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All about Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)

Low level laser therapy (LLLT) is a treatment that has been approved in the US by the FDA since at least 2002 but it has been widely used in Europe since the 1960s. Low light laser therapy, also known as cold laser, is a therapeutic procedure that exposes cells and tissues to low levels of red and near-infrared light.  The non-invasive and pain-free treatment uses a laser with settings that produce a biological effect without causing a heat response in the skin[1]. There are generally little to no side effects from LLLT and it is well tolerated in almost all populations including the elderly[2].

Despite not feeling an effect on the area being treated, LLLT has been shown to encourage cell repair and affect the vascular and lymphatic systems[3]. This can contribute to reductions in swelling and pain while promoting tissue healing[4]. Research studies show that LLLT can decrease inflammation and pain in conditions like

  • Achilles tendonitis[5]
  • Other tendon diagnoses of the foot and ankle like posterior tibialis and peroneal tendinopathies5
  • Plantar fasciitis2
  • Golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow3
  • Lower back pain3
  • Neck pain3
  • Chronic inflammatory joint disorders like rheumatoid arthritis3,6
  • Chronic degenerative osteoarthritis (wear and tear arthritis) of larger and smaller joints3,6
  • Stress fractures: In a study of patients with tibial stress fractures, LLLT is associated with decreased pain intensity and frequency as well as earlier symptom-free walking7,8.
  • Knee osteoarthritis (OA): Research shows that in patients with knee OA LLLT treatment was associated with lower pain levels as well as increased knee joint range of motion6.
  • Wound healing: There is some evidence to support the use of LLLT in the treatment of wounds as well. One study supported the use of LLLT for faster wound closure9.
  • Diabetic foot ulcers: Studies have supported the use of LLLT for pain relief and acceleration of tissue repair in diabetic foot ulcers10.

Weil Foot & Ankle Institute offers LLLT as another tool in their therapeutic arsenal to help support our patient’s healing. If you are interested in learning more about how low level laser therapy can help you with your pain, please ask any of our Weil Foot & Ankle Institute physicians or staff members.

  1. Farivar S, Malekshahabi T, Shiari R. Biological effects of low level laser therapy. J Lasers Med Sci. 2014 Spring;5(2):58-62.
  2. Cotler HB, Chow RT, Hamblin MR, Carrol J. The use of low level laser therapy (LLLT) for musculoskeletal pain. MOJ Orthop Rheumatol. 2015;2(5):00068.
  3. Baltzer AW, Stosch D, Seidel F, Ostapczuk MS. Low level laser therapy: a narrative literature review on the efficacy in the treatment of rheumatic orthopedic conditions. Z Rheumatol. 2017 Nov;76(9):806-12.
  4. Chung H, Dai T, Sharma SK, Huang YY, Carroll JD, et al. The nuts and bolts of low-level laser (light) therapy. Ann Biome Eng. 2012; Feb 40(2):516-533.
  5. Bjordal JM, Lopes-Martins RAB, Iversen VV. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of low level laser therapy for activated Achilles tendonitis with microdialysis measurement of peritendinous prostaglandin E2 concentrations. Br J Sports Med. 2006 Jan;40(1):76-80.
  6. Hegedus B, Viharos L, Gervain M, Galfi M. The effect of low-level laser in knee osteoarthritis: a double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Photomed Laser Surg. 2009;27(4):577-84.
  7. Chavhan A, Sarin P. Low level laser therapy in treatment of stress fractures in the tibia: a prospective randomized trial. Med J Armed Forces Ind. 2006; 62(1):27-9.
  8. Nesioonpour S, Mokmeli S, Vojdani S, Mohtadi A, Akhondzadeh R, et al. The effect of low-level laser on postoperative pain after tibial fracture surgery: a double blind controlled randomized clinical trial. Anesth Pain Med. 2014; Aug;4(3):e17350.
  9. Hopkins JT, McLoda TA, Seegmiller JG, Baxter GD. Low level laser therapy facilitates superficial wound healing in humans: a triple blind sham-controlled study. J Athl Train. 2004 Jul-Sept;39(3):223-9.
  10. De Caralho AFM, Feitosa MCP, de Freitas Coelho NPM, Nogueiera Rebelo VC, et al. Low level therapy and calendula officinalis in repairing diabetic foot ulcers. Rev Esc Enferm USP. Jul-Aug 2016;50(4):628-34.

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