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A question and answer session with Lars Horde, a Swedish physicist and the President of the Swedish Laser Medical Society.

Lars, how does Low Level Laser Therapy help smokers end their tobacco addiction?

Laser therapy for smoking cessation is based on acupuncture. The difference is that laser light is illuminating and hence stimulating acupuncture points instead of this being done with needles.

Well, has addiction to tobacco been treated successfully with acupuncture?

Addiction to smoking has been treated with classic acupuncture for more than 60 years and with laser acupuncture for about 20 years. Both seem to be efficient.

Which is more successful in treating pain—acupuncture with needles or laser therapy? Also, which lasers are being used by people who want to stop smoking?

I can not tell if the result from a treatment with laser is more successful than a treatment with needles, but laser therapy is completely risk free and painless.

Different lasers have been used to assist people in smoking cessation. Lasers that have been used include the HeNe-Laser (633 nm), InGaAIP-laser (Indium-laser )650 nm, GaAIAs laser 610 nm, GaAs-laser (904), and KTP-laser (532 nm)

Why haven’t we heard about the positive results of laser therapy for health problems in the mainstream press?

When Professor Mester, the Hungarian physician who discovered low level light therapy, published his first article in an English journal in 1971, he advised using 1-1.5J/cm2 for wound healing, and using red lasers in the range of 5-25 milliwatts. In spite of these recommendations, laser manufacturers produced lasers such as the HE NE lasers of less than 1 milliwatt and marketed those to the medical community in the 1980s. The doses from these lasers were way below what had been recommended by Dr. Mester. So when researchers performed control studies, the very low doses affected the results and the outcome was negative. Also, researchers in those days were qualified in medical fields but not in laser therapy, so a lot of mistakes were made. In a manner of speaking, researchers in those days were looking in the wrong direction. And the general public continued to look in the same direction, thinking that laser therapy did not work. Catch 22!

So their conclusions about low level laser therapy were wrong. What does the scientific community think now?

Now, more than 30 years later, we regularly have lasers in the 1 plus milliwatt range which provides adequate dosage possibilities as it penetrates more deeply into the tissue. So your question is: Is laser therapy now well documented from a strict scientific point of view? My answer is, regrettably, NOT QUITE!! But you must understand ultrasound therapy which is one of the most used medical interventions in health medicine and NSAID’s for knee arthritis appear to be poorly documented.

Are you saying that all lasers over 1 milliwatt are much more effective?

There are more than 100 positive, double blind clinical studies, hundreds of positive in vitro studies, lots of animal studies, all pointing into one direction—it works. But this is not enough! The present “weakness” of laser therapy lies, ironically, in its strength. Since laser therapy works at a cellular level by improving the activity of cells in a reduced condition, almost any pathological situation will improve through laser therapy. But according to the medical therapy study evaluations, there is not such thing as a therapy that “does it all.” And, there is another problem: the diversity of wavelengths, powers, dosages, treatment techniques and pulsing vs direct, continuous light make it all rather confusing. There are no two studies using the exact same parameters. An improved method of evaluating laser research has been introduced and is slowly gaining acceptance so the statistical power of the existing literature can be re-evaluated. There seems to be too few experts having both a specialized medical degree and a degree in laser physics.

Lars, Thank you for your participation in this interview.