Background: In low level laser therapy (LLLT) low wattage lasers are used to irradiate the affected skin areas, joints, nerves, muscles and tendons without any sensation or thermal damage. Although the exact mechanism of its effect is still unknown, it seems beyond dispute that LLLT induces a variety of stimulating processes at the cellular level affecting cell repair mechanisms, the vascular system and lymphatic system. LLLT has been popular among orthopaedic practitioners for many years, whereas university medicine has remained rather sceptical about it.
Objectives: Overview of studies on the efficacy of LLLT in the treatment of rheumatic orthopaedic conditions, i. e. muscle, tendon lesions and arthropathies.
Materials and methods: Narrative literature review (PubMed, Web of Science).
Results: While earlier studies often failed to demonstrate the efficacy of LLLT, several recent studies of increasing quality proved the efficacy of LLLT in the treatment of multiple musculoskeletal pain syndromes like neck or lower back pain, tendinopathies (especially of the Achilles tendon) and epicondylolpathies, chronic inflammatory joint disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or chronic degenerative osteoarthritis of the large and small joints. In addition, there is recent evidence that LLLT can have a preventive capacity and can enhance muscle strength and accelerate muscle regeneration.
Conclusion: LLLT shows potential as an effective, noninvasive, safe and cost-efficient means to treat and prevent a variety of acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions. Further randomized controlled studies, however, are required to confirm this positive assessment.
Keywords: Low level laser therapy; Muscle regeneration; Muscle strength; Osteoarthritis; Tendinopathy.