Q. I’ve heard about laser therapy for relieving rheumatoid arthritis pain. What is it, and is it safe and effective?
A. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a chronic joint disease that damages the joints of the body, affects a large portion of the population. Low level light therapy (LLLT) was introduced to patients approximately 15 years ago as an alternative, non-invasive treatment for pain and stiffness. LLLT is a light source that generates extremely pure light of a single wavelength that causes a chemical reaction in targeted cells. While no glaring safety concerns have been revealed to date, doses, powers, wavelengths and energy outputs vary among most studies completed thus far. Most agree that better studies done over time are needed. Initially studies showed that LLLT reduced pain and morning stiffness in the hands of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, but these effects were not longlasting. Furthermore, other outcomes such as swelling and range of motion were not improved. A more recent review published in the October 2010 Clinical Rheumatology reported that LLLT was not effective and further stated that this form of treatment should not be used on patients with rheumatoid arthritis. As with any new treatment of procedure, you should also get a recommendation from your primary care physician or a trusted provider.
Susan L. Rapp, M.D.
Erlanger at Volkswagen Drive Wellness Center
7380 Volkswagen Drive, Suite 110
Chattanooga, TN 37416