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J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2019 Mar 21. doi: 10.3233/BMR-181341. [Epub ahead of print]

The effectiveness of high intensity laser therapy in the management of spinal disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Department of Basic Science, Faculty of Physical Therapy, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt.
Physiotherapy Department, Faculty of Applied Medical Sciences, Umm Al-Qura University, Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Department of Physiotherapy, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
Department of Physiotherapy, College of Health Sciences, University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
Department of Physical Therapy for Musculoskeletal Disorders, Faculty of Physical Therapy, Cairo University, Egypt.



Spinal disorders are common health problems which include wide categories of diseases that affect the spinal soft tissues, joints and bone.


The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the effectiveness of high intensity laser therapy (HILT) on pain and function in patients with spinal disorders.


Six databases were searched up to the end of February 2018 including PubMed, MEDLINE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), Open Grey and Grey Literature Report. In addition, the reference lists of all included studies were searched for any relevant studies. PEDro scale and GRADE system were performed to assess the quality of the studies. A meta-analysis was conducted to calculate the overall effect size.


A total of ten randomised controlled trials (RCTs) met the inclusion criteria, with four studies of the efficacy of HILT on neck pain (NP) and six on low back pain (LBP). According to the PEDro scale assessment, only two studies were rated as high quality, while the remainder were rated as fair or low quality. Forest plots showed that HILT with exercise was significantly more effective than placebo HILT with exercise in terms of pain reduction (SMD -1.11; 95% CI -1.42 to -0.80; P< 0.00001; I2 0%) and functional improvement (SMD -1.03; 95% CI -1.33 to -0.72; P< 0.00001; I2 0%). Meta-analyses also showed that HILT alone or HILT with conventional physiotherapy (CPT) significantly provided better outcomes than CPT alone.


HILT is considered as a complementary modality for pain reduction and function improvement in patients with spinal disorders. However, the quality of the body of evidence was rated from 'very low' to 'low' quality. Further high quality trials are required for standardisation of irradiation parameters and the treatment protocol to establish the efficacy of HILT for spinal disorders.


High intensity laser therapy; low back pain; neck pain; rehabilitation; spinal disorders


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