The efficacy of laser therapy for musculoskeletal and skin disorders: a criteria-based meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials

Phys Ther. 1992 Jul;72(7):483-91. doi: 10.1093/ptj/72.7.483.


The efficacy of laser therapy for musculoskeletal and skin disorders has been assessed on the basis of the results of 36 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) involving 1,704 patients. For this purpose, a criteria-based meta-analysis that took into account the methodological quality of the individual trials was used. The studies with a positive outcome were generally of a better quality than the studies with a negative outcome. No clear relationship could be demonstrated between the laser dosage applied and the efficacy of laser therapy, or between the dosage and the methodological score. In general, the methodological quality of these studies appeared to be rather low. Consequently, no definite conclusions can be drawn about the efficacy of laser therapy for skin disorders. The efficacy of laser therapy for musculoskeletal disorders seems, on average, to be larger than the efficacy of a placebo treatment. More specifically, for rheumatoid arthritis, posttraumatic joint disorders, and myofascial pain, laser therapy seems to have a substantial specific therapeutic effect. Further RCTs, avoiding the most prevalent methodological errors, are needed in order to enable the benefits of laser therapy to be more precisely and validly evaluated.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / radiotherapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design / standards*
  • Skin Diseases / radiotherapy*
  • Treatment Outcome