Laser for Neck Pain
TREATMENT FOR NECK PAIN
R E S C U R
Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) has been shown to be safe at designated doses, and appears to have side effects similar to placebo (“sugar pill”) treatments.
Tuby H1, Hertzberg E, Maltz L, Oron U. Long-term safety of low-level laser therapy at different power densities and single or multiple applications to the bone marrow in mice. Photomed Laser Surg. 2013 Jun;31(6):269-73. doi: 10.1089/pho.2012.3395. Epub 2013 May 15.
Jimenez JJ1, Wikramanayake TC, Bergfeld W, Hordinsky M, Hickman JG, Hamblin MR, Schachner LA., Efficacy and safety of a low-level laser device in the treatment of male and female pattern hair loss: a multicenter, randomized, sham device-controlled, double-blind study. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2014 Apr;15(2):115-27. doi: 10.1007/s40257-013-0060-6.
Evidence on the use of Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) for neck pain is conflicting. Some studies have shown definite improvement, but others have not. Similarly, one recent guideline recommended it for chronic neck pain patients, and another wasn’t able to make a recommendation either way.
One problem with LLLT evidence is that there are simply not enough high quality studies available. For this reason most insurance companies consider it experimental or investigational and will not pay for it.
Bussières AE, Stewart G, Al-Zoubi F. The Treatment of Neck Pain-Associated Disorders and Whiplash-Associated Disorders: A Clinical Practice Guideline. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2016 Oct;39(8):523-564.e27. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2016.08.007.
Blanpied PR, Gross AR, Elliott JM, et al. Neck Pain: Revision 2017. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017 Jul;47(7):A1-A83. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2017.0302.PMID:28666405
SELF CARE: 0/5
While it might be possible to perform laser therapy on yourself, this is unlikely. In most jurisdictions laser units are only sold to licensed professionals, and tend to be cost prohibitive, ranging in price from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.
Laser therapy is relatively inexpensive, ranging from $20-$50 per session in most clinics. Typically laser therapy treatment plans run from one or two sessions to 10-12 sessions. In general a reasonable course of laser therapy might include 6-12 sessions varying from daily to 3 times per week. It is widely available in chiropractic, physical therapy and some orthopedic offices, among others.
USEFULNESS (overall rating): 3/5
Low-level laser therapy (LLLT), also referred to as Photobiomodulation, or “cold laser”, has been around for more than 40 years. Laser therapy uses light, which is absorbed by tissues to produce cellular changes, which include increases in the production of cellular energy, among other effects. Low-Level Laser Therapy is believed to enhance healing, reduce pain and edema, reduce inflammation and increases circulation. LLLT does not produce its effects through heat.
LLLT is used on a variety of conditions, from shoulder and elbow injuries, to neck and back pain, plantar fasciitis, knee pain and other musculoskeletal conditions. While research is ongoing, there is evidence of effectiveness for some conditions (such as certain shoulder conditions and tennis elbow) and less evidence for other conditions.
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