Pain is the most common reason for physician consultation in the United States. One out of three Americans is affected by chronic pain annually. The number one reason for missed work or school days is musculoskeletal pain. Currently accepted therapies consist of non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs, steroid injections, opiate pain medications and surgery, each of which carries their own specific risk profiles. What is needed are effective treatments for pain which have an acceptably low risk-profile. For over forty years, low level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) and LED (light emitting diode) therapy (also known as photobiomodulation) has been shown to reduce inflammation and edema, induce analgesia, and promote healing in a range of musculoskeletal pathologies. The purpose of this paper is to review the use of LLLT for pain, the biochemical mechanisms of action, the dose response curves, and how LLLT may be employed by orthopedic surgeons to improve outcomes and reduce adverse events.
With the predicted epidemic of chronic pain in developed countries, it is imperative to validate cost-effective and safe techniques for managing painful conditions which would allow people to live active and productive lives. Moreover the acceptance of LLLT (which is currently being used by many specialties around the world) into the armamentarium of the American health care provider would allow for additional treatment options for patients. A new cost-effective therapy for pain could elevate quality of life while reducing financial strains.