Cold Laser Therapy for back pain treatment (or Low Level Laser Therapy, LLLT) is a treatment that utilizes specific wavelengths of light to interact with tissue and is thought to help accelerate the healing process. It can be used on patients who suffer from a variety of acute and chronic conditions in order to help eliminate pain, swelling, reduce spasms and increase functionality.
How Cold Lasers Work
Cold lasers are handheld devices used by the clinician and are often the size of a flashlight. The laser is placed directly over the injured area for 30 seconds to several minutes, depending on the size of the area being treated and the dose provided by the cold laser unit.
During this time, the non-thermal photons of light that are emitted from the laser pass through the skins layers (the dermis, epidermis, and the subcutaneous tissue or tissue fat under the skin). This light has the ability to penetrate 2 to 5 centimeters below the skin at 90mw and 830 nm.
Once the light energy passes through the layers of skin and reaches the target area, it is absorbed and interacts with the light sensitive elements in the cell. This process can be compared to photosynthesis in plants – sunlight is absorbed by plants, which is then converted to usable energy so that the plant can grow.
When cells absorb this light energy, it initiates a series of events in the cell that is theorized to eventually result in normalizing damaged or injured tissue, a reduction in pain, inflammation, edema and an overall reduction in healing time by increasing intracellular metabolism.1,2
Types of Conditions Treated by Cold Lasers
Cold laser therapy can stimulate all cell types including muscle, ligament, cartilage, nerves, etc., so a number of conditions can be treated by cold laser therapy. Some of conditions that may typically be treated by cold laser therapy include:
- Arthritis pain
- Back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Fibromyalgia pain
- Knee pain
- Neck pain
Effectiveness of Cold Laser Therapy
For years, physicians have been using cold laser therapy on patients who are seeking effective, alternative methods for pain relief. Since 1967 there have been over 2,500 clinical studies published worldwide. Many of these studies are double-blinded, placebo-controlled and have demonstrated cold laser therapy to be a proven method for pain relief.
However, many of these studies were done with small groups, so further larger studies need to be completed. For example, one issue that needs to be studied further is that there does not appear to be a uniform standard regarding the dose and number of treatments.
The effectiveness of cold laser therapy for neck pain was recently reviewed by The Bone and Joint Decade 2000-2010 Task Force on Neck Pain, an initiative conducted by a multidisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians.
The task force concluded that low-level laser therapy can be a beneficial treatment for certain types of neck pain, including types of pain that cause little or no interference with daily activities and pain the does limit daily activities, as compared to pain that includes radiculopathy (arm pain) or serious pathology.3
- Martin R. Laser-Accelerated Inflammation/Pain Reduction and Healing. Practical Pain Management. Nov/Dec 2003 3(6):20-25.
- Marovino T. Cold Lasers in Pain Management. Practical Pain Management. Sep/Oct 2004. 4(6):37-42.