by Dava Stewart
People who have fibromyalgia are familiar with the extreme fatigue, pain, and sleeplessness that characterize the illness. Many have tried all kinds of treatments without satisfactory results. Although it is still considered an alternative or complementary treatment, low level laser therapy (LLLT) is producing positive results for many patients with fibromyalgia.
Pain and fatigue make day-to-day activities daunting. Simply getting dressed can become an exercise in fortitude. To make matters worse, diagnosis of fibromyalgia may take a long time, meaning the patient has been living with pain and fatigue for weeks, months, or even years before any treatment plan is offered.
One of the most important parts of treatment plans for fibromyalgia patients is exercise. However, pain prevents many sufferers from exercising. Pharmaceutical pain relievers have drawbacks, as well. Many people diagnosed with the condition are left wondering how to manage the simplest daily activities.
Low level laser therapy, which has no known side effects and has proven analgesic properties, is being used successfully to help patients with fibromyalgia.1 Since LLLT provides pain relief, it can help patients exercise.
One study, conducted by the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services at Indiana State University, divided patients into four groups: one received resistance training only, the second LLLT only, the third a placebo rather than LLLT, and the fourth both LLLT and resistance training. People in the fourth group showed marked improvements compared to all three other groups.2
The researchers believed that “low-level laser therapy helps patients with fibromyalgia syndrome by increasing blood flow to the painful area, contributing to the release of the amino acid beta endorphine and decreasing pain receptor activity in treated areas,” according to a news article describing the study in the ISU newsroom.2 Once the pain is lessened, patients feel able to exercise, which strengthens their bodies, and allows for better circulation overall, which, in turn lessens pain.
Most insurance companies consider LLLT an experimental therapy and do not reimburse for it. Payment for the service is certainly a consideration for DCs who provide it; however, many patients with fibromyalgia are willing to pay out of pocket. Unless a fibromyalgia patient is pregnant or has some other condition that contraindicates the use of LLLT, it doesn’t make sense to not try the therapy. There are no known side effects and anecdotal reports of its efficacy in treating fibromyalgia are growing, as is empirical evidence of the analgesic properties of the therapy.
1Simunovic Z. “Low Level Laser Therapy with Trigger Points Technique: A Clinical Study on 243 Patients.” Journal of Clinical Laser Medicine & Surgery. August 1996, 14(4): 163-167. doi:10.1089/clm.1996.14.163. Accessed August 2014.
2Taylor D. “Research uses lasers, resistance training to zap fibromyalgia pain.” Indiana State University. http://www.indstate.edu/news/news.php?newsid=3598. Published June 2014. Accessed August 2014.