By Dava Stewart
DCs are experts in treating back pain. Manual adjustments, instrument-assisted adjustments, soft tissue manipulation, and many other techniques make up the tools that a chiropractor can use to help patients suffering with back pain to recover. An additional tool that is proving useful for many DCs and their patients is low level laser therapy (LLLT).
LLLT has been around for about 40 years, but it is still not 100-percent understood. Researchers are studying how light at various intensities works at the cellular level and are beginning to learn that LLLT works for a broad range of applications when the correct parameters are observed. Learning exactly how to apply LLLT for the most optimal outcome is part of what scientists are studying.
Some of the most common complaints DCs hear from patients involve inflammation and pain, and, currently, experts agree that conditions involving inflammation respond positively to LLLT. The therapy has also been shown to have analgesic properties, so it can be useful for pain relief.
Wound healing, osteoarthritis, neck pain, and several other conditions have been shown to respond positively to LLLT, as well, but back pain is still being studied.
Several researchers have performed meta-analyses on existing literature regarding LLLT and back pain. Partly due to the nature of a meta-analysis and partly due to the rather large number of flawed studies, there have been conflicting opinions regarding whether LLLT is useful for treating patients who have back pain. More high-quality, peer-reviewed, rigorous studies are necessary before the scientific community as a whole can agree that LLLT is indeed an effective treatment for back pain.
However, there are very few contraindications for LLLT—pregnancy, known malignancy, directly to the eyes, or shortly after radiotherapy, along with a few others—and it has no known side effects.
DCs interested in adding LLLT to their practices should, obviously, be well trained—it is not a simple modality. Administering LLLT requires a level of expertise in understanding what conditions are most likely to respond to the treatment and how often treatment should be administered, as well as several other factors including correct power densities. Without proper training and knowledge, the treatments will be ineffective.