Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)

Low-level lasers are also called cold lasers, soft lasers, biostimulation lasers, low-intensity lasers, etc.

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is the use of a low-powered laser that emits specific wavelengths of light in the visible red and/or far infrared range for therapeutic purposes.

Low-level laser clinics are becoming more widespread in North America. These clinics treat musculoskeletal injuries/conditions (acute and chronic), alone or in conjunction with other treatments. LLLT is also commonly used in wound healing.

Knee injuries and conditions treated by low-level laser include tendonitis, bursitis, meniscus tears, runners knee/chondromalacia patella, knee joint effusion, iliotibial band syndrome, osgood schlatters disease, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Low-level powers use very low power and no heating of or damage to the tissue occurs. Low-level laser treatment increases cell metabolism.

Low-level lasers emit light in the red and infrared range. Red and infrared light penetrate deeply into human tissue, where the light energy is absorbed and turned into biochemical energy. By increasing cellular energy in the treated area, low-level laser therapy is believed to speed healing and reduce inflammation and pain. There are no known side effects.

Laser devices emit small concentrated beams of light. Laser light is parallel (wavelengths travel in the same direction), coherent (highs and low point of light wave are lined up) and monochromatic (one or more specific wavelengths of light). In contrast, sunlight and common light bulbs emits incoherent light in almost all directions over a wide range of wavelengths

The cost of one treatment is typically about $50 with an average of 10 treatments given. The number of LLLT treatments needed depends upon the condition being treated, the severity of the condition and individual response. The effect of low-level laser therapy is accumulative. Though some people have immediate results, improvements are often not noticed until after 3-5 treatments.

Most health care plans do not cover LLLT because the FDA considers LLLT investigational, experimental and unproven (though approved for use since 2002 by the FDA). More large clinical trials that follow stringent scientific guidelines are needed. Though there have been many trials they have been considered inadequate. (1)

Low-level laser therapy is becoming more popular with people seeking relief from chronic conditions; sufferers may try LLLT when conventional treatments fail to provide sufficient relief of symptoms or have undesirable side effects. Many athletes use low-level laser therapy to speed recovery from sports injuries.