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Cold Laser Therapy

Reasons to Have One, What to Expect, Associated Risks & More

Key Points

  • Cold laser therapy is a versatile treatment option used for minor injuries, chronic conditions, skin problems, stubborn inflammation, and hard-to-heal wounds.
  • The therapy uses low-intensity lasers to promote healing, minimize inflammation, and manage pain.
  • It is an alternative to acupuncture for those who are afraid of needles.
  • While it is generally safe and requires little downtime, it may not be suitable for individuals with cancerous lesions or carcinomas, and its effects on pregnancy are not yet fully understood.
  • Despite its potential benefits, cold laser therapy is not typically covered by insurance and may require multiple treatments for effective pain relief.

5 Reasons Why You Would Need Cold Laser Therapy

1. Injury treatment

Cold laser therapy is used in many different ways to treat a number of conditions. One of the most common uses for this therapy is for the treatment of injuries.[1] Usually, this includes minor issues such as tendonitis, muscle strains, sprains, tennis elbow, and muscle spasms. Cold laser therapy can help repair tissues and reduce pain.

2. Chronic pain

Sometimes, cold laser therapy can be used for the treatment of pain associated with chronic conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or fibromyalgia. It can also be used to treat knee pain, low back pain, and neck pain that may or may not be the result of an injury.

3. Skin issues

Dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons sometimes use cold laser therapy to treat skin problems. These can range from chronic skin issues like psoriasis, acne and acne scars, edema, dermatitis, and vitiligo to acute issues like burns. Whether or not the treatment is considered cosmetic in nature sometimes depends on the skin condition it is being used to treat.

4. Inflammatory conditions

Stubborn instances of inflammation or painful, inflammatory conditions can sometimes be treated with cold laser therapy, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis ulcerations, and inflamed mouth tissues.[2]

5. Healing wounds

Wounds that are hard to heal with traditional medicines can sometimes be treated with cold laser therapy. These can especially include wounds that are slow to heal as a result of diabetes.[1]

6. Acupuncture

Some patients who would benefit highly from acupuncture shy away from the treatment because of a fear of needles. Cold laser therapy can be used as an alternative treatment option for those who can benefit from acupuncture, as the treatment provides the same stimulation when applied to specific acupoints.[1]

Understanding Cold Laser Therapy

Cold laser therapy, much like other types of laser therapy, is a recent evolution of older alternative therapy practices like acupuncture.[3] The treatment uses low-intensity lasers to encourage healing, minimize inflammation, and treat pain. The name cold laser therapy comes from the fact that the light is not at such levels as to actually heat up tissues in the body, which is also why the procedure is called low-level light or laser therapy.

Cold laser therapy involves the application of minimal levels of light to the body in specific areas. The body absorbs the light, and a reaction occurs where the cells in the body respond to the light, creating regenerative effects. Minor or surface-level issues are often treated with wavelengths of 600-700 nanometers, while deep tissue issues are treated with 780-950 nanometer wavelengths. Most of the time, cold laser therapy is applied in a doctor’s office or clinic, but the treatment is also available for home use.

The treatment itself has been found to be useful for many different issues and applications, including those listed above. However, studies show that the applications for cold laser therapy could stretch beyond what we now know in many different conditions. For example, neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease may be treatable with cold laser therapy in a few years, as may injuries to the tissue of the brain and spinal cord.[1]

Risks of Getting Cold Laser Therapy

1. Poor candidates

Sometimes, cold laser therapy isn’t effective or could be dangerous for certain candidates. For example, cancerous lesions or carcinomas should not be treated with cold laser therapy.[1] Also, those who are pregnant or may become pregnant might want to avoid this treatment, as its effects on pregnancy are still unknown.

2. Lack of long-term benefits

For those who experience chronic pain or who have injuries, cold laser therapy can be helpful for a while, but it usually doesn’t offer long-term pain relief.[4] Patients who use cold laser therapy often get multiple treatments over a period of time that temporarily relieve pain each time, rather than a treatment that deals with the source of the pain permanently.

What to Expect with Cold Laser Therapy

1. No pain; no problem

One of the greatest benefits of cold laser therapy is that the treatment is not painful and requires little downtime.[5] Since it doesn’t heat up the tissue, you won’t feel any discomfort during and usually after the treatment. In most cases, the side effects of the treatment are minimal or nonexistent.

2. Multiple treatments

You should expect to seek multiple treatments with cold laser therapy before you start to notice any serious benefits from the program.[5] As stated above, it will also take multiple treatments for you to continue experiencing the benefits of cold laser therapy, and in many cases, the pain will return if you stop receiving the treatments.

3. Insurance doesn’t cover treatment

This kind of treatment can be considered cosmetic in nature, and because it is relatively new, insurance plans don’t always cover cold laser therapy. Medicare and Medicaid are two options that do not cover the treatment, and private insurers usually don’t either. Therefore, the treatment will likely be expensive if you decide to pay out-of-pocket.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Your Cold Laser Therapy

  • Will cold laser therapy help me?
  • How many treatments should I expect to receive before I will see results?
  • Will the treatment deal with any underlying issues causing my symptoms or just the symptoms themselves?
  • Do I have payment options for the treatment?
  • Are there any reasons to think I wouldn’t be a good candidate for cold laser therapy?

Cold Laser Therapy May Also be Known as:

  • Photobiomodulation
  • Low-intensity laser therapy
  • LLT
  • Soft laser therapy
  • Low-power laser therapy
  • LPLT
  • Soft laser biostimulation


Frequently asked questions

  • What types of injuries and conditions can cold laser therapy treat?

    Cold laser therapy can treat minor injuries like tendonitis, muscle strains, sprains, and tennis elbow. It can also alleviate pain associated with chronic conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, knee pain, low back pain, and neck pain.
  • Can cold laser therapy be used for skin problems?

    Yes, dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons use cold laser therapy to treat skin problems like psoriasis, acne, edema, dermatitis, vitiligo, and burns.
  • Is cold laser therapy a good alternative to acupuncture?

    Yes, for those who fear needles, cold laser therapy can serve as an alternative to acupuncture.
  • Are there any risks or side effects associated with cold laser therapy?

    The therapy is generally safe with little downtime. However, it may not be suitable for individuals with cancerous lesions or carcinomas, and its effects on pregnancy are not yet fully understood.
  • Does insurance typically cover cold laser therapy?

    No, most insurance plans do not cover cold laser therapy.
  • Is cold laser therapy a long-term solution for pain relief?

    Cold laser therapy usually doesn’t offer long-term pain relief and often requires multiple treatments.
  • Can cold laser therapy treat stubborn inflammation or painful conditions?

    Yes, it can treat stubborn inflammation or painful conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis ulcerations, and inflamed mouth tissues.
  • Can cold laser therapy treat wounds that are hard to heal with traditional medicines?

    Yes, it can treat wounds that are hard to heal with traditional medicines, especially those slow to heal due to diabetes.

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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