Laser Therapy for Back Pain

Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) for lower back 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, and the Cochrane Society. These organizations published reports in 2007 and 2008 respectively stating that the evidence was inconclusive in determining the merit of LLLT for lower back pain. With 60-80% of people suffering from acute back pain at some time in their lives, and 30% of these developing chronic lower back-pain, the evidence for LLLT may require some further examination.

A more recent meta-analysis appears to indicate LLLT use as a significant treatment for those with acute neck pain (Chow, 2009). 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.

What is Low-Level Laser Light Therapy?

Many people with bulging discs or disc herniation, along with chronic degenerative disc disease, or musculoskeletal problems, conditions often causing spinal stenosis, have found that LLLT significantly reduces their pain levels 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.

How it works

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 lower back 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 disc herniation.

Treatments are considerably more cost-effective than both surgery and conventional therapeutic strategies (including medication) for lower back pain, and have the advantage of inducing no adverse events, on record, or causing permanent and irreversible structural changes to the body. Patients with back pain due to fibromyalgia, strain, disc herniation and spinal stenosis have all benefited from LLLT in research trials and in clinics.

Next Read about: Contraindications of using LLLT

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