All Cracked Up?
Low Level LASER Phototherapy for the treatment of sore, cracked and grazed nipples
The World Health Organisation recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, however, there are complications that hinder successful breastfeeding.
Nipple trauma and pain, complications associated with breastfeeding, are considered the most significant factors precluding maintenance of breastfeeding in the first weeks of motherhood.
If you are experiencing cracked and grazed nipples from breastfeeding, it is advised to seek advice from a lactation consultant to address attachment, positioning and feeding issues. In conjunction with advice, Low Level LASER Phototherapy can help accelerate wound healing and reduce pain.
Research shows that there is evidence that phototherapy – the application of light from a low power LASER or light emitting diode (LED) to a wound – helps to promote tissue regeneration, reduce inflammation and relieve pain through a process called photobiostimulation. The light is of narrow spectral width in the red to near infrared spectrum. It is typically applied to the injury for a minute or so, a few times a week for several weeks.
Unlike other medical LASER procedures, Low Level LASER Phototherapy is not an ablative or thermal mechanism, but rather a photochemical effect comparable to photosynthesis in plants whereby the light is absorbed and exerts a chemical change at a cellular level.
The acceleration of wound healing promoted by Low Level LASER Phototherapy brings benefits to breastfeeding and improves the mother–child relation, as the mother feels less pain and enjoys the breastfeeding practice. As a consequence, there is no early weaning.
Chaves ME, Araujo AR, Santos SF, Pinotti M, Oliveira LS (2012). LED phototherapy improves healing of nipple trauma: a pilot study. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery 30(3): 172-178.
Gavish L (2014). Low level LASER therapy for wound healing. In Hamblin MR and Huang YY (Eds.) Handbook of Photomedicine, pp. 580, CRC Press New York.
Huang YY, Chen ACH, Carroll JD, Hamblin MR(2009). Biphasic dose response in low level light therapy. International Dose-Response Society DOI: 10.2203/dose-response.09-027.
Takezaki, SI, Omi T, Sato S, and Kawana S (2006). Light-emitting diode phototherapy at 630 +/– 3 nm increases local levels of skin-homing T cells in human subjects. J. Nihon Med. Sch. 73: 75–81.
World Health Organization. (2009). Infant and young child feeding: model chapter for textbooks for medical students and allied health professionals. Geneva: WHO.
Contributed by Valerie Lorenz – Continence & Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
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