Do Patients With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Benefit From Low-Level Laser Therapy? A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2018 Aug;99(8):1650-1659.e15. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2017.06.002. Epub 2017 Jun 16.


Objective: To systematically review the literature on the effectiveness of low-level laser therapy for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Data sources: The Cochrane Library, PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and Physiotherapy Evidence Database were searched for relevant systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) up to April 8, 2016.

Study selection: Two reviewers independently applied the inclusion criteria to select potential studies.

Data extraction: Two reviewers independently extracted the data and assessed the methodologic quality.

Data synthesis: A best-evidence synthesis was performed to summarize the results of the 2 systematic reviews and 17 RCTs that were included. Strong evidence was found for the effectiveness of low-level laser therapy compared with placebo treatment in the very short term (0 to ≤5wk). After 5 weeks, the positive effects of low-level laser therapy on pain, function, or recovery diminished over time (moderate and conflicting evidence were found at 7- and 12-wk follow-up, respectively).

Conclusions: In the very short term, low-level laser therapy is more effective as a single intervention than placebo low-level laser therapy in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, after which the positive effects of low-level laser therapy tend to subside. Evidence in the midterm and long term is sparse.

Keywords: Carpal tunnel syndrome; Lasers; Rehabilitation; Review [publication type]; Treatment outcome.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome