Effects of low-level laser therapy on pain in patients with musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Introduction: This meta-analysis investigated the effectiveness of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) on pain in adult patients with musculoskeletal disorders.
Evidence synthesis: Eighteen studies allowing for 21 head-to-head comparisons (totaling N.=1462 participants) were included. The pooled raw mean difference (D) in pain between LLLT and the control groups was -0.85 (95% CI: -1.22 to -0.48). There was high (I²=85.6%) and significant between study heterogeneity (Cochran’s Q =139.2; df=20; P<0.001). The subgroup meta-analysis of the comparisons not following the WALT guidelines revealed a D=-0.68 (95% CI: -1.09 to -0.27). In this group, heterogeneity decreased to I²=72.6% (Q=51.2; df=14; P<0.001). In the WALT subgroup D equaled -1.52 (95% CI: -2.34 to -0.70). This between groups difference was clinically relevant although statistically not significant (Q=3.24; df=1; P=0.072).
Conclusions: This meta-analysis presents evidence that LLLT is an effective treatment modality to reduce pain in adult patients with musculoskeletal disorders. Adherence to WALT dosage recommendations seems to enhance treatment effectiveness.