Will lasers become an office worker's best friend? Lasermedics Inc. in Stafford, Tex., hopes so. It wants to zap carpal-tunnel syndrome, the painful condition caused by repetitive hand motions, with laser light. The syndrome can plague anyone who works at a keyboard or on an assembly line. Overworked tendons of the wrist swell, pinching the nerves into the palm. The usual treatments are anti-inflammatory drugs, hand splints, or surgery. Lasermedics says its approach is cheap, painless, and may speed healing.
The doctor or therapist holds a flashlight-like laser against the wrist for 33 seconds at three points every other day for five weeks. According to Lasermedics, the low-power light activates pain-numbing endorphins, opens up blood vessels, and lets tendons glide freely. A recent study of 160 General Motors Corp. workers yielded promising results, a preliminary analysis found. Pending FDA approval, Lasermedics hopes to begin selling the devices next year, at up to $8,000 each.