I first began investigating lasers in May 2000 after I returned from working with cyclist Lance Armstrong in preparation for the second of seven consecutive Tour de France victories that Lance, his team and I would win together. Ironically, the laser would ultimately end up playing a major role in Lance's victories.
I'm a clinician and a very serious student of the body, so I scour articles, journals and books to find the key links in the body that provide insights on how to get the body well and keep it performing at its best and most effectively in the shortest time. My approach to care is simple: Do whatever is necessary within scope of practice to get and keep my patients well and performing at their absolute best for a lifetime. To achieve my main clinical objective of restoring energy-efficient, strain-free movement, I've developed a diverse clinical tool kit composed of various modalities and techniques based on today's latest research.
Ideal body movement and fitness are the end points for my care, as quality movement produces the actions that make our dreams real and give life value. In fact, in Lance's first book, It's Not About the Bike, he mentions that he knew he wouldn't succumb to his cancer as long as he could move. The take-home message is simple: The better you can move, the better your life will be.
In our domain as neuromusculoskeletal providers, there are many types of interference that must be removed from the body for it to perform at its best. In my view, the two most important interferences to remove are postural distortion and loss of movement control. Numerous researchers and clinicians have confirmed that in large part, the shape and tone of the soft tissues determine cell behavior, genetic expression, cell biochemistry and patient symptoms.
From my perspective, symptoms are the product of too much strain placed on specific tissue structures because of body posture and movement distortion from loss of motor control and abnormal tissue tension. Major tissue distorters causing altered posture and movement include tight and hypertonic muscles, inflammation, scars, proprioceptive loss, ligament laxity, loss of coordination, muscle inhibition, and poor locomotor muscle recruitment patterns. Therefore, when ideal tissue shape and tone are restored by removing distortion from the body, the body regains its capacity to generate maximum energy and optimize cell communication, enabling energy efficient, strain-free movement to occur.
In my experience, the 635-nm low-power laser, used in combination with adjusting and manual techniques, is the fastest way to take distortion out of the body and facilitate the energy and communication parameters necessary for restoration of optimal function of the locomotor system. In choosing this type of laser, I considered these features: It is fully portable and requires no electrical outlet; it is lightweight and a compact size; it has minimal legal requirements for use (FDA-cleared); it works in seconds; it produces consistently superior results; it is non-thermal; and it has a frequency almost identical to the cells' natural resonant frequency (634 nm). Furthermore, several frequencies can be programmed into the diode heads for heightened therapeutic action.
Some of the most important effects attributed to low-level laser therapy include increased ATP, vasodilation, increased catalase and glutathione, reactivation of SOD, increased protein synthesis, tissue regeneration, bacterial destruction and improved immunomodulation. In total, the combined clinical effect of these benefits include increased energy to drive optimal tissue repair, support the body's homeostatic processes and facilitate systemic recovery.
Low-power laser care for tissue refers to all things pertaining to tissue structure, including pain and inflammation, fibroblastic repair, tissue remodeling, and tissue regeneration from sprains, strains, hematomas and bruising. To resolve tissue-structure conditions, I use both laser diode heads to deliver four frequencies per head by placing one head on the involved tissue and the other on the tissue's nerve root. Science has shown that this combination promotes superior clinical results. The frequencies induce specific therapeutic effects to promote the desired clinical outcomes. To free up time to do other care while treating the tissue, I use a stand to make the laser an unattended modality. Tissue treatment times range from three to five minutes.
Low-power laser use to improve posture and movement quality refers to restoring optimal cell tensegrity, communication and function. Mae Wan Ho, a British physicist, in her ground-breaking book, The Rainbow and the Worm, makes the compelling case for body holism and tissue coherence as being key elements to peak health, performance and wellness. Of all the physical principles controlling our biology, perhaps the most important that falls into our practice domain is tensegrity. This refers to the tension interplay between the body's soft tissue (ligaments, muscles, fascia, cytoskeleton, perineurium, etc.) and bones. When the soft tissues have ideal length and tone, and the neurology and electronic biology that control body movement are synchronized, body posture, cell communication and energy production synergize to create ideal health and wellness.
By far, the fastest way to restore body tensegrity and posture is to find and re-activate the body's inhibited muscles using a low-power laser. It only takes two seconds of laser stimulation to restore function to the inhibited muscle. In the system I've developed for low-power laser use, it takes roughly 20 seconds to test and reactivate the key muscle inhibitions related to the area of chief complaint. Most often, the location of the inhibited muscles is distant to the chief complaint, thus making a full-body assessment and treatment approach mandatory for best clinical results to occur.
I always use a combination of tissue- and tensegrity-restoring techniques with my patients. When combined, they promote the fastest clinical results in the shortest time. Since the techniques only take seconds, they can be easily implemented into any practice and, in my experience, significantly increase the effectiveness of all the techniques I use in care. I know several practitioners who have used the low-level laser concurrently with Graston, ART and other techniques, and have experienced enhanced outcomes from its application. The low-power laser can also be used for myofascial release, muscle stretching, scar sensory input, architecture faults, facilitation of locomotor repatterning with therapeutic exercise, and brain balancing.
It's been nine years since I began using the low-power laser. It has added another dimension to my clinical success. The great thing is that it only takes seconds to do, thus allowing me more time to do all the other clinical procedures I use to keep my patients performing at their best.
Dr. Jeff Spencer graduated from Cleveland Chiropractic College Los Angeles and has a master’s degree in physical education. He treated cyclist Lance Armstrong before, during and after all seven of his Tour de France victories, helped Armstrong’s former team to its eighth Tour victory in 2007, and has also worked with numerous professional athletes, including Olympic and world champions. Dr. Spencer can be contacted at