by Maureen Ambrose PT, DPT, OCS


Cold Laser Therapy, Low power laser therapy, Soft Laser, Photobiomodulation


Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) uses low powered light energy from a laser to stimulate changes in injured tissue.  LLLT penetrates through the skin and can be used treat many musculoskeletal conditions. It is often called “cold-laser” because the wavelength used does not create heat or increase cell temperature.

Instead, it works by stimulating a photochemical reaction in the target cells. A small laser emits non-thermal photons of light into the skin. Cells in the target tissue absorb the light, and use the light as energy to increase cellular activity. This activity can increase local blood flow, decrease inflammation, and desensitize pain receptors. All of these effects can result in an accelerated healing process.


The depth of penetration into the target tissue can be up to a few centimeters depending on the wavelength and power of the laser.

  • Sprains and Strains
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Tendonitis
  • Tendinosis
  • Myofascial pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Trigger points.

Specific Conditions:

  • Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD/TMJ)
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Adhesive Capsulitis
  • Achilles Tendonitis
  • Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
  • Acute neck pain
  • Headaches


Treatment involves a small handheld device being placed over the skin of the injured area for 30 seconds -2 minutes. The therapist and patient wear protective eyewear while the laser is in use. Multiple sites may be treated in the same region or around the body in one session. Typically, results can be achieved in a series of short treatments.

Advantages over other treatments include:

  • Painless
  • Non- invasive
  • Non-surgical
  • Requires no recovery time
  • Patients can avoid taking medication

Contraindications include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Epilepsy
  • Performing over cancerous lesions, the thyroid, and over the eyes.

While research continues to be ongoing to determine the exact mechanism of LLLT, many patients benefit from reduced pain, healing effects, and shorter recovery times.


Hashmi, Javad T. et al. “Role of Low-Level Laser Therapy in Neurorehabilitation.” PM & R : the journal of injury, function, and rehabilitation 2.12 Suppl 2 (2010): S292–S305. PMC. Web. 1 Mar. 2018

Marovino T. Cold Lasers in Pain Management. Practical Pain Management. Sep/Oct 2004. 4(6):37-42.



The Application of Blood Flow Restriction: Lessons From the Laboratory

By Brianna Hurt, SPT


Blood flow restriction (BFR) is the use of a pneumatic cuff that is placed and inflated at the most proximal portion of the upper and/or lower limb, which causes arterial blood inflow to be reduced and largely occludes venous return. BFR in combination with low load resistance training has been demonstrated to increase muscle size and strength similar to that observed in traditional high load resistance training.

BFR training is effective across a variety of populations with the most common protocol of repetitions being one set of 30 reps followed by three sets of 15 reps, reaching a total of 75 repetitions. While there are some concerns related to BFR training including, increased risk of blood clots, muscle damage, and negative effects on the cardiovascular system, these concerns have been unsupported in research studies. When applying BFR safe practice should be used in order to minimize risks of these concerns by individualizing factors such as cuff width, cuff type and the pressure that is being applied.

Applications in Clinical Medicine

BFR can be used for several clinical conditions, including but not limited to postoperative care, joint replacements, patellofemoral pain, and muscle injuries. For postoperative patients, BFR in combination with neuromuscular electrostimulation or with low load resistance exercise, is shown to improve muscle atrophy and strength loss. Patellofemoral pain is a common condition among active individuals. The use of BFR training with this condition allows for low loading of the quadriceps in order to strengthen without aggravating symptoms.


BFR training is an effective alternative to traditional high load resistance training and can be beneficial during rehabilitation. When using BFR, safety is important so the appropriate width, material and pressure should be used based on the individual. The same absolute pressure should not be used for each individual in the clinic setting.

Kevin T. Mattocks; Matthew B. Jessee; J. Grant Mouser; Scott J. Dankel; Samuel L. Buckner; Zachary W. Bell; Johnny G. Owens; Takashi Abe; and Jeremy P. Loenneke, Phd

The effects of taping and foot exercises on patients with hallux valgus

by Logan Swisher, SPT


Hallux valgus, also known as a bunion or hammer toe, is a foot deformity that causes a bony sometimes painful bump at the base of the big toe. Per year this affects over 3 million people in the US. The cause of bunions is not well understood but factors such as gender, footwear and heredity are known to play a role in the development of hallux valgus. Conservative treatment which can include physical therapy is usually the first step in addressing this diagnosis.


20 total female participants

-10 in the study group (exercises and taping)

-10 in the control group (exercises only)


Subjects were split into a study group which involved both daily exercises and taping or the control group which only involved daily exercises for 8 weeks. At the start of the study each participant had the angle of their hallux valgus measured, their intensity of foot pain measured by the visual analog scale (VAS) and their ability to walk determined by the walking ability scale (WAS). Subjects in the control group were asked to perform the exercises 2 times a day and the subjects in the study group were asked to perform the 2 times a day and wear tape for 10 hours a day. All subjects were re-evaluated at the end of the 8 week period.


At the end of 8 weeks, both groups showed improvement in: resting pain, walking pain and their ability to walk. However, the study group (which received taping) demonstrated a greater improvement in all three areas than the exercise only group.

Clinical Application:

The results of this study indicate that the combined approach of exercises and taping is more effective in reducing pain and improving walking ability as compared to exercise alone. Here at PTFirst, we will provide an in-depth evaluation which will address multiple factors contributing to your hallux valgus. This could include strength, range of motion, gait and shoe wear. Our therapists will then design an individualized program to conservatively manage and treat your hallux valgus with the goal of keeping you as active as possible without being limited by pain.

Article: Bayar, Banu & Erel, Suat & Simşek, Ibrahim & Sumer, Erkan & Bayar, Kilichan. (2011). The effects of taping and foot exercises on patients with hallux valgus: A preliminary study. Turkish Journal of Medical Sciences. 41. 403-409. 10.3906/sag-0912-499.

Plantar Fasciitis a Clinical Study

by Logan Swisher, SPT


Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia and a very common cause of heel pain. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs from the heel bone to the toes and supports the arch of the foot. The pain is usually most noticeable when first standing up and walking or after walking, running, or standing for long periods; and may decrease after light activity. Plantar fasciitis can be a very frustrating diagnosis due to the fact that most people have to be on their feet at sometime during the day which further exacerbates their symptoms.


66 total participants

-32 in dry needling group

-34 in the steroid injection group


This study was a single-blind, randomized clinical trial. The participants placed into the dry needling group received dry needling for 30 seconds of the intended site. The participants in the steroid injection group received an injection at the intended site and the needle was immediately withdrawn. Patients gave a baseline measurement using the visual analog scale (VAS) and were followed up with at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months and 1 year.


Baseline visual analog scale (VAS) scores to rate pain were taken in both groups before treatment. When scores were retested at 3 weeks, the dry needling and the steroid group both improved, although the steroid group demonstrated greater pain relief. This trend continued until the 3 month follow-up where the steroid began to demonstrate a gradual increase in pain. The dry needling group continued to demonstrate a gradual decrease in the VAS score at every follow-up. In conclusion, the steroid group got more effective short term relief while the dry needling group more significantly lowered their VAS score overall and were able to maintain their decrease over a 1 year follow up.

Clinical Application – Plantar Fasciitis:

This study demonstrated that steroid injections can make a rapid improvement in plantar fasciitis pain peaking at 3 weeks while dry needling showed a gradual decrease in pain that lasted up to the 1 year follow up. Here at PTFirst, we will work with you and your doctor to find the optimal treatment combination to reduce your pain. If dry needling does not interest you as viable treatment option we have many other treatments which include manual therapy, stretching, exercise, ultrasound and taping among others.

Article treatment of plantar fasciitis:

Rastegar, S., Baradaran Mahdavi, S., Hoseinzadeh, B., & Badiei, S. (2018). Comparison of dry needling and steroid injection in the treatment of plantar fasciitis: A single-blind randomized clinical trial. International Orthopaedics, 42(1), 109.

The optimal desk ergonomics setup for your computer

by Logan Swisher, SPT

Finding the optimal desk setup

Many of us spend hours of our workday in front of a desk/computer. While some people have no difficulty with this, others find that their desk set up contributes to their pain. Proper desk ergonomics can help you stay comfortable at work and reduce the risk of pain from static postures.


  1. Start with feet flat on the ground. A footrest may be used if you cannot reach the ground.
  2.  Maintain a 90°-120° angle at the knees and hips. There should be a small distance (two fingers width) between the back of the knees and the front of the chair.
  3. You should be seated all the way back in the chair with lumbar support from either the chair or towel roll.
  4. Shoulders should be relaxed and elbows bent between 90°-120°.
  5. Wrist position should be in neutral and forearms should be supported by the arms of the chair or desk.
  6. Screen should be at eye level or slightly lower with a 10°-20° screen tilt backward.
  7. Screen distance is recommended to be an arm length (20’’-30’’) or a distance where you can comfortably see the screen without changing your posture.
  8. Remember to take frequent breaks when working in a position for an extended time. If possible, try to alternate between a seated and standing desk.


Before making any permanent changes, try household items like towels, pillows and boxes to find the best setup. Here at PTF we will work with you to optimize your desk setup so you can reduce your pain and maximize your efficiency.