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Laser Therapy Research for Neck Pain



Efficacy of low-level laser therapy in the management of neck pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised placebo or active-treatment controlled trials

Chow RT, Johnson MI, Lopes-Martins RA, Bjordal JM.
Nerve Research Foundation, Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia. robertachow@iinet.net.au

Lancet. 2009 Dec 5;374(9705):1897-908. Epub 2009 Nov 13. [PMID: 19913903]

BACKGROUND: Neck pain is a common and costly condition for which pharmacological management has limited evidence of efficacy and side-effects. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a relatively uncommon, non-invasive treatment for neck pain, in which non-thermal laser irradiation is applied to sites of pain. We did a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials to assess the efficacy of LLLT in neck pain.

METHODS: We searched computerised databases comparing efficacy of LLLT using any wavelength with placebo or with active control in acute or chronic neck pain. Effect size for the primary outcome, pain intensity, was defined as a pooled estimate of mean difference in change in mm on 100 mm visual analogue scale.

FINDINGS: We identified 16 randomised controlled trials including a total of 820 patients. In acute neck pain, results of two trials showed a relative risk (RR) of 1.69 (95% CI 1.22-2.33) for pain improvement of LLLT versus placebo. Five trials of chronic neck pain reporting categorical data showed an RR for pain improvement of 4.05 (2.74-5.98) of LLLT. Patients in 11 trials reporting changes in visual analogue scale had pain intensity reduced by 19.86 mm (10.04-29.68). Seven trials provided follow-up data for 1-22 weeks after completion of treatment, with short-term pain relief persisting in the medium term with a reduction of 22.07 mm (17.42-26.72). Side-effects from LLLT were mild and not different from those of placebo.

INTERPRETATION: We show that LLLT reduces pain immediately after treatment in acute neck pain and up to 22 weeks after completion of treatment in patients with chronic neck pain. FUNDING: None.

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The effect of 300 mW, 830 nm laser on chronic neck pain: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study

Chow RT, Heller GZ, Barnsley L.
Castle Hill Medical Centre, 269-271 Old Northern Road, Castle Hill, NSW 2154, Australia. rtchow@bigpond.net.au

Pain. 2006 Sep;124(1-2):201-10. Epub 2006 Jun 27. [PMID: 16806710]

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in 90 subjects with chronic neck pain was conducted with the aim of determining the efficacy of 300 mW, 830 nm laser in the management of chronic neck pain. Subjects were randomized to receive a course of 14 treatments over 7 weeks with either active or sham laser to tender areas in the neck. The primary outcome measure was change in a 10 cm Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) for pain.
Secondary outcome measures included Short-Form 36 Quality-of-Life questionnaire (SF-36), Northwick Park Neck Pain Questionnaire (NPNQ), Neck Pain and Disability Scale (NPAD), the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ) and Self-Assessed Improvement (SAI) in pain measured by VAS. Measurements were taken at baseline, at the end of 7 weeks’ treatment and 12 weeks from baseline. The mean VAS pain scores improved by 2.7 in the treated group and worsened by 0.3 in the control group (difference 3.0, 95% CI 3.8-2.1). Significant improvements were seen in the active group compared to placebo for SF-36-Physical Score (SF36 PCS), NPNQ, NPAD, MPQVAS and SAI.

The results of the SF-36 – Mental Score (SF36 MCS) and other MPQ component scores (afferent and sensory) did not differ significantly between the two groups. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT), at the parameters used in this study, was efficacious in providing pain relief for patients with chronic neck pain over a period of 3 months.

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Systematic review of the literature of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in the management of neck pain

Chow RT, Barnsley L.
Castle Hill Medical Centre, Castle Hill Medical Centre, 269-271 Old Northern Road, Castle Hill, New South Wales 2154, Australia. rtchow@bigpond.net.au

Lasers Surg Med. 2005 Jul;37(1):46-52. [PMID: 15954117]

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is widely used in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain. However, there is controversy over its true efficacy. We aimed to determine the efficacy of LLLT in the treatment of neck pain through systematically reviewing the literature.

STUDY DESIGN/MATERIALS AND METHODS: A search of computerized bibliographic databases covering medicine, physiotherapy, allied health, complementary medicine, and biological sciences was undertaken undertaken from date of inception until February 2004 for randomized controlled trials of LLLT for neck pain. A comprehensive list of search terms was applied and explicit inclusion criteria were developed a priori. Twenty studies were identified, five of which met the inclusion criteria.

RESULTS: Significant positive effects were reported in four of five trials in which infrared wavelengths (lambda = 780, 810-830, 904, 1,064 nm) were used. Heterogeneity in outcome measures, results reporting, doses, and laser parameters precluded formal meta-analysis. Effect sizes could be calculated for only two of the studies.

CONCLUSIONS: This review provides limited evidence from one RCT for the use of infrared laser for the treatment of acute neck pain (n = 71) and chronic neck pain from four RCTs (n = 202). Larger studies are required to confirm the positive findings and determine the most effective laser parameters, sites and modes of application. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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