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Treatment of medial and lateral epicondylitis--tennis and golfer's elbow--with low level laser therapy: a multicenter double blind, placebo-controlled clinical study on 324 patients.

Simunovic Z, Trobonjaca T, Trobonjaca Z.
J Clin Laser Med Surg. 1998 Jun;16(3):145-51.

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Among the other treatment modalities of medial and lateral epicondylitis, low level laser therapy (LLLT) has been promoted as a highly successful method. The aim of this clinical study was to assess the efficacy of LLLT using trigger points (TPs) and scanner application techniques under placebo-controlled conditions.
STUDY DESIGN/MATERIAL AND METHODS: The current clinical study was completed at two Laser Centers (Locarno, Switzerland and Opatija, Croatia) as a double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover clinical study. The patient population (n = 324), with either medial epicondylitis (Golfer's elbow; n = 50) or lateral epicondylitis (Tennis elbow; n = 274), was recruited. Unilateral cases of either type of epicondylitis (n = 283) were randomly allocated to one of three treatment groups according to the LLLT technique applied: (1) Trigger points; (2) Scanner; (3) Combination Treatment (i.e., TPs and scanner technique). Bilateral cases of either type of epicondylitis (n = 41) were subject to crossover, placebo-controlled conditions. Laser devices used to perform these treatments were infrared (IR) diode laser (GaAlAs) 830 nm continuous wave for treatment of TPs and HeNe 632.8 nm combined with IR diode laser 904 nm, pulsed wave for scanner technique. Energy doses were equally controlled and measured in Joules/cm2 either during TPs or scanner technique sessions in all groups of patients. The treatment outcome (pain relief and functional ability) was observed and measured according to the following methods: (1) short form of McGill's Pain Questionnaire (SF-MPQ); (2) visual analogue scales (VAS); (3) verbal rating scales (VRS); (4) patient's pain diary; and (5) hand dynamometer.
RESULTS: Total relief of the pain with consequently improved functional ability was achieved in 82% of acute and 66% of chronic cases, all of which were treated by combination of TPs and scanner technique.
CONCLUSIONS: This clinical study has demonstrated that the best results are obtained using combination treatment (i.e., TPs and scanner technique). Good results are obtained from adequate treatment technique correctly applied, individual energy doses, adequate medical education, clinical experience, and correct approach of laser therapists. We observed that under- and overirradiation dosage can result in the absence of positive therapy effects or even opposite, negative (e.g., inhibitory) effects. The current clinical study provides further evidence of the efficacy of LLLT in the management of lateral and medial epicondylitis.

Investigation of the effect of GaAs laser therapy on lateral epicondylitis

Emanet SK, Altan LI, Yurtkuran M.
Photomed Laser Surg. 2010 Jun;28(3):397-403.

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: There are conflicting reports regarding the efficacy of low energy laser therapy in treatment of lateral epicondylitis (LE). Contradictory results are considered to be due to different joint treatment protocols regarding variables such as dose, duration, and frequency. The aim of this study was to investigate the efficacy of gallium-arsenide (GaAs) laser therapy, which was performed with the dose regimen recommended by the World Association for Laser Therapy, in relieving pain and improving functional activities in patients with LE.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Forty-nine patients (50 elbows) evaluated in our outpatient clinic were included in the study. Elbows were randomized into two groups: laser (n = 25) and placebo laser (n = 25). Either laser or placebo laser therapy was applied to patients for 15 sessions (5 d per week for 3 weeks). Main outcome measures were visual analog scale, tenderness, Disability of the Arm Shoulder and Hand (DASH) questionnaire, the Patient-Related Lateral Epicondylitis Evaluation (PRTEE) test, pain-free grip strength, and the Nottingham Health Profile (NHP) questionnaire. Evaluations were performed before treatment, at the end of 3 weeks of treatment, and after the 12th week of treatment ended.

RESULTS: Upon post-treatment evaluation, a significant improvement in all parameters was observed for both groups (p < 0.05). No significant difference was found when the laser and placebo groups were compared. At the 12 week evaluation, a significant sustained improvement in all parameters was observed. On intergroup evaluation, a significant improvement was observed in favor of the active treatment group regarding pain with resisted extension of the wrist, tenderness with pressure, and for both the total and subgroup scores of the DASH questionnaire and PRTEE test, as well as for the pain subgroup of the NHP questionnaire (p < 0.05).

CONCLUSION: Although low energy laser therapy had no advantage compared to placebo in patients with LE for the short term, a significant improvement, particularly in functional parameters, was achieved in the long term. Laser, which has relatively no side effects, might be included among long-term treatment options for LE.

Effects of 904-nm low-level laser therapy in the management of lateral epicondylitis: a randomized controlled trial

Lam LK, Cheing GL.
Photomed Laser Surg. 2007 Apr;25(2):65-71.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of 904-nm low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in the management of lateral epicondylitis.

BACKGROUND DATA: Lateral epicondylitis is characterized by pain and tenderness over the lateral elbow, which may also result in reduction in grip strength and impairment in physical function. LLLT has been shown effective in its therapeutic effects in tissue healing and pain control.

METHODS: Thirty-nine patients with lateral epicondylitis were randomly assigned to receive either active laser with an energy dose of 0.275 J per tender point (laser group) or sham irradiation (placebo group) for a total of nine sessions. The outcome measures were mechanical pain threshold, maximum grip strength, level of pain at maximum grip strength as measured by the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) and the subjective rating of physical function with Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) questionnaire.

RESULTS: Significantly greater improvements were shown in all outcome measures with the laser group than with the placebo group (p < 0.0125), except in the two subsections of DASH.

CONCLUSION: This study revealed that LLLT in addition to exercise is effective in relieving pain, and in improving the grip strength and subjective rating of physical function of patients with lateral epicondylitis.

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