Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) provides effective pain relief of both acute and chronic neck pain, according to a recent review and analysis of various trials examining the efficacy of using wavelengths of light to treat pain in the neck.
The review headed by researchers in Australia and recently published in The Lancet studied 16 randomized, controlled trials including a total of 820 patients with neck pain that could not be linked to a specific cause. The researchers ultimately concluded that low-level laser therapy provides immediate relief of acute neck pain and mid-term relief of chronic neck pain.
Using a 100-point scale to account for and compare differences in the severity of neck pain after treatment involving either low-level laser therapy or a placebo, researchers found that 70 percent of patients with acute neck pain were more likely to experience reduced pain following LLLT. It should be noted that only 2 trials involving LLLT for acute neck pain were available for review.
The study also found that low-level laser therapy was beneficial for chronic neck pain sufferers, although the effects were not as quick when compared to acute sufferers. According to the review, it took up to 22 weeks for patients with chronic neck pain to experience relief from LLLT, although these patients were 4 times more likely to have reduced neck pain than those treated with a placebo. In the past one noted disadvantage of low-level laser therapy has been the required number of treatments, which can range from 8 to 30 sessions.
Also known as cold laser therapy, low-level laser therapy involves a clinician holding cold lasers over the injured area for 30 seconds to several minutes. These lasers emit photons of light that pass through the skin and are absorbed by the cells with the theoretical goal of reducing inflammation and pain and accelerating the body’s natural healing process. The exact ways in which cold laser therapy treats neck pain is still not fully understood, a point that the review noted as worthy of future study.
Based on their review, the researchers suggested using cold-laser therapy in conjunction with a regular program of exercising and stretching when treating neck pain.
In addition to neck pain, cold laser therapy is used by some chiropractors and pain management professionals to treat back pain, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, tendonitis and knee pain. When indicated, this procedure may be preferred by patients who have the above symptoms and/or conditions, and want to avoid medication or invasive treatments.