absorption of light energy by skin structures. Light wavelengths from 650 to 900 nm have the best penetration through the skin. Lower wavelengths are absorbed by melanin and hemoglobin, and wavelengths longer than 900 nm are absorbed by water. With a well-focused laser beam, red wavelengths (～ 648 nm) can penetrate 2–4 cm beneath the skin surface, and infrared wavelengths (～ 810 nm) can penetrate up to 6 cm.
Now Kaiyan has made LLLT easier to use. Kaiyan medical devices can treat multiple acupoints simultaneously at the same time.