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Cold Laser

Lasers are traditionally thought to be hot so the therapy known as cold laser or low level laser (LLLT) may sound like an oxymoron, but rest assured, that is where the moronity ends. In the past, we talked about how sunlight exposure on our skin triggers production of vitamin D. This is one example of a photobiochemical process, meaning light triggering a chemical reaction within the body. The wavelength of a cold laser is at the right size that it triggers reactions to increase the amount of energy (ATP) cells make in the area (1). Another effect of cold laser is enhanced local blood circulation which also aids in the healing process (2).

Now that we have touched on how LLLT affects your body, let’s dive into what it can help with. One systematic review looking at LLLT and its effect on musculoskeletal conditions found cold laser was effective in achieving pain relief in adult patients, regardless of the site of the pain (2). From neck, back, shoulder to knee, ankle and foot pain, this study reported patients had a decrease in their perceived pain levels after treatment with low-level laser therapy (2). Another study focused on jaw pain and range of motion and cold laser’s effects versus TENS unit therapy. They found that both cold laser and TENS stimulation (electric stimulation) had a positive effect on both pain and range of motion in patients with jaw pain (TMJ disorders) (3). In addition to these positive results, they reported LLLT was more effective than TENS unit therapy (3). While these generic pain issues offer some insight into the many benefits of LLLT, one study looked at patients with fibromyalgia and their response to treatment. This systematic review found that 325 patients had improved pain severity, number of tender spots, fatigue, stiffness, depression, and anxiety compared to a placebo (1).

Like a few of the other topics we covered, it is important to note the level of evidence here is not the highest possible. More research is needed before widespread generalizations can be made about cold laser. That being said, if LLLT is something you are interested in trying to see if you could benefit from, call Dr. Kennedy and set up an appointment to find out!


  1. Yeh, S. W., Hong, C. H., Shih, M. C., Tam, K. W., Huang, Y. H., & Kuan, Y. C. (2019). Low-Level Laser Therapy for Fibromyalgia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Pain physician, 22(3), 241–254.

  2. Clijsen, R., Brunner, A., Barbero, M., Clarys, P., & Taeymans, J. (2017). Effects of low-level laser therapy on pain in patients with musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European journal of physical and rehabilitation medicine, 53(4), 603–610.

  3. Chellappa, D., & Thirupathy, M. (2020). Comparative efficacy of low-Level laser and TENS in the symptomatic relief of temporomandibular joint disorders: A randomized clinical trial. Indian journal of dental research : official publication of Indian Society for Dental Research, 31(1), 42–47.

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