Cold laser therapy is a treatment that uses low levels of light from a laser to stimulate healing. It is often used to treat back pain. The treatment is called “cold” because the intensity is low enough to not generate heat; however, it doesn’t actually cool your tissue.
Cold Laser Therapy for Back Problems
Cold laser therapy is often called low-level laser therapy or LLLT. It has been a pain relief treatment for over 30 years.This method is especially popular in chiropractic rooms, probably because it’s a non-invasive treatment that seems to work well for people.
Cold laser therapy is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for carpal tunnel syndrome, but not for other common musculoskeletal disorders.
Many studies have been done on cold laser therapy, some with good results and some not so well. It is still considered a “controversial” treatment due to inconsistency. A 2012 meta-analysis found that the treatment was ineffective in numerous clinical trials. However, it found that many people thought it was effective, and the authors concluded that the treatment was beneficial in terms of pain relief.
To determine if this treatment is the one you want to try, it’s important to look at the research on your specific diagnosis.
facet joint cold laser treatment
The spinal cord and other joints may become inflamed due to injury or sudden onset of chronic disease. Often in these cases, the first thing a doctor recommends is a certain type of medication, such as:
- Tylenol (acetaminophen)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including Motrin (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen)
- corticosteroid injection
However, these drugs can have side effects that keep people away from them. Surgery is sometimes an option, but it comes with its own risks, and the results are not always satisfactory, according to the 2012 meta-analysis mentioned above.
That paper also noted that cold laser therapy could be effective in treating joint disease if the energy levels were able to suppress inflammatory activity in the joint capsule.
A 2011 study journal of manipulation and physiotherapy To compare the efficacy of chiropractic therapy and low-intensity laser therapy in patients with neck facet joint pain. The researchers found that both treatments were helpful, but were even better when used in combination.
Other alternative treatments that may help reduce inflammation and joint pain with a lower risk of side effects include:
- electrical stimulation
- Laser Acupuncture
What is facet joint pain?
Low-level laser therapy for herniated disc pain
A herniated disc can cause significant pain and radiculopathy (compression of a nerve). Symptoms of radiculopathy include:
- Electrical sensations (shocks, burning sensations, prickling sensations, etc.)
Symptoms usually radiate along one limb. Many people choose surgery to treat it, especially if six weeks of physical therapy do not provide adequate pain relief. However, your body is known to reabsorb the extruded disc material in about a year. Based on this, some people choose to wait and use treatments such as cold laser therapy to manage their pain.
Other treatments for a herniated disc include chiropractic and/or epidural steroid injections, often combined with LLLT.
Studies provide less evidence for LLLT as a treatment for herniated discs than for facet joint pain. In a general review of cold laser therapy, Cochrane Back and Neck Set They concluded that, although no side effects were reported, they could not find enough evidence that the treatment worked for nonspecific low back pain to recommend it.
At the same time, published in Dynamic Chiropractic Criticized a number of well-regarded reviews, including the Cochrane paper, saying that while they called for more research into cold laser therapy for back pain, they did not specify when the therapy would prove itself.
Another study was published in September 2012 Laser Treatment, Cold laser therapy was found to be effective for pain caused by cervical disc herniation associated with spondylosis. The study also found that postural education is key to maintaining the benefits of LLLT over the long term.
What a Herniated Disc Feels Like—and How to Relieve
To determine if cold laser therapy is right for your back pain, it’s important to look at the source of the pain and discuss it with your healthcare team. They can help guide you in the right direction.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does cold laser therapy work?
Cold laser therapy uses low levels of light from a laser to heal tissue. Also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), this non-invasive treatment appears to suppress inflammatory activity to relieve pain.
The treatment isn’t actually cold. It gets its name because low levels of light don’t generate heat.
How long does cold laser treatment last?
The cold laser treatment session lasts 3 to 5 minutes. Most people do not experience pain relief from cold laser therapy after the first few sessions. It may take 8 to 30 sessions to know if it works.
How often can you have a cold laser therapy treatment?
Cold laser therapy is usually done at least twice a week and up to four times a week. Several treatments may be needed before you feel any relief.