LLLT has been shown to be extremely safe, with side effects similar to placebo (sugar pill.) Protective eyewear should be worn, and is usually not used over the heart, brain, tumors or a pregnant abdomen. 5/5
One recent review of multiple studies found that LLLT was effective in reducing pain and increasing function in patients with LET, using a fairly narrow range of treatment approaches, and recommended LLLT be considered as an alternative to commonly used drug approaches.
SELF CARE: 0/5
While it might be possible to perform laser therapy to one’s self, 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 several times per week. It is widely available in chiropractic, physical therapy and some orthopedic offices, among others.
Bjordal JM, Lopes-Martins RA, Joensen J, Couppe C, Ljunggren AE, Stergioulas A, Johnson MI. A systematic review with procedural assessments and meta-analysis of low-level laser therapy in lateral elbow tendinopathy (tennis elbow). BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2008 May 29;9:75.
USEFULNESS (overall rating): 4/5
Also referred to as Photobiomodulation, or “cold laser”, this therapy 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. Recently national guidelines, such as the Official Disability Guidelines (ODG) published by the Work Loss Data Institute, changed their opinion from “not recommended” to “recommended” for LET. If LET is thought to be the result of repetitive microtears, LLLT is thought to stimulate healing of those microtears by increasing circulation, reducing inflammatory chemicals and encouraging the growth of collagen, which fills in the microtears.