Treatment of drug-resistant fibromyalgia symptoms using high-intensity laser therapy: a case-based review

Rheumatol Int. 2018 Mar;38(3):517-523. doi: 10.1007/s00296-017-3856-5. Epub 2017 Oct 28.


Fibromyalgia is a chronic musculoskeletal condition characterized by widespread pain in the body and is associated with tender points at the shoulder, back and hip regions. A wide variety of pharmacologic drugs and dietary supplements have been used with limited success in treating the musculoskeletal pain. Early clinical studies with low level laser therapy (LLLT) alone or in combination with drugs commonly used to treat fibromyalgia suggested that LLLT may be effective in reducing musculoskeletal pain and stiffness, as well as the number of tender locations. However, a sham-controlled study reported that LLLT was not significantly better than the sham treatment and kinesiotape. Preliminary studies with high-intensity laser therapy (HILT) suggest that it may be more effective than LLLT for treating chronic pain syndromes. Therefore, we evaluated low (1 W), intermediate (42 W) and high level (75 W) HILT in a woman with long-standing fibromyalgia syndrome which was resistant to both standard pharmacotherapy and treatment in an interdisciplinary pain management program. The patient received a series of treatments with a HILT device (Phoenix Thera-lase) at a wavelength of 1275 nm administered at both the paraspinous region and tender points in the shoulder and hip regions. Although the 1 W treatment produced minimal symptom relief, both the 42 and the 75 W treatments produced a dramatic reduction in her overall pain, improved quality of sleep, and increased her level of physical activity for 4-10 days after these treatment sessions. This case illustrates the potential beneficial effects of using higher power levels of HILT for patients with fibromyalgia syndrome who have failed to respond to conventional interdisciplinary treatment regimens.

Keywords: Chronic pain; Fibromyalgia; High-intensity laser therapy (HILT).

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance*
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / diagnosis
  • Fibromyalgia / physiopathology
  • Fibromyalgia / psychology
  • Fibromyalgia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy / methods*
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / diagnosis
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / physiopathology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / psychology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / therapy*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Quality of Life
  • Recovery of Function
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics