What is Lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema is a chronic condition that progressively gets worse over time. It is characterised by increased protein content, buildup of extracellular fluids in the tissues, surplus deposition of fibrous tissue and chronic inflammation, which result in swelling and deformity of the affected limb.
Around 300,000 Australians will experience lymphoedema at any given time.
The symptoms present as limb heaviness, pain, burning, restricted movement, weakness, decreased flexibility and hardening of the skin (fibrosis). Lymphoedema has a serious adverse impact on the quality of life of the patients and can lead to psychological morbidity.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for lymphoedema. Standard treatments for lymphoedema include compression bandaging, manual lymphatic drainage, exercise, complete decongestive therapy (CDT), and massage. In addition, there are prescription drugs and surgical interventions. Many of the traditional treatments are expensive, time-consuming, labor-intensive, and have limited effectiveness.
What is MLS Laser Therapy?
In the last decade, clinical studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of laser therapy in the management of lymphoedema. Laser therapy has been shown through extensive case reports and research to have positive and potentially long-term effects. The therapeutic application of a laser is non-invasive, drug-free with no side effects.
Laser therapy uses light energy (photons) for tissue healing and pain reduction. Traditionally, there have been pulsed light lasers that control swelling or continuous light lasers that control pain.
The Multiwave Locked System (MLS) Therapy Laser system combines these laser to treat pain, inflammation, and oedema simultaneously. MLS Laser delivers therapeutic wavelengths, 808nm (anti-oedemic and anti-inflammatory) and 905nm (analgesic), allowing a tissue penetration depth of 3-4 cm. An energetic synergy is created when delivering these wavelengths that produces greater anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects than either can produce on its own, while minimising the risk of thermal damage.
In the last decade, the application for therapeutic purposes of multi-wavelength sources and high-power lasers has become widespread. In rehabilitation, physical and sports medicine, these devices are effectively used to decrease inflammation, promote resorption of oedema and hematoma as well as stimulate tissue repair.
Sharon Tilley, Senior Physiotherapist, and Owner at the Lymphoedema and Laser Therapy Clinic, Adelaide, South Australia is a current director of the Australasian Lymphology Association. Sharon is also a member of The Australian Medical Laser Association (AMLA). She recommends using the 810nm and 830nm lasers for treating pain and using a 904nm laser (due to the superior penetration depth of 3–5cm)to help the reduction of fibrosis in chronic lymphoedema.
How does the MLS Laser help with lymphoedema?
In a clinical study at the ASAcampus Joint Laboratory, researchers found that a dual wavelength MLS laser (808 nm and 905 nm) significantly reduced both the extracellular fluid and total volume of the affected arm, inducing fibrosis softening and improving heaviness, aching and tightness.
They went a step further to show that high power laser did not affect the behavior of human dermal fibroblasts and breast adenocarcinoma cell lines in terms of proliferation, cell cycle progression, apoptosis, and cloning efficiency.
These results show the safety of using the MLS Laser as a lymphoedema treatment because the treatment did not induce an increase in tumor cell growth.
There are proven advantages to using the MLS Laser for treating symptoms of lymphoedema.
- It increases the flow of lymph and improves surgical scars
MLS Laser Therapy softens the fibrotic tissue and simulates poorly functioning lymph vessels. The light of the laser increases the flow of lymph, reduces the amount of excess protein and tissue in the field, and reduces the ability of the scar tissue to stick to the underlying healthy tissue.
The increase in lymphatic mobility after receiving laser therapy may help remove stagnant tissue fluid in lymphoedema and reduce the volume of a lymphedematous area such as arm or leg.
Laser therapy has also been reported to remove surgical scars by preserving normal tissue architecture.
- It is painless
With the laser treatment, you simply shine the light on the targeted area for a short time, (depending on the strength and output of your laser). Then you move onto the next area. It is fast and easy. The time of treatment with the super pulsed laser ranges from seconds to minutes
The therapy improves micro-blood and lymph circulation, activates anti-oedematous processes, promotes cellular regeneration and inhibits inflammation.
What is the patient’s perspective?
Living with lymphoedema is not easy. Meaghan Barnard posted her story on YouTube. Meaghan admitted “roughly 90% of my day I’m in pain. It hurts when I walk. It hurts to move, and it affects my mobility. Imagine having your arm or leg in a vice. It’s constant pressure all the time.”
Lymphoedema is a painful and debilitating condition that progressively gets worse over time. It has a serious adverse impact on the quality of life for patients.
There is no cure for lymphoedema, but it can be reduced or managed with appropriate intervention.
In the last decade, MLS Laser Therapy has arisen as a viable treatment option in the management of lymphoedema. This painless and quick treatment effectively decreases inflammation and pain, promotes resorption of oedema as well as stimulates tissue repair.
MLS laser is an additional tool to help patients cope with the painful symptoms and make life bearable.