What is the difference between osteoarthritis and arthritis?
When looking at the image the difference can easily be detected:
The image shows the basic structure of a finger joint (e.g. proximal interphalangeal or distal interphalangeal joint). Between bones you´ll find cartilage (seen in blue).
The cartilage allows for an almost friction-free motion within the joint. It also serves as shock absorber for the joint.
The entire joint is covered in joint mucosa. The joint mucosa or joint tissue (also referred to as synovial membrane in medical terms) can be seen in red. The synovial membrane is responsible for producing the synovial fluid (synovia) or joint lubricant.
In case of osteoarthritis the primary damage occurs to the cartilage. Over time the cartilage density diminishes more and more (also referred to as joint wear and tear). When affected by osteoarthritis the joints become thicker.
The distal interphalangeal joints develop typical Heberden nodes. Affected patients usually report of swollen joints along with a feeling of tightness during the early stage of the disease.
The more the cartilage vanishes, the worse the joint will hurt when in motion or under strain.
The image shows a typical case of polyarthritis in a hand. Several distal interphalangeal joints show deformities and appear thickened (Heberden nodes). Even several proximal interphalangeal joints are affected in this case and appear painfully swollen (Bouchard´s nodes).
The depletion of cartilage (regardless of the reasons that lead to it) is the root cause for osteoarthritis.
In case of arthritis (“real” rheumatism) the joint mucosa becomes inflamed. The inflamed joint mucosa will then destroy the initially healthy structure in the joint.
So how can low level laser therapy help fingers affected by osteoarthritis?
The image shows finger joints receiving low level laser radiotherapy.
With the help of the “pure” laser light swellings as well as pains may be considerably reduced in finger joints affected by osteoarthritis.
Much more important however: the dynamic of the wear and tear appears remarkably slowed down!
How can one explain this effect of light on a joint?
Laser light is not a usual light. Sun light or lamplight cannot achieve these results!
A number of scientific researches on the low level laser therapy on small joints have proven the following:
• The surrounding area of the small joint shows an improvement in microcirculation. The improved circulation also improves the metabolism in the joint.
• Improvement of the penetration of Defense- and scavenger cells (macrophages) from the blood to break down and eliminate fragments of destroyed tissue (gradual reduction of the joint swelling)
• Relaxes the joint capsules around the joints affected with osteoarthritis thus gradually leading to an improved mobility.
Effect of a low level laser on a finger:
How does one explain these effects on a damaged joint?
The special light of a laser (coherent light, one wavelength) penetrates the skin above the small finger joints and is absorbed by the tissue underneath.
The laser beam stimulates the cell power plants within them – the mitochondria – to produce more ATP. ATP is a bio-chemical substance needed to generate energy for the body.
After a low level laser irradiation the cells around the affected joint have more energy providing substances at their availability. These substances are used by the body to repair damaged tissue as well as to restore it.
A low level laser therapy represents a help for self-help to the painfully swollen and mobility-impaired joints. The low level laser works through bio-stimulation.
If affected by osteoarthritis with Heberden and/or Bouchard nodes you should plan on a low level laser therapy at a very early stage in order to avoid massive joint damages down the road.
Can the low level laser light cause damages to the skin?
No! There are of course surgical lasers in medicine which can cut like a scalpel; low level lasers however are not capable of doing that. Low level lasers work through bio-stimulation.
The skin in the radiation area of my Vitalaser ® VL 600 as well as MKW laser shower may heat up by 1° C max.
How many low level laser treatments should one plan on when affected with osteoarthritis of the finger joints?
In case of acute/severe pains and swellings to the fingers I suggest treatments in short intervals (one to three day intervals). The intervals between treatments are longer when dealing with chronic pains. Depending on the severity of the individual case five to six treatments with the low level laser usually suffice.
What are the prospects of success of a low level laser therapy on osteoarthritis of the small finger joints?
Generally speaking no therapy approach treating osteoarthritis of the fingers can guarantee success. The high efficiency of the low level laser in treating osteoarthritis of small and large joints, however, has been proven through various scientific publications.
It is of particular importance when treating osteoarthritis on fingers, which can also have a very bothersome esthetic aspect, to initiate the therapy on time to avoid severe malformations of the finger joints.