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The Truth About Class 4 Therapy Lasers

The Truth About Class 4 Lasers

It’s a common misconception among the therapeutic community that Class 4 Lasers should be used for therapy purposes. We’ve been trained to think everything bigger and more powerful is BETTER. Yet with therapeutic lasers, that’s not actually the case. Such misinformation is intended to direct a doctor or therapist away from what is proven to work in favour of something more expensive. If you see a manuscript with “HILT” or “Class 4 Laser” in the title, watch out for the marketing spin.

Check out the top 4 reasons why Class 4 Lasers are NOT a good fit for therapy purposes, and why Class 3B is a better option.

image - class 4 lasers do no necessarily penetrate deeper than Class 3B lasers

1. They Don’t Provide Better Therapeutic Treatments

Longer near infrared wavelengths do NOT equal deeper tissue penetration. Most fall somewhere between 10 to 300 microns (which translates to 0.0004 - 0.01 inches) which, alone, does not equal better clinical efficacy. Although many Class 4 Laser distributors make these claims, there is no clinical evidence nor scientific journal article to support these statements. And while Class 4 and Class 3B are used to treat both musculoskeletal and soft tissue disorders, Class 4 Lasers have higher output power, which could result in tissue damage.

image - Class 4 Lasers can emit enough energy to cause injury

2. They Emit Too Much Power (According to Science)

As you may know, the marketing claim for Class 4 devices is that they have more power so they should penetrate deeper into patients’ tissue, should reduce treatment time, and should be more effective. However, most of their power uses wavelengths that do not penetrate very deeply (970-980nm).

Lasers with an output greater than 500 mW/cm2 can be dangerous and cause tissue damage. On the other hand, Class 3B Lasers that provide cold laser therapy (or Low Level Laser Therapy), such as the LaserPrism, reduce such risks with an output at 450 mW/cm2.

Most therapy sessions with a Class 4 Laser treatment last 5 minutes due to the scanning process, while Class 3B therapy sessions typically last anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes with a majority of recommended treatments being between 30 seconds to 1 minute.

image - higher energy lasers put patients with darker skin pigmentation more at risk for burns

3. They Could Burn Patients

Studies show that Class 4 Lasers reach the same amount of tissue at a higher intensity, which means a higher risk of burning patients. Patients could especially get burned if they have dark skin pigmentation.

image - Class 3B Lasers are a good choice for therapeutic purposes

4. They’re Intended for Other Treatments

Just because Class 4 Lasers aren’t a good fit for therapeutic use doesn’t mean they aren’t good for other reasons. Class 4 Lasers are a great choice for laser surgery and tissue ablation (the removal of superficial tissue). After all, that’s what they were designed for.

Class 3B Lasers (pictured above) fall within the safe output range for cold laser therapy because they were engineered specifically for therapeutic use. They are ultimately the better decision for treating patients with cold laser therapy.