Systematic review of the literature of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in the management of neck pain


  • Roberta T. Chow MB BS (Hons), FRACGP, M Appl Sci,

    Corresponding author
    1. Castle Hill Medical Centre, Castle Hill New South Wales 2154, Australia
    • Castle Hill Medical Centre, 269-271 Old Northern Road, Castle Hill NSW 2154, Australia.
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  • Les Barnsley B Med (Hons), PhD, Grad Dip Epi, FRACP, FAFRM [RACP]

    1. Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney & Department of Rheumatology, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, New South Wales 2139, Australia
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  • Roberta T. Chow is a General Practitioner and Les Barnsley is an Assistant Professor.


Background and Objectives

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is widely used in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain. However, there is controversy over its true efficacy. We aimed to determine the efficacy of LLLT in the treatment of neck pain through systematically reviewing the literature.

Study Design/Materials and Methods

A search of computerized bibliographic databases covering medicine, physiotherapy, allied health, complementary medicine, and biological sciences was undertaken undertaken from date of inception until February 2004 for randomized controlled trials of LLLT for neck pain. A comprehensive list of search terms was applied and explicit inclusion criteria were developed a priori. Twenty studies were identified, five of which met the inclusion criteria.


Significant positive effects were reported in four of five trials in which infrared wavelengths (λ = 780, 810–830, 904, 1,064 nm) were used. Heterogeneity in outcome measures, results reporting, doses, and laser parameters precluded formal meta-analysis. Effect sizes could be calculated for only two of the studies.


This review provides limited evidence from one RCT for the use of infrared laser for the treatment of acute neck pain (n = 71) and chronic neck pain from four RCTs (n = 202). Larger studies are required to confirm the positive findings and determine the most effective laser parameters, sites and modes of application. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.