Let There Be Light: Laser Therapy Offers Hope for Pain & Brain Injuries
Sep 28, 2016 11:20AM
By Elisa Smith
Star Trek fans may remember scenes in which characters were treated with lasers to heal wounds without the need for surgery. What was once the stuff of science fiction is now evolving into cutting edge medical technology and Lehigh Valley’s H.O.P.E. Laser Institute is among the forerunners making it a reality. “We believe we are pioneers blazing a path to wellness for patients who had no hope before. Hope is what we were feeling about our path,” asserts Adele Lukachek, who founded the Institute with partner Mary T. “Tonie” Chicchi. The acronym stands for Home of Photobiomodulation Excellence. Despite its intimidating sounding name, Photobiomodulation (PBM) is simply the use of low-level laser therapy (LLLT), also known as cold laser therapy, to treat a number of conditions that previously had zero or limited success with other modalities. LLLT is non-invasive, painless and has no known side effects, yet has been shown to be incredibly effective in repairing tissue damaged due to degeneration or injury, often even years after the event. The technology is proving beneficial for a number of serious and challenging medical conditions, and the Institute is among the nation’s premier facilities for its application.
Chicchi and Lukachek began using the technology as owners of ATA Revitalization Institute in 2010 before partnering to form H.O.P.E Laser Institute in October, 2013. Both are certified laser technicians, and Chicchi also holds a master’s degree in sports medicine. Her education and extensive experience have enabled her to create specific patented protocols that provide measurable improvement for a variety of conditions, including ADHD, autism, Tourette’s, stroke, pain management, concussion and traumatic brain injury.
“This modality has the ability to increase cognitive function, break down scar tissue, and increase blood flow and neurogenesis,” says Chicchi. “Neurogenesis is the formation of new neurons. Our patients are experiencing an amazing increase in cognitive ability, and symptoms they were told were permanent are disappearing.”
LLLT reduces inflammation while increasing blood supply to organs, bones and tissues. Specifically, it works by stimulating cells to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), often referred to as the “molecular unit of currency” for cellular energy. Studies show that chronic inflammation is linked to a number of conditions including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lymphedema and chronic pain. While LLLT is often used as a complement to traditional therapies, it can sometimes preclude the need for surgery and medications, which can not only be expensive, but may offer limited effectiveness while putting the patient at risk for dangerous side effects.
Though relatively new to the United States (it was FDA approved in 2002), cold laser therapy has been used in Europe for over 50 years. Over 400 randomized controlled trials and more than 4,000 laboratory studies prove its effectiveness, and a report published recently by the National Institute of Health (NIH) highlights the promising effects of the therapy. In fact, the modality has helped a number of elite athletes return to the field or court following what may have otherwise been serious injuries. Among the athletes Chicchi has personally treated is recently retired superstar quarterback Peyton Manning. Following LLLT, he went on to sign with the Denver Broncos, throwing a near-record number of touchdown passes and adding to his MVP accolades – quite a feat after multiple surgeries and traditional therapy had a slower than anticipated recovery time. Chicchi was brought out to enhance and expedite his recovery. Chicchi’s protocol allowed Peyton’s therapy to work more efficiently and return him to his elite level of performance.
Football season is now in full swing, and with it comes an increase in concussion awareness. Concussion is trauma to the brain caused by impact to the skull. There may be a brain bleed or area of swelling compromises blood flow, which can result in a host of issues including headaches, dizziness, nausea, insomnia, mood changes, depression, vision impairment and loss of cognitive function. LLLT is especially effective at restoring healthy brain function following concussion. The CDC estimates that nearly four million concussions occur each year. Less than 10 percent of those involve a loss of consciousness, and roughly two of every three athletes who have suffered concussions report feeling no symptoms, yet virtually all experience significant reduction in cognitive function following the injury. Though treatment within the first 24 hours following injury is considered the best case scenario, LLLT has proven beneficial weeks, months or even years after the event.
It is also beneficial for chronic pain, an often debilitating condition affecting millions of Americans. Pain medications often provide only partial or temporary relief, can be addictive, expensive, and cause a host of unpleasant or dangerous side effects. Even surgery is often unsuccessful in resolving the issue. H.O.P.E. Laser Institute uses a specific advanced pain management therapy (patent pending) called Muscle Recovery (MR) to alleviate stiffness while encouraging muscle tissue repair.
Though the technology may be high-tech, the Institute’s atmosphere is warm and personable. “Our patients know we’re a little different here, not only in the modality we use to treat them, but in the manner in which we treat them,” says Lukachek. “They often tell us how calm and relaxed they feel here, in addition to their improved physical wellbeing. Our goal is to provide a nurturing environment, which we feel is an integral part of the healing process.”
According to Chicchi the number of treatments required will vary with the patient and diagnosis. “Some patients see a major difference in the first week of treatment, and some experience a loss of symptoms in as little as 24 hours,” she says, adding that patients should look for a treatment facility with protocols designed for each patient. “The use of a blanketed treatment or one-size-fits-all mentality is not what you are looking for in a facility. If you are thinking of using LLLT as a treatment option for your concussion or traumatic brain injury, call and ask for a consultation. The facility should be using LLLT for more than five years and should be well versed in its function and available research.”
The therapy is currently covered by insurance only for certain conditions. Treatment does not require a physician’s order, but the Institute will provide patients’ physicians with supporting research upon request.
“I love this work so much that I’m almost saddened to leave each night,” says Lukachek. “Tonie and I genuinely care for the wellbeing of every patient, every day. Here, we believe integrity and technique are equally important. Our goal is to make the world a better place by helping people live healthier, more comfortable, more fulfilling lives.”
H.O.P.E. Laser Institute has locations in Easton and Malvern. For more information, call 610-438-1765 or visit hopelaserinstitute.com.