LASERPUNCTURE FOR SPINAL CORD INJURY
Laurance Johnston, Ph.D. Laserpuncture is generating much attention in France and other parts of Europe as an alternative medicine treatment for spinal cord injury (SCI) and related physical disabilities. As the name implies, laserpuncture combines elements of acupuncture and laser therapy, both of which have shown potential for restoring some function after SCI. Albert Bohbot, a charismatic health professional, developed laserpuncture. Early in his career, he became interested in acupuncture’s potential for treating a variety of disorders. With the assistance of scientists at one of France’s leading engineering colleges, Bohbot developed a sophisticated electronic instrument that substituted an infrared laser light beam for acupuncture needles.
Treatment: Using his device, Bohbot has treated more than 50 people with spinal cord injury, most of whom were at least a year post-injury. He claims that more than 60% have had substantial improvement. Although it was difficult to get in-depth feedback due to language differences, the patients I observed clearly supported Bohbot’s claims and often routinely traveled great distances to obtain treatment. In each session, a laser beam is directed toward ten acupuncture points for two minutes each. The selected points are a part of a large acupuncture network covering the front and back of the patient’s torso. In response to the stimulation, the patient will often feel sensations below the injury level. Based on these sensations and any Motor or sensory improvement, ensuing sessions may focus on new acupuncture points and use different energy frequencies.
The sessions are augmented with more traditional physical Rehabilitation therapy – at home or in the clinic – and are designed to enhanced restored function (e.g., walking with leg braces using walkers or parallel bars, riding a stationary bicycle, etc.). Observing Bohbot’s patients doing this Physical Therapy was impressive.
Many consistently demonstrated regained physical abilities that seemed far beyond what would be possible based on their medical records, a placebo effect, or the physical therapy program by itself. Because benefits accrue over time with multiple sessions, it will be difficult for most Americans with spinal cord injury to acquire this ongoing treatment.
Bohbot recognizes that there is a need to incorporate his in-depth experiences and intuitive perspectives into training programs that will make the treatment more universally available. Acupuncture Connection Laserpuncture is based, in part, on Traditional Chinese Medicine theories of acupuncture that believe that a life-force energy permeates all living things through meridian channels. Through needle insertion or the application of heat, pressure, massage, or other energy sources at specific points on the skin, acupuncture promotes energy flow. Scientists believe acupuncture’s effects are mediated through physiological mechanisms, such as the stimulation of neural pathways and neurotransmitters.
Considerable evidence suggests that acupuncture has the ability to restore some function after SCI (see Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 2, 1996, pp. 211 -248). Laser Therapy Connection Many acupuncturists use lasers, which amplify light by producing coherent light beams, instead of needles to stimulate energy flow. Developed in the 1960’s, lasers often trigger images of powerful, metal-cutting beams, in part, due to movies like Goldfinger in which a laser nearly dissects James Bond. In spite of this image, low-energy lasers are finding more therapeutic applications (see Journal Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 5, Number 2, 1999, pp.177-188).
They represent a noninvasive, painless mechanism for biostimulation that does not burn tissue. Scientists speculate that laser stimulation improves cellular respiration and function and DNA and RNA repair. Research suggests that laser therapy may restore some function after spinal cord injury. For example, in one study, 15 of 31 subjects with spinal cord injury (at least three-years post-injury) had some Functional motor improvement after the spinal area surrounding the injury site was treated with a laser for six hours a day for 21 days.
Laserpuncture: Given that acupuncture and laser therapy show promise for treating SCI, Bohbot’s positive results are not that surprising. Although the use of lasers to stimulate acupuncture points is not new, Bohbot has developed and refined this technology and directed it towards paralysis. Bohbot’s laser device specifically emits infrared energy – the part of the electromagnetic spectrum just beyond the limit of visible red light. The power and frequency of this infrared energy can be adjusted to fit the patient’s perceived therapeutic needs. Central to Bohbot’s therapy is a network or matrix of more than 300 acupuncture points he claims to have discovered that relate energy meridians to Dermatome levels (dermatome matches a specific spinal cord level with a given area of skin feeling). He believes that stimulating energy flow through this network can restore function. Bohbot’s therapy seems to have restored significant function in a number of people with supposed complete clinical injuries. Because of such cases, Bohbot speculates it is possible to restore some function even without intact neurons bridging the spinal injury site.
Substituting prevailing biomedical dogma with innovative explanations involving quantum physics and energy medicine, Bohbot believes that there are backup mechanisms to the spinal cord for carrying messages from the brain to the body. He suggests that a signal may be mediated through an electromagnetic energy impulse instead of standard, biochemical conduction through intact neurons using neurotransmitters.
As an alternative, I suggested that improvement might be due to some Regeneration or the turning on of residual, but dormant, neurons that have survived the injury. Scientists now believe that such dormant neurons characterize many injuries clinically classified as “complete” and only a few of these neurons to be turned on to regain some function.
Perhaps laserpuncture is a therapeutic switch that turns them on. Location: Bohbot’s clinic is about 120 miles south of Paris in Sens Beaujeu, a small village nestled in the bucolic Sancerre wine-producing region near the Loire River. In springtime, vibrant yellow fields of blooming rapeseed and vineyards of tumescent stalks emerging from winter’s dormancy streak the verdant rolling countryside. Dotting the countryside are picturesque, Lilliputian villages, seemingly untainted by the modern age. Bohbot’s clinic is located in a building that once served as a presbytery for the neighboring 200-year old church.
Bohbot has personally restored this building, blending historical architectural elements with the features of a modern, accessible clinic. Because of the clinic’s emphasis on acupuncture, an ancient, mind-body-and-spirit therapy, the church’s imposing spire located at Sens Beaujeu’s heart triggered an image of ethereal acupuncture, in which divine energy flowed through the needle-like spire to the church and surrounding buildings (including Bohbot’s clinic), and, in turn, out to the countryside through the meridian-like roads converging at this point. What a place for a clinic!
Costs: A laserponcture session costs about $40. Depending upon advanced planning, the cost of flying to France can be comparable to many cross-country domestic U.S. flights. Hotel rooms in nearby Sancerre were relatively inexpensive (e.g., the Panoramic Hotel ~ $40/day, phone #: 011-33-2-48-54-22-44).
Acknowledgement & Resources: Thanks are given to Barbara Pichon and Edwige Nault for translation. For further information, see the web site http://a.bohbot.infoni.perso.infonie.fr/ or write Albert Bohbot (new address), Chateau Gaillard, 33, rue du Canal, 18170 La Chapelle Montlinard, France, France (phone #: 011-33-2-48-79-43-61). Adapted from Paraplegia News, September 2001
by Laurance Johnston, Ph.D