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Laser Acupuncture as a Pain Relief Modality

Lasers provide a simple, and effective, non-invasive alternative to needle acupuncture in treating musculoskeletal pain
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Laserpuncture (laser acupuncture, photopuncture, laser acu-therapy) is the application of therapeutic laser to acupoints on the body, ear, or hand. It is a simple, effective, non-invasive approach that has been shown to be a dependable pain management tool. In this article, I will review some of the research studies involving laserpuncture. I will also discuss laserpuncture treatment applications utilizing body acupoints, auriculotherapy points, and Korean Hand Therapy points.

Body Acupoints

Many studies have been published about the use of laserpuncture on body acupoints. Pekka Pontinen found, in a blind crossover study, that laserpuncture increased pressure algometer thresholds from 2.94 to 6.56 and lowered VAS readings from 44.6 to 9.3.1

Kreczi and Klingler found that laserpuncture decreased pain and prolonged relief effects in patients with radicular and pseudo-radicular pain as compared to placebo.2 Shibuya et al, observed over-whelming pain relief and relief of numbness with laser puncture in neurosurgical patients as opposed to placebo.3 Gruszka et al, in Buenos Aries, observed 100% pain relief in the experimental group of patients with lumbar radicular pain. There was also marked improvement in gait and neurological signs, as well as positive EMG and CT scan changes.4 Litscher et al found significant changes in cerebral blood flow and brain activity following laserpuncture.5 Smes-ney found laserpuncture to be as effective on occipital headaches as needle acupuncture.6 Bradley observed comparable thermal image changes in circulation in both laserpuncture and needle acupuncture.7

Figure 1 illustrates some of the most commonly used body acupoints.

Figure 1. These are commonly used body acupoints for a wide variety of situations

Laserpuncture and Auriculotherapy

Auriculotherapy can be effectively used with therapeutic laser. Auriculotherapy, also known as auricular therapy, is a form of alternative medicine based on the idea that the ear is a microsystem, meaning that the entire body is represented on the auricle, and that the entire body can be treated by stimulation of the surface of the ear exclusively. Auriculotherapy considers the ear to be a localized reflex system connected to the central nervous system (whereas ear acupuncture focuses on empirical acupoints known for their specific functions.

In the early 1950’s, Dr. Paul Nogier noticed that a local healer (Mme Barrin) in Lyon, France, was treating sciatica by cauterizing an area of the ear. This observation prompted him to investigate the relationship between locations on the ear and human anatomy. Nogier concluded there was a somatotopic presentation of the inverted fetus in the ear, the anatomic regions of the fetus corresponding to specific zones of the ear (see Figures 2 and 3). Nogier came to believe that pain in any part of the body could be relieved by either needling, cauterizing, massaging or electrically stimulating the region of the ear that corresponded with the anatomical area of the pain.8

Figure 2. These points are often used along specific ear points related to the body part being treated. Figure 3. These are Chinese ear acupoints. Figure 4. Hand-Body Homunculus (Front). Courtesy Stephen Stiteler Lac, OMD–KHE Seminars Figure 5. Hand-Body Homunculus (Back). Courtesy Stephen Stiteler LAc, OMD-KHE Seminars. Figure 6. Probing of a KHT acupoint. Photo courtesy of Stephen Stiteler Lac, OMD–KHE Seminars. Figure 7. KHT hand pellets. Photo courtesy of Stephen Stiteler Lac, OMD–KHE Seminars.

Alimi et al, found a 36% decrease in pain levels in oncological patients after two months following treatment as compared to negligible changes in the placebo group.9 In another study, Alimi et al, observed brain signal changes on functional MRI in the Rolandic area of the brain that corresponded with the body part that was being tested, in this case the right thumb. Signal changes were seen in the same area of the brain on stimulation of both the right thumb and the somatic projection point for the thumb in the right ear.10 King et al, found that patients who had been treated by laser auriculotherapy had significantly increased pain threshold levels.11

Laserpuncture and Korean Hand Therapy

KHT (Korean Hand Therapy) can be effectively performed with laserpuncture. Koryo Hand Therapy is also called Koryo Sooji Chim, Korean Hand Acupuncture, or Soojichim. The theory of Koryo Hand Therapy was first originated, studied and developed by the Korean acupuncturist, Dr. Tae Woo Yoo between 1971 and 1975. Since that time, Koryo Hand Therapy has spread worldwide.13

KHT theorizes that the hands are a micro-cosmos of the body (see Figures 4 and 5). The function of the human body can be manipulated by stimulating the corresponding points on our hands. According to the theory of ‘Koryo Hand Therapy,’ there are 14 micro-meridians and 345 acupuncture points on our hands which regulate the internal organs of human body. These acupuncture points may be stimulated by using the following instruments: Hand Needles, Seoam Press-Pellets, Seaom Moxa, E-beam, Magnets, KHT Silver Ring, or Cyber Hand Therapy (mind vibration). Thus the physiological function of the entire body can be regulated by stimulating these acupuncture points on the hands.

Frequency Disease Part of the Bod Point
A’/292 Acute illness, cellular level, inflammation, tumors Body orifices Shu Point
B’/584 Chronic illness, metabolism, cell nutrtion Abdomen Sedation
C’/1168 Circulation, energy transfer, locomotor disorders Bones, muscles, joints, extremities Tonification
D’/2336 Psychic disorders, fatigue, laterality disorders Commissures Alarm point
E’/4672 Nerve disturbances/pain, neuralgia, neuritides Spinal cord, nerves Starting point
F’/9344 Depressions, psychic symptoms and causes, bone reconstruction Face, subcortex, emotions End point
G’/18688 Intellectual and psychosomatic disturbances Frontal cerebral zone Source point
Figure 8. Laser Pulses/Second based on Nogier Frequencies (Courtesy of Medical Laser Systems).

Park and Woo observed a high degree of agreement between active hand reflex point locations and the locations of headaches in migraine and tension headache sufferers. The KHT points were found to be a valuable asset in pinpointing the exact location of the headaches.14 In an other study, Park and Woo found consistent cerebral blood flow changes along with corresponding peripheral circulatory changes utilizing Doppler TCD and infrared thermography when comparing pre- and post-KHT readings.15 Jodorkovski noted a average 96% positive response rate in a wide variety of painful and non-pain related conditions in children and adolescents.16 Kobrin performed a clinical comparison of KHT with other acupuncture approaches and found KHT to be comparable to conventional acupuncture in the treatment of painful conditions.17

Last updated on: February 21, 2011
First published on: May 1, 2008