Part One of Two Parts
As chiropractors continue to feel the squeeze of diminishing insurance reimbursement on their bottom line, many search for ethical, complementary revenue streams to enhance their income.An excellent revenue source to consider that offers a close fit with the "natural healing profession" for which chiropractic is known, is body sculpting, or targeted inch loss using infrared light.
Body sculpting is a non-invasive therapy, using light sources already familiar to chiropractors; is safe and effective; requires a small one-time investment; does not require use of consumables; and is a simply applied, 20-minute unattended therapy. Properly marketed, advertising costs may be minimized. A single, under-utilized room is all that is required. Associated fixed and variable overhead costs are therefore minimal, all of which amounts to an investment with an excellent rate of return. Body sculpting lends itself to offering patients other services as added revenue sources, including ancillary therapies that increase results, weight-loss and exercise programs, and nutraceuticals to improve results.
When adding a "niche market" therapy, a major consideration should be the size of the market. Perhaps the largest and ever growing (no pun intended) market is the overweight and obese population, which currently constitutes 65% of Americans. It is estimated that if current trends continue, 80% of our population will be in this category by 2030.
Infrared and Lasers
Obviously, light therapy has been used for many years in various forms. In the last few years, infrared light of a specific frequency in the 635-650nm range has been found to cause targeted loss of fat from adipocytes by disrupting the cell membrane, therefore allowing for the escape of triglycerides, free-fatty acids and glycerol contained with in fat cells, without causing damage or apoptosis.
Two types of body sculpting tools have been developed; one using laser light, the other, non-coherent infrared light of a similar wavelength created by Light Emitting Diodes (LED's). The laser devices are considered to be "cold lasers" as they are non-ablative. They do require FDA approval, as they are medical devices. On the other hand, the LED units are generally not classified as medical devices and FDA approval is not mandated.
Thousands of articles have been written in the past 30 years on the use of laser and infrared light. The phenomena of "biostimulation" or "photobiomodulation," have established the benefits of infrared light of varying wavelengths on pain reduction and improvements in healing that occurs at the cellular level1. A 2008 study showed that low-level laser light opened "pores" in adipocytes membranes that allowed for escape of fat products without damaging the cell.2 Another 2010 study with 130 people using low-level laser therapy who completed either 6 or 12 sessions, showed that they lost an average 6.55cm and 11.04cm respectively from the torso. If they concurrently lost weight, the results increased to 9 and 16cm respectively.3 A study performed in 2002 using low-level laser-assisted lipoplasty, showed that 99% of adipocytes irradiated for six minutes with 635nm cold laser light had a transitory disruption of the cell membrane, as shown by SEM and TEM.4
After researching both LED and laser devices, it does not appear to me that there is a clear cut difference in results obtained by either. The Karu study reference above1 concluded, "Coherent (i.e.laser), properties of laser light are not manifested at the molecular level by light interaction with biotissue ... At the cellular level, biological responses are determined by absorption of light with photoreceptor molecules. Coherent properties of laser light are unimportant ... some additional effects…can occur only in deeper layers of bulk tissue."