How to Compare Light Therapy Products

So, you’re ready to buy a light therapy device.  You’ve probably already done some research and found that light therapy can help a wide variety of injuries and ailments.  Or maybe you have pet that is getting light therapy from a vet or trainer and you know that it is helping.  Perhaps you are a vet or trainer and you need to add or expand light therapy in your practice.  No matter how you came to this crossroad, you now need to decide which product will best suit your needs. So how do you choose which one to buy?

It’s not easy to compare Light Therapy products.  There are dozens of parameters and specifications that characterize each device and not every device will have complete or accurate specs. 

Some of the parameters are:

Laser Classes, Light Emitting Diodes, Power Output, Power Input, Power Density, Peak Power, Energy Density, Wavelengths, Frequencies, Beam Width or Angle, Treatment Duration, Treatment Area, Penetration, Safety Precautions, Routine Maintenance, Etc.

Even if you can get the specifications for different products, in order to compare them you will probably need to convert units of measure, like watts, milli-watts,  joules, lumens, nanometers, hertz, degrees,  steradians, square inches, square centimeters, and so on.   

Then after you wade through all that, you will need to consider cost-benefit ratios.  For example; is the $2000 product really 10 times better than the $200 product? 

It all can be very confusing.

So, is there an easier way? 

There is an easier and more logical approach to selecting a Light Therapy Device.  Instead of collecting product specifications, the first thing you should do is to clarify what you want in a light therapy device.  That sounds simple but can also be overwhelming.  To make it easier, first define the categories that are important to you.  Then you can define a range of characteristics in each category that will satisfy your needs.  After you accomplish that, then you can start to compare products that have relevant specifications within those ranges.  This will greatly simplify your search.

For example, here are some typical categories that can define your needs:

Effective Category:  It may seem silly to define “effective” as a necessary characteristic because who wouldn’t want the device to be effective?  However, since you will be using this category to compare products, the basic necessity is that it be effective.  But what makes a light therapy device effective? 

          Typical Characteristics to be Effective:  The current research papers presented by NAALT (North America Association of Light Therapy) recommends 4 to 6 joules of photon energy per square centimeter that is comprised of wavelengths between 600 and 1000 nm.  That’s all.  It doesn’t matter if the energy is from a laser or LED; it doesn’t matter if the energy is switched on and off rapidly, which is often called “frequencies” or “pulses”.  Knowing this allows you to ignore unnecessary product specifications like “frequencies” which will make the comparisons easier.

Safe Category:  You definitely want a Light Therapy Device that is safe for you and your animal.  This also seems like an obvious category but it is necessary because there are Light Therapy devices on the market that can cause harm.    

          Typical Characteristics to be Safe:  LED devices have no safety issues.  However, high powered Class 3 and Class 4 lasers can destroy tissue and trigger the laser inhibition response which will delay healing instead of accelerating it.  Even the reflected energy from a laser can cause permanent eye damage so the patient (your animal), the user, and everyone in the room should wear eye protection.  LED devices have none of these drawbacks and are the safest type of light therapy device.

Ease-of-Use Category:  Of course you want a product that is easy to use.  You would prefer not to attend training classes or spend a lot of time looking up settings and configuring the device.  Treatment time is also part of ease-of-use.  Hour-long treatment times will get old real fast and probably discourage you from using the device.  If possible, you don’t want to have to participate in or keep a close eye on the treatment.  This will allow you to do something else during the treatment.

          Typical Characteristics for Ease-of-Use:  To be easy to use, the Light Therapy device should be simple to configure, relatively hands-free, and treat an area in a reasonable amount of time

Configuring some products can be overly complex and require multiple settings for time, frequencies, and wavelengths.  Some even provide charts that you need to use to determine the appropriate settings.  The more complex the product the more time it will take to learn and to configure the device before treatment.  Lasers devices are typically complex and require some training to ensure safe and effective operation.  Remember the Effective Category above?  You only need 4 to 6 joules of photons per square centimeter at the specific wavelengths so this complexity is not really needed.  Some LED devices require no configuration and are just as effective as the complex devices. 

Hands-free operation is generally not available with Laser devices.  They typically require you to move the laser head over the treatment area during the entire treatment time to avoid damage.  Products with pens also have to be painted over the area but the power is much less so the treatment time is much longer.  Pads and paddles of LEDs can be laid on the area and sometimes strapped to the treatment area allowing a relatively hands-free operation.

Treatment time is determined by output power and treatment area.  For an extreme example; a 5 watt laser can treat one square centimeter in one second.  However, the same laser would take 15 minutes to treat 800 square centimeters.  Likewise, an LED pad with a 5 watt output would take 15 minutes as well.  If the product specifications don’t include the time required for 4 to 6 joules of energy then you may have to compute the time using average power output and treatment area.  In any event, you will probably want a device with 20 minutes or less treatment time.

Affordable Category:  Sometimes you get what you pay for, and sometimes you don’t.  You certainly don’t want to pay more than you need to in order to get an effective, safe and easy to use light therapy device.

         Typical Characteristics of Affordable:  Price of course; just because a light therapy device is expensive does not mean that it will do a better job than a less expensive one.  You can use a $200 LED light pad to effectively treat the same area that you can treat with a $5,000 laser.  However, the laser is treatment is no better than the LED treatment but would cost 25 times more.  When comparing price be sure to include all costs like routine maintenance, calibrations, repairs and controllers.  Some products list the LED pads prices separately from the controller price even though the controller is required for operation; so be aware and read the fine print.

Good luck in your search! 

You are now armed with a strategy to find the best effective, safe, easy to use and affordable light therapy product.  We know exactly what you are facing because we went through the same process twelve years ago when we were looking for a way to help our show jumper “Gospel Hour”.  We couldn’t find a suitable product so we designed and built our own.  It has evolved over the years to be the best (in our opinion of course). 

The Equine and Canine Light Therapy pads are:

                Effective – they provide 5-6 joules of photon energy per square centimeter that is comprised of 660nm and 880nm wavelengths. 

                Safe – the LEDs will cause no harm and will not invoke the laser inhibition response.

                Easy to Use – the light pads can lie over the treatment area or strapped on, then simply plug it in.  In about 15 minutes, the pad will shut off automatically.

                Affordable – our goal is to help as many people as possible to help their animals so we’ve made the price very affordable.  You can have you own light therapy device for the less than a single regimen of laser treatments.

Good luck in your search… or you can skip all of this and simply go to the Equine and Canine Light Therapy shop-online page here.