Chronic PainCold Laser Therapy for Chronic Pain: Should You Try It?

Cold Laser Therapy for Chronic Pain: Should You Try It?

Have you ever thought of beaming light energy into your skin? If you’re looking to reduce pain and swelling from your acute or chronic pain condition, utilizing cold laser therapy may be for you. Read on to learn more about this popular FDA-approved treatment.

What Is Cold Laser Therapy?

Cold Laser Therapy


Cold laser therapy, also known as low-level laser therapy, is a treatment that applies low-intensity light to areas of the body where an injury has occurred and inflamed tissue is present.

Compared to other forms of laser therapy, where high-intensity heat is used to penetrate the skin and tissue, cold laser therapy gets its name from an opposite approach. What sets this treatment apart is its use of low-level light to stimulate healing by improving blood flow and reducing inflammation and pain to injured areas in the body. You won’t feel any heat, or anything at all, from this laser.

So, how does it work? During treatment, your affected body part will be exposed and you and your healthcare provider may wear special goggles to protect your eyes during the procedure. Then next comes the laser.

Administered via a wand that contains several light-emitting diodes, cold laser therapy uses light photons, typically at 600- to 1,000-nanometer wavelength, that enters the skin and pass through injured or inflamed tissue. It’s here that changes to the mitochondria of the cells occur, signaling an increase in the production of adenosine triphosphate (energy-carrying molecules thought to induce healing). The light is then applied to the affected injury or body part for about 30 to 60 seconds.

Who Can Benefit?

Cold laser therapy is a painless, non-invasive treatment to alleviate acute and chronic pain from a variety of health conditions. Moreover, any soft tissue injury that causes inflammation or pain in the body may benefit from this type of therapy.

Candidates for this treatment include but are not limited to those with:

That being said, research is ongoing in regard to the potential for new applicants for cold laser therapy. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Parkinson’s disease are just a few examples of where this therapy could go next.

Pros and Cons

Before deciding whether cold laser therapy is right for you, it’s important to understand not just the pros of the procedure but the risks as well so that you can make an informed decision and determine what’s best for your specific health needs.

Whether you’re suffering from an injury that’s turned chronic or have pain that’s long-lasting due to a health condition, reasons this therapy may be an attractive treatment option include:

  • Painless and noninvasive
  • Increases blood flow and reduces inflammation
  • Promotes tissue regrowth
  • Requires no preparation or medication
  • Sessions are short and quick

When it comes to risks, there are very few. Cons of this treatment include:

  • May be expensive and health insurance may not cover the cost
  • Several treatments may be necessary before seeing improvement
  • May not do much to improve one’s overall function and range of motion

The Question of Effectiveness

Cold laser therapy as a treatment for chronic pain is growing across the United States and is even approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat various soft tissue injuries. But how effective is it? Let’s look at some research that supports the use of low-level lasers for tendonitis and back pain.
Tendonitis is a condition where a tendon, the thick, fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone, becomes inflamed due to strain or overuse, causing swelling, discomfort, and pain. Research shows that cold laser therapy has positive effects on swelling, edema, and inflammation in tendonsAdditionally, similar results were seen in a 2015 meta-analysis, which found low-level laser therapy effective at reducing pain in the lower back
Research into this therapy for chronic pain looks promising, but it’s important to note that published data is limited. And while the above studies show a decrease in pain and inflammation, the treatment itself may not do much when it comes to improving one’s overall function.
Before starting cold laser therapy, talk with your healthcare provider to see if this treatment is right for you. Moreover, because managing pain can be multifaceted, cold laser therapy may be seen as an additional rehabilitation technique working in tandem with other treatments like physical therapy and medication.

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