The North American Association for Laser Therapy (NAALT) held its annual meeting Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, 2013 at the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Well over 100 attendees, including clinicians who utilize laser therapy (on humans or animals), scientists, researchers and company vendors, enjoyed three days of lectures, discussion, equipment demonstrations and social interaction.
AALT represents clinicians who use or are interested in therapeutic light. The aim of the organization is to improve the understanding of the mechanisms, basic laser physics, safety, treatment parameters, techniques, regulatory issues and reimbursement of laser therapy for health practitioners.
Outgoing NAALT President Dr. Gerry Ross opened the meeting with introductory remarks, and then Dr. Paul Bradley delivered the opening lecture. Dr. Bradley is director of the Head and Neck Pain Clinic in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and utilizes various lasers in his clinic. His lecture, "Central Role of Low Intensity Laser Therapy in a Multi-Modality Pain and Healing Clinic," described how his clinic uses class 3a, 3b and 4 lasers in the treatment of head, neck and temporomandibular pain, as well as postherpetic neuralgia and other complaints.
Next, Roberta Chow, president of the Australian Medical Laser Association and general practitioner in Sydney, Australia, delivered a detailed lecture on the role of mast cell degranulation and subsequent effects on the immune system. This illuminated attendees' understanding of the pain-relieving mechanisms of laser therapy beyond the effects on nerve tissue.
Praveen Arany, an oral pathologist by training and currently a clinical investigator at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., presented on the molecular mechanisms of laser therapy. He was followed by renowned researcher Michael Hamblin, who discussed laser therapy for treatment of traumatic brain injuries in mice. Juanita Anders then delivered a spirited talk on the use of organic light-emitting diodes for healing-impaired cutaneous wounds.
The first day concluded with short presentations on laser therapy for improving muscle performance; for bone repair in rats; and for treatment of post-concussion syndrome. A gala dinner that evening was a special time for social interaction, awards and fun.
Day two of the 2013 NAALT Conference saw presentations on ethical considerations in laser therapy; integrative treatment for soft-tissue injury and osteoarthritic knees; and laser therapy in veterinary medicine. Afternoon breakout sessions exposed attendees to specific interest areas: clinical, veterinary and dental applications, along with research and development. Then submitted abstracts on various topics were covered: skeletal muscle recovery; combined therapy for muscle strain; retinal and macular degeneration; and cognitive dysfunction in the canine.
A laser safety course was conducted on the third day concurrently with other sessions covering surgical lasers, marketing a laser therapy practice, and vendor presentations on applications of their specific laser therapy equipment.
Three chiropractors gave presentations during the conference. Dr. Jerry True of Stuart, Fla., led off the clinical applications segment with case presentations on high-power laser therapy for neuropathic conditions; Dr. Chris Carraway of New Bern, N.C., described laser therapy for the treatment of shingles; and Dr. Nick Wise of Spartanburg, S.C., introduced the scientific plausibility for transcranial laser stimulation for mental and emotional issues.
Incoming NAALT President Chip Godine, DVM, of Ruckersville, Va., commented on future plans for NAALT. "We will be working to attain non-profit status, which will pave the way for companies and individuals to make tax-deductible donations. Also, we hope to hire a full-time executive director and are planning a joint mega-conference with the World Association of Laser Therapy (WALT) in Washington, D.C. Finally, we plan to begin funding research to advance the cause of photobiomodulation."
NAALT's next meeting will be the planned joint meeting with WALT in October 2014. For additional information, visit www.naalt.org.
Dr. Phil Harrington is a certified medical laser safety officer and serves on the subcommittee reviewing the ANSI Standards for Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care Facilities. He is a 1996 Palmer graduate and also holds a bachelor's degree in physics. He is the medical director, clinical manager and laser safety officer for Summus Medical Laser (www.summuslaser.com).