The May-June 2005 issue of Arthritis Today reports on a noninvasive laser stimulation, which uses low-level (cold) laser beams focussed on pain points inthe wrist and hand. The technique is said to promote cell repair and reduce inflammation related to carpal tunnel syndrome. This technique is called “Low-Level Laser Therapy” or LLLT.
The therapy requires at least 10 short treatment sessions, and can be performed by physical therapists, chiropractors, or doctors. Patients report a “funny bone”-like tingling as the nerves are stimulated, and increased warmth in the hands. The article suggests that the laser therapy is a pre-surgery option, if simpler treatments such as splints, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy have failed.
A study published at Gancao.net (Laser Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome reports positive results of LLLT: “Significant decreases in Melzack pain score, median nerve sensory latency, Phalen sign and Tinel sign, Post-real treatment series but not Post-sham. Patients able to perform prior work (computer typist, handyman) and stable for 1-3 years”. A similar study by General Motors (Low Level Laser Therapy in the Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome reports that “data indicate that low-level therapy, when used in conjunction with a program of physical therapy intended to mobilize and strengthen the wrist and upper quadrant, improves functional measures of wrist-hand work performance and results in greater probability of return to work than physical therapy alone”.
The insurance company Aetna, on the other hand, “considers cold laser therapy experimental and investigational because there is inadequate evidence of the effectiveness of low-energy (cold) lasers in wound healing, pain relief, or for other indications such as musculoskeletal dysfunction, arthritis, and neurological dysfunctions.”
Sounds like the jury’s still out on this one, but it’s probably worth discussing with your doctor or therapist …