Laser therapy for neck pain

Treatment reduces acute pain immediately and chronic pain for up to 22 weeks, according to a new study.

Low-level laser therapy reduces
acute neck pain immediately after treatment and for up to 22 weeks after
completing treatment in patients with chronic neck pain, researchers report in a
recent edition of The Lancet medical journal.

The Lancet reported that chronic
neck pain affects up to one in four people, and that this form of low-level
laser treatment can help these people.

Dr. Jemal Khan, a local
chiropractor who is a Diplomate of the American Academy of Pain Management,
uses this revolutionary new laser therapy to treat conditions such as
arthritis, and injuries of the muscles, nerves, and joints. 

 “This is an amazing treatment, and such a
wonderful addition to chiropractic practice,” said Dr. Khan. Chiropractic care
is all about using natural, safe, non-invasive treatments to help people heal,
he said, so chiropractors are being drawn to using low-level laser in their
practices.

The study showed that the laser
therapy is as, or more, effective than any drug therapy available.

The researchers were led by Roberta
Chow of the Brain and Mind Research Institute at Australia’s University of
Sydney. They carried out 16 randomised trials on 820 people.

Dr. Khan said one of the satisfying
aspects of this report was that the randomised studies meant patients and the
researchers do not know who received the real treatment, and who received a
placebo (fake) treatment until the trial was over.

In the trials, patients who
received the laser treatment were around four times likelier to have reduced
pain compared to those who received the placebo treatment.

The laser therapy patients reported
reductions of chronic pain by around 20 points on a scale of 100 points. The
pain reduction continued for up to 22 weeks.

The length of time of pain relief
is one of the exciting parts of this study, said Dr. Khan.  “Imagine a treatment that made you feel
better for half a year – remarkable.”

Low-level laser therapy is so
called because it entails using a laser’s light, but not its fiercely concentrated
heat, to stimulate tissue repair and ease pain.

The Lancet paper also reported that
drugs for neck pain were widely used but have “not shown any conclusive
evidence of benefit”. The researchers found the side-effects of the laser
therapy were mild.  

Dr. Khan said his clinical findings
back up the results of the Lancet report. 
He has been adding laser therapy to an arsenal of treatment methods with
results that have left him very pleased. 

“Initially, Dr. Elder and I were
using the laser on just simple tendinitis injuries, but the results were so
favorable that it wasn’t long before we added low-level laser treatment to our
neck, shoulder, and back pain patients. This study is a wonderful affirmation
of our clinical findings and actions,” said Dr. Khan.

Dr. Richard Elder, who practises
with Dr. Khan, also uses low-level laser therapy in his practice and backs up Dr.
Khan’s findings on the wide ranging benefits of laser treatment.

“I had a runner in who had an
inflamed popliteal cyst (back of knee swelling), the LLLT provided noticeable
improvement,” Dr. Elder said.

Acute neck pain is never easy to
treat, Dr. Khan explained. For example, in the case of some whiplash injuries, the
patient is in so much pain that he or she cannot stand even the lightest touch,
he said, adding that such a patient can be very frustrating to help.

“Now with low-level laser treatment,
we can offer a totally painless and very effective treatment. This has really
added a new level of excitement to the practice for all of us,” he said.

To say that the treatment is
painless is a huge understatement, he added. “The low-level laser looks like a
funny looking flashlight, and the sensation of it feels like a flashlight being
shined on the skin – an almost imperceptible warmth. Some people end up feeling
tired after the treatment, but not in pain”.

While the effects of low-level
laser continue to be demonstrated, the actual method of action remains under
some debate. In a commentary that accompanied the Lancet article, Dr. Jaime
Guzman of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver BC, said the “existing
evidence on low-level laser therapy still leaves many questions unanswered,
especially on the mechanism of action”.

Nevertheless, he remarked how this
therapy is better than many current medical treatments available.

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Low-level laser therapy is proving effective for chronic neck pain.
Photo: File