by David Rindge. All rights reserved.
While we can get by without water for days and food for over a month, our needs for oxygen and to eliminate carbon dioxide are nearly immediate. If you have ever tried to hold your breath for an extended period or to breathe through a straw, you have an idea of what it feels like to be short of breath. It’s a way of life for people with chronic asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.
Standard medical practice focuses mostly on the “supply side.” Oxygen is given when blood levels are low, and drugs are administered to relax muscles around constricted airways to reduce the work of breathing. Yet, oxygen may be no more than palliative; drugs seldom cure, and may have side-effects. Even when these are helpful, they may only alleviate symptoms without addressing underlying causes. Many still live with chronic respiratory insufficiency. Over time, the price of excessive work of breathing for the individual is constitutional weakness, and the cost to society totals in the billions of dollars.
Laser therapy  has biostimulative and tissue regenerative properties as well as antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.  Studies on its effects in respiratory disease have shown improvement in both gas exchange and pulmonary function, as well as enhanced immunity and other health benefits. Similarly, bio-electromagnetic therapy has been documented to improve tissue and blood oxygenation, reduce inflammation and enhance pulmonary function.
Sinusitis is the hallmark of respiratory disease, a cause, contributor or effect of many other respiratory conditions. Hacerova and Hubacek  treated a group of 194 patients with acute sinusitis using laser therapy. A control group of 241 patients with the same condition received only drug therapy. The authors studied the effects of laser therapy by itself, as well as in combination with antihistamines or with both antihistamines and antibiotics.
Significant reduction in the duration of infection was observed in those who received laser treatment as well as positive immune effects, including increased activity of phagocytes, stimulation of T- and B-lymphocytes, and higher levels of lysozyme in the saliva.
The authors wrote, “Laser irradiation works through its analgesic, anti-inflammatory and biostimulative effects on ease of pain, or even on its elimination. It also causes a quicker withdrawal of inflammation and oedema of the mucosa and thus brings restoration of drainage of sinus as well as normalisation of mucociliar function.”
One can administer laser therapy via probe treatment or laser needle acupuncture over LI 20, GB 14 UB 2 and Taiyang (acupuncture points which correspond exactly with the maxillary, frontal and ethmoidal and sphenoidal sinuses) as in the photo to the right. The maxillary sinuses may also be treated intraorally by directing the probe upward toward them in contact along both sides of the palatine ridge. This strategy may also be a great starting point for the treatment of other respiratory conditions.
Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy is easily applied as an unattended therapy and may given before, after or during laser treatment as an adjunct or on its own via pad placement under the head.
Asthma and Laser Acupuncture
Asthma causes over 1.5 million emergency room visits, around 500,000 hospitalizations, and more than 5,000 deaths annually. Approximately 15 million people are affected in the U.S., and the cost of conventional treatment is in excess of six billion dollars annually.
Milojevic and Kuruc  treated 50 patients with bronchial asthma using laser acupuncture for 10 days, comparing changes with those of a control group of the same number of patients, differing only in that laser acupuncture was not given. A significant improvement of all estimated lung function parameters was observed 30 minutes after laser treatment. Improvements achieved on the third and the tenth day of treatment were significantly higher in the study group than with controls.
The authors wrote, “A ten-day course of low-power laser stimulation of acupuncture points in patients with bronchial asthma improves both the lung function and gas exchange parameters. Positive effects of laser treatment in patients with bronchial asthma are achieved in a short time and they last long, for several weeks, even months. Successive laser stimulation in asthmatics prolongs periods of remission and decreases the severity of asthmatic attacks.”
Ailioaie and Ailioaie  compared the effects of laser acupuncture and pharmaceutical drugs in asthma. They divided 98 patients with moderate or severe asthma into three groups. Thirty-five patients in group 1 were treated solely with laser acupuncture using extrameridian acupuncture points as well as laser scanning twice daily, 10 days per month, for three months. Thirty-three patients in group 2 inhaled Salmeterol xinofoate  twice daily for three months. Thirty patients in group 3 were treated with Theophylline twice daily for three months. The authors reported, “A noticeable improvement in the clinical, functional and immunological characteristics were observed in 83% of the patients in group 1, 70% in group 2 and 53% in group 3. There were no side-effects in the laser group.”
Case Study – Chronic asthma, pain, digestive disturbance & depression
“Rosaly” was a 33 year old female respiratory therapist taking 7 medications whose chief complaints were asthma, widespread musculoskeletal pain, multiple digestive issues and depression. She indicated that one reason she had become a respiratory therapist was to seek to improve her own breathing. Three years and 41 visits later she was taking only 1 medication occasionally and was essentially pain free. Lungs were clear, and she reported that her digestion, endurance and mood were excellent without any related medication. She is now an avid rock climber and trains others in cross fit. For the last several years she has only been treated in the clinic for pain associated with her climbing and other exercise.
Pneumonia and Laser Therapy
Amirov  divided 142 patients with pneumonia into two groups. The study group (96 patients) received laser therapy in combination with pharmaceuticals, while the control group (46 patients) was treated solely with drugs. A pronounced reduction in cell membrane permeability, a rise in concentrations of iron and chromium in the blood serum, and improvement of microcirculation were observed in those receiving laser treatment. Amirov wrote, “These changes closely correlated with those in immunity, external respiration function. Conclusion: Laser therapy is an effective method of pneumonia treatment and can be included in relevant combined schemes.” (emphasis added)
Lutai, Egorova and Shutemova  compared two groups of patients with pneumonia. The study group received laser therapy and drugs while the control group received only drugs. There was an earlier regression of clinical symptoms and a more rapid recovery of lung function in the group treated with laser therapy. The authors wrote, “The findings demonstrate that non-drug treatment had an undeniably positive impact. In the absence of side effects of this method, these data allow infrared laser therapy to be recommended for rehabilitation of elderly patients with pneumonia.” (emphasis added)
Low intensity laser, led and pulsed electromagnetic field therapies have been shown to move the body through inflammation to heal damaged tissue. Their widespread implementation may improve patient outcomes and safety while lowering health care costs.
All studies cited in this article or their abstracts – and much more recent science since this article was originally published is available here online. The reader is encouraged to explore any areas of interest in the links below.
Laser Therapy Research
- Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome
- Blue Light and Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA)
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT)
- Lung Abscess
Bio-electromagnetic Therapy Research
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Laryngeal Inflammation
- Respiratory Sarcoidosis
- Sinusitis – Rhinitis
by David Rindge. All rights reserved
- This article is expanded and adapted by David Rindge from Laser Acupuncture in Respiratory Disorders by David Rindge published in Acupuncture Today February, 2005, Volume 06, Issue 02.
- Laser therapy is the most common term for the therapeutic application of laser light at an output power of 500 milliwatts or less.
- Simunovic Z. Lasers in Medicine and Dentistry: Basic Science And Up-To-Date Clinical Application Of Low Energy-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT).Locarno: Switzerland/Rijeka, Croatia, 2000, pp 278-280.
- M. Hacarova, J. Hubacek, Low Level Laser Therapy of Sinusitis, Laser Partner, 28.3.2002.
- Statistics from Asthma in America: www.asthmainamerica.com/statistics.htm.
- Milojevic M, Kuruc V., Low power laser biostimulation in the treatment of bronchial asthma. Med Pregl Sep-Oct 2003;56(9-10):413-8.
- Ailioaie C, Ailioaie L. The treatment of bronchial asthma with LLLT in attack-free period in children. Ter Arkh 1997;69(12):49-50.
- Salmeterol xinofoate is the generic name for a bronchodilator marketed as Serevent. According to David Graham, a scientist who reviews medicines for the Food and Drug Administration, Serevent is one of at least five approved medications which he believes may present a serious health risk to patients (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 11/19/04).
- Amirov NB. Parameters of membrane permeability, microcirculation, external respiration, and trace element levels in the drug-laser treatment of pneumonia. Ter Arkh 2002;74(3):40-3.
- Lutai AV, Egorova LA, Shutemova EA. Laser therapy of elderly patients with pneumonia. Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult May-June 2001;(3):15-8.