Low-Level Laser Therapy


Chronic pain is commonly defined as pain which lasts for 12-weeks or longer. Current estimates suggest that this type of pain affects roughly 20% of the Canadian population and this number is expected to climb in the coming years. Traditional treatment approaches to battling chronic pain include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), opioids, anticonvulsants as well as lidocaine and steroid injections.  These treatments have shown mixed results in terms of the degree and duration of pain relief and all carry the risk of causing adverse reactions. Furthermore, many pharmacological treatments fail to treat the underlying cause of chronic pain; rather they temporarily numb the sensation of pain without healing the underlying problem. Thus, the pain often returns and the cycle of pharmacological agents, temporary relief, and chronic pain relapse continues unabated. Today, many innovative pain interventionists are investigating the efficacy of new approaches to breaking this unending cycle of chronic pain. One such innovative approach is Low-Level Laser Therapy.

What is Low-Level Laser Therapy?

Low-Level Laser Therapy (or LLLT) also known as Low-Energy Laser Treatment, is an innovative, non-invasive form of treatment, which applies low-power lasers, or light-emitting diodes (LEDs), to the skin of the patient’s body. This treatment has been used in the United States since 2002 and decades earlier in Europe and Asia. It has been approved by Health Canada to treat chronic pain disorders. In contrast to conventional, high-powered lasers commonly used in medicine to ablate or destroy tissue, low-power lasers are employed to stimulate injured tissue and to enhance its function at the cellular level. In many cases, LLLT has been successfully used to relieve pain for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, tendinopathy, acute and chronic neck pains, low back pain and many other chronic pain conditions.

How does it work?

The physiological mechanisms of LLLT are not well understood at this time. However, scientists have proposed a broad range of explanations for its therapeutic action. These include increases in circulation and tissue healing, nerve blockage, increases in certain enzymes, endorphin production and opioid-receptor binding. Interestingly, LLLT may also mimic the effects of anti-inflammatory drugs.

 

Is it effective?

A growing number of studies are reporting the effectiveness of LLLT in the treatment of chronic pain. For example, a recent meta-analysis of 16 randomized control trials of people experiencing chronic neck pain, demonstrated that LLLT caused rapid relief of pain that lasted up to 22 weeks. Likewise, other systematic reviews have reported the efficacy of LLLT on knee pain, lower back pain, fibromyalgia syndrome and other chronic pain pathologies. It is important to note that other systematic reviews have reported more mixed results, but admit that standardization of methods, in terms of the model of equipment used, the type of laser wavelength selected and duration of treatment, may have obscured the findings. Nevertheless, a growing number of clinicians attest to the effectiveness and safety of LLLT for many patients with chronic pain.

 

What happens during an LLLT procedure?

No special preparations are needed before an LLLT procedure. Following a consultation, the LLLT laser device will be placed on your body, next to your skin depending on where the injured tissue is located. During the procedure, you may experience a warm, soothing sensation. The procedure is completely painless and non-invasive. The length of the procedure depends on the severity of the chronic pain, however, most sessions are about 30 minutes long.

Dr. Dieter Mensch, at the Wilderman Clinic, is an expert in treating patients with LLLT. Please book a consultation with Dr. Mensch, to discuss whether LLLT would be the best possible treatment option to alleviate your chronic pain today.

 

 

 

References:

Kingsley, J. D., Demchak, T., & Mathis, R. (2014). Low-level laser therapy as a treatment for chronic pain. Frontiers in Physiology, 5, 306. http://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2014.00306

A meta-analysis of the efficacy of laser phototherapy on pain relief.Fulop AM, Dhimmer S, Deluca JR, Johanson DD, Lenz RV, Patel KB, Douris PC, Enwemeka CS. Clin J Pain. 2010 Oct; 26(8):729-36.

Is low-level laser therapy effective in acute or chronic low back pain? Ay S, Doğan SK, Evcik D. Clin Rheumatol. 2010 Aug; 29(8):905-10.

Efficacy of low-level laser therapy in the management of neck pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised placebo or active-treatment controlled trials.Chow RT, Johnson MI, Lopes-Martins RA, Bjordal JM. Lancet. 2009 Dec 5; 374(9705):1897-908.

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