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Benefits of Cold Laser Therapy: Non-Invasive Treatment for Pain

written by: AlyssaAst•edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•updated: 6/30/2011

Cold laser therapy, or LLLT, uses low-level lasers to treat an area noninvasively. This therapy technique is said to benefit arthritis pain, even though the FDA has yet to approve its use for the treatment.

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    Cold laser therapy, commonly known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), is a fairly new technique used to treat a variety of health aliments. Although many claim cold laser therapy for pain relief is very beneficial, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved this technique to be used as an experimental device for further investigational studies. The FDA only acknowledges the laser therapy may temporarily relieve pain, while those who actually use the therapy rave about the benefits received.

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    What is Cold Laser Therapy?

    LLLT involves the use of low-level lasers placed directly over the affected area. The lasers are often used with electrical stimulation to treat the area. The laser beams stimulate the acupoints, which are often used with acupuncture, to produce the benefits. The types of lasers used vary, as well as the ailments they are said to treat. Therapy sessions only last a few minutes with no recovery time needed. This therapy differs from hot laser therapy, which is often used to shrink or destroy tumors, because it’s much less invasive and possesses little risk.

    This form of therapy is said to aid with pain, wounds and injuries; however, it’s most often used to treat pain associated with arthritis. Although many claim the therapy produces positive results, the FDA forbids statements to be made that the therapy actually aids or cures any conditions or diseases due to the fact scientific research hasn’t produced solid evidence the therapy actually works.

    Even without the FDA’s support, LLLT is gaining in popularity and is hoped to one day become a common practice in conventional medicine. Patient reports and controlled scientific studies claim the laser therapy is beneficial, especially when relieving arthritis pain of the knees and back. Other studies claim the therapy can also aid with helping people to quit smoking by releasing endorphins.

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    Pain Benefits

    Cold laser therapy for pain relief from arthritis is becoming a popular form of treatment. Reports indicate the therapy can reduce inflammation, which is effective for treating the common pains associated with degenerative arthritis. This form of therapy is said to relieve morning stiffness and increase flexibility; however, these results weren’t produced when used for osteoarthritis suffers.

    LLLT is also said to relieve pain caused by neuropathy, tendonitis and fibromyalgia. Musculoskeletal pain and reflex sympathetic dystrophy are claimed to benefit from the therapy also. Other conditions believed to benefit from the lasers include carpal tunnel syndrome, migraines and muscle sprains. High blood pressure, herpes and cerebral palsy are said to benefit from the therapy as well. Supporters of the therapy say it not only relieves pain but can promote overall healing, despite the fact no conclusive evidence has been produced.

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    What are the Advantages?

    Even with the lack of the FDA’s support, there are obvious advantages of cold laser therapy. The therapy is noninvasive and requires no recovery time. There is no need to take medications in order to use the therapy and there are no apparent serious side effects associated with its use. For those who typically have bad reactions to medications, using cold laser therapy could provide pain relief without the nausea, vomiting, upset stomach and allergic reactions of pills and shots. Those who have difficulty undergoing medical procedures may also benefit, as the non-invasive laser procedure does not cause pain or discomfort.

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    What are the Disadvantages?

    The greatest disadvantage of the therapy is the fact that permanent and full pain relief generally aren’t achieved. Treatment typically consists of eight to 30 treatment sessions two to four times per week in order to produce any results. In some cases, patients experienced a symptom flare of old injuries that became aggravated after the treatments. Most patients claim the pain relief is very short-lived. Because the therapy doesn’t have the FDA’s support, most insurances won’t cover the cost of the treatment, including Medicare and Medicaid.

    Women who are pregnant are advised not to use this therapy because the effects on the fetus remain unknown. It’s also advised patients with cancerous lesions don’t use this therapy. Because the lasers that are used can cause permanent eye damage, protective eye glasses should be worn by the patient and doctor.

    Although no conclusive evidence has been provided that cold laser therapy is effective, it’s hoped the therapy can one day be a common approach for pain relief. Further research and studies are being conducted to provide the FDA with the proof it needs to support the use of the therapy.

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    References:

    "Cold Laser Therapy" http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/ManualHealingandPhysicalTouch/cold-laser-therapy

    "Cold Laser Therapy" http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/pain-management/cold-laser-therapy-advantages-and-disadvantages

    "What exactly is cold laser therapy?" http://www.campanellahealthcenter.com/uncategorized/what-exactly-is-cold-laser-therapy-and-what-are-the-benefits/