Laser Therapy for Neck Pain
Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) for treating neck pain has been subject to some considerable debate in recent years, with arguments over the validity and scope of meta-analyses and reviews by the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians (2007), the Cochrane Society (2008), and Chow, et al (2009). The first two reports state inconclusive evidence supporting the use of LLLT for lower back pain, whereas the latter review by Chow supports LLLT’s efficacy for treating acute neck pain. Chow’s review in itself has now become the subject of hot debate in the scientific community, highlighting issues with scientific rigour and consensus. The debate also demonstrates the importance of understanding the underlying cause of pain prior to assessing efficacy of treatment rather than treating back and neck pain, both acute and chronic as all part of the same condition.
Other Names for LLLT
The treatment is also sometimes referred to as phototherapy, cold-laser therapy, non-thermal laser therapy, soft laser therapy, biostimulation laser therapy, and occasional acupuncture-laser therapy where specific acupuncture points are used in laser treatment (without needles). Patients should discuss the treatment with their doctor first and find a qualified and reputable clinician to carry out the LLLT. This treatment is not appropriate for all patients, particularly those with issues surrounding immunity, those on certain medications such as steroids, and pregnant women, although localized LLLT therapy on the neck may be approved by a physician for some such patients.
What is Low-Level Laser Therapy?
Many people with bulging cervical discs or disc herniation, along with chronic degenerative disc disease, or musculoskeletal problems, have found that LLLT significantly reduces their level of neck pain and recovery times and has a lower associated risk of relapse in comparison to other conservative treatment strategies for such conditions. LLLT is a non-invasive single wavelength light treatment that emits no heat, sound, or vibration but is thought to stimulate the cells in the body to promote tissue repair, act as an anti-inflammatory and affect the activity of fibroblasts in areas of damage and trauma.
The laser device is held over the area to be treated, against the skin, and the low-level lasers emit penetrating light in the visible red and near infra-red spectrum (380/400nm-1000nm) deep into the tissues. The energy is absorbed in the tissues and converted into biochemical energy, thus stimulating the activity of the cells in the damaged area. Many patients find that LLLT reduces the inflammation associated with their neck pain and that pain itself is then reduced. Some patients require a number of sessions to effect changes in the body, particularly if their condition is firmly entrenched and involves extensive tissue damage or cervical disc herniation.
Treatments are considerably more cost-effective than both surgery and conventional therapeutic strategies (including medication) for chronic neck pain, and have the advantage of inducing no adverse events, on record, or causing permanent and irreversible structural changes to the body. Patients with neck and shoulder pain due to fibromyalgia, strain, disc herniation and spinal stenosis have all benefited from LLLT in research trials and in clinics, although the quality of evidence is questionable in a number of cases making treatment decisions difficult for patient and doctor alike.
Next Read About: Reasons not to use LLLT
Last Updated: 12/14/2010