Background: Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a conservative treatment for lateral epicondylitis (LE), but it is also an alternative intervention between the very different approaches of Chinese and Western medicine.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to systematically review and meta-analyze the therapeutic effects of LLLT on LE.
Methods: We searched several electronic databases, including Medline, PubMed, and CINAHL, and explored studies that were randomized controlled trials on the therapeutic effects of LLLT on LE from 1990 to February 2009. These studies were systematically reviewed for the difference in therapeutic effects among various LLLTs on acupuncture points and on tender and myofascial trigger points (MTrPs). The reviewed therapeutic effects included pain, grip strength, range of motion (ROM), and weight tests, and were compared by meta-analysis.
Results: We selected ten articles, and in seven of them the irradiation was conducted on tender points or MTrPs in the experimental groups. In two other articles, the irradiation was conducted on acupuncture points, and the last one was conducted on both kinds of points. Only three articles provided sufficient data for meta-analysis. The results revealed that applying LLLT on tender points or MTrPs is an effective means to improve the effect size (ES) of pain release after treatment (pooled ES: 0.71, 95% CI: 0.82- approximately 0.60) and follow-up (pooled ES: 1.05, 95% CI: 1.16- approximately 0.94). LLLT application was also able to increase the grip force, ROM, and weight test (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: We suggest that using LLLT on tender points or MTrPs of LE could effectively improve therapeutic effects.