Durangoan Kristin Gerela tried physical therapy, massages and chiropractic adjustments to relieve her neck pain before receiving laser therapy treatment.
“This was the fastest response and the best results I have gotten out of anything,” she said.
Gerela injured her neck hiking two years ago when she fell while carrying her 3-year-old daughter on her back. The bar on the child carrier she was using came down onto her neck, causing blunt trauma to her spine and lasting pain.
“I have had a headache in the back of my head and my neck for over two years,” she said.
After four appointments at SRA Pain and Laser Center on Main Avenue with chiropractor Frank Jarrell, she was feeling significantly better.
Jarrell helped relieve Gerela’s pain by using advanced superpulsed cold laser therapy, which can deliver more energy to a patient’s cells than traditional lasers in a shorter period of time without overheating the patient’s tissue.
The infrared light from therapeutic lasers triggers cellular activity, encouraging damaged cells to repair, replace or eliminate themselves, which heals the area, he said.
Laser light triggers the same response in all damaged cells and has the potential to change how medical care is delivered, said Dr. Terrance Baker, president of the North American Association for Photobiomodulation Therapy.
“I see a day where medical therapeutic lasers will become a first-line approach for many medical conditions,” he said.
Baker, a practicing physician, uses laser therapy to treat injuries, wounds, rashes, bring down swelling and treat many other conditions. In one case, he used laser therapy to prevent the amputation of a foot that had gangrene.
Laser therapy has gained traction in Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Brazil and other countries. It has been slower to catch on in the U.S., in part because doctors have relied on medications to treat pain. Laser therapy has also not been embraced by pharmaceutical and insurance companies.
Treatment in real timeAt the Pain and Laser Center in Durango, Jarrell pairs laser therapy with his unique approach to determining the source of a patient’s pain that he developed called Spondylogenic Reflex Analysis.
Jarrell started developing the technique because he was disappointed with the results of traditional chiropractic care after five years. So he designed a new approach for diagnosing and treating patients focused on the spine to treat pain throughout the body.
He tested his techniques working with professional athletes, such as cyclists, between 2001 and 2008. About eight years ago, he added laser therapy to his practice, which has allowed him to help more patients who were unable to find relief elsewhere.
The Spondylogenic Reflex Analysis was based on research that shows when sections of a patient’s spine are unstable, nearby muscles tighten up and cause pain in other parts of the body.
To determine the source of a patient’s pain, he uses infrared imaging to locate where a patient’s tissue is hot and inflamed, he said.
“I am treating what’s happening in real time, not what I think is happening,” he said.
Often, health care providers, including those who use lasers, treat the area that hurts rather than trying to identify the source, he said.
“Point-and-shoot is a technique that most people in laser use,” he said.
Once Jarrell has taken an infrared image of a patient, he uses software he designed to identify possible treatment strategies, such as chiropractic adjustment, massage or laser therapy. Jarrell will also give patients exercises, if appropriate, to strengthen unstable sections of their spine.
He has also trained between 11,000 to 12,000 professionals in his technique.
Much of his education has been delivered as continuing education courses for groups, such as the Colorado Chiropractic Association.
His techniques can typically deliver lasting relief in five to 10 sessions. He charges $150 for the initial exam and $75 for additional treatments. He also sells treatments in a package, which can lower the cost per session to $55.
Parkinson’s patientsJarrell enjoys working on difficult cases and recently saw success working with two patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a nervous system disorder that can cause tremors, cognitive decline and make it difficult to complete many everyday activities, such as walking, talking and problem-solving.
The two patients both self-reported significant improvements in their motor functions and improved problem-solving, sleep and mood, among other symptoms.
Jarrell developed a detailed questionnaire for both patients to determine what part of their brain was causing their symptoms. Then, he used laser therapy to treat those areas of the brain.
One of the patients who came in for chronic hip pain regained her strength and was able to return to skiing, hiking and playing tennis.
Jarrell hopes to publish the experiences of both his patients and data he collected while treating them to encourage more research into the possibilities of laser therapy for Parkinson’s patients.
“I am hoping I will push a button in the Parkinson’s community to let them know that there is some promise in improving quality of living until we do come up with a cure,” he said.
Eventually, he would like to found a research and training institute in Durango that would build on the potential of laser therapy and Spondylogenic Reflex Analysis to treat neurodegeneration, which is seen in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.