Short-term effects of high-intensity laser therapy versus ultrasound therapy in the treatment of low back pain: a randomized controlled trial

Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2011 Sep;47(3):367-73. Epub 2011 Jun 8.


Background: Low back pain (LBP) is a common musculoskeletal disorder that is highly prevalent in the general population. Management of this pathology includes numerous interventions depending on pain severity: analgesic, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections. However, the effect size and duration of symptom relief are limited. Physical therapy (ultrasound [US], laser therapy, manual therapy, interferential current therapy, Back School, aerobic work, therapeutic aquatic exercise acupuncture) have been reported often with mixed results.

Aim: To evaluate the short-term effectiveness of high-intensity laser therapy (HILT) versus ultrasound (US) therapy in the treatment of LBP.

Design: Randomized clinical trial.

Setting: University hospital.

Population: Thirty patients with LBP were randomly assigned to a HILT group or a US therapy group.

Methods: Study participants received fifteen treatment sessions of HILT or US therapy over a period of three consecutive weeks (five days/week).

Results: For the 30 study participants there were no between-group differences at baseline in Visual Analogic Scale (VAS) and Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability Questionnaire (OLBPDQ) scores. At the end of the 3-week intervention, participants in the HILT group showed a significantly greater decrease in pain (measured by the VAS) and an improvement of related disability (measured by the OLBPDQ) compared with the group treated with US therapy.

Conclusion: Our findings obtained after 15 treatment sessions with the experimental protocol suggested greater effectiveness of HILT than of US therapy in the treatment of LBP, proposing HILT as a promising new therapeutic option into the rehabilitation of LBP.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy / methods*
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonic Therapy / methods*