Ask the Expert: Does Low Intensity Laser Therapy Work?

by Mark Borigini, M.D. Health Professional

Dear Dr. Borigini:** My 85 year old step father has debilitating scoliosis and often acute pain that keeps him from sleeping. He sleeps in his Lazy Boy type chair because he cannot lie flat.** Recently he has seen a pain specialist and had cortisone injections which helped at first, but later injections gave little relief. The pain doctor has suggested LILT, Low Intensity Laser Light therapy for the pain, which insurance does not cover. The literature he gave us to read sounds too good to be true, saying that LILT affects the problem cells and doesn't affect the normal cells. I can't seem to find credible information online. For my stepfather this treatment would be expensive on his limited finances. Can you tell us if this is effective and safe?

A study was published in a 1995 issue of "Lasers Surgery Medicine" that concluded that monochromatic light/laser irradiation at low intensity did not provide pain relief. A German article published in 1993 found that the majority of studies evaluating low dose laser therapy suggested that it is not effective in the treatment of pain. And it was in fact concluded that low dose laser therapy does not seem to be a scientifically proven therapy.

I am not sure what literature you are referring to in your question. But if there is some new data that sounds promising, have your doctor clearly explain to you benefits and risks of this low intensity laser light therapy.

Mark Borigini, M.D.
Meet Our Writer
Mark Borigini, M.D.

Mark Borigini is a doctor primarily located in Bethesda, MD, with another office in Downey, CA. He has 29 years of experience. His specialties include Rheumatology and Internal Medicine. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Pain Management and Osteoporosis.