What is Cold Laser Therapy or Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)?

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a healthcare treatment that uses low-level (low-power) lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to the surface of the human body to help assist in pain relief. LLLT is also known as Cold Laser Therapy and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002.

Cold Laser Therapy or Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is a treatment that utilizes specific wavelengths of light to interact with tissue and is thought to help accelerate the healing process. It can be used on patients who suffer from a variety of acute and chronic conditions in order to help eliminate pain, swelling, reduce spasms and increase functionality.

How Cold Lasers Work

Cold lasers are handheld devices used by the clinician. The laser is placed directly over the injured area and other areas of the neuro-musculo-skeletal-fascial-meridian system for 30 seconds to several minutes depending on the condition being treated.

During this time, the non-thermal photons of light that are emitted from the laser pass through the layers of the skin (the dermis, epidermis, and the subcutaneous tissue or tissue fat under the skin). This light has the ability to penetrate below the skin at 5mW and 635nm.

Once the light energy passes through the layers of skin and reaches the target area, it is absorbed and interacts with the light sensitive elements in the cell. This process can be compared to photosynthesis in plants – sunlight is absorbed by plants, which is then converted to usable energy so that the plant can grow.

When cells absorb this light energy, it initiates a series of events in the cell that is theorized to eventually result in normalizing damaged or injured tissue, a reduction in pain, inflammation, edema and an overall reduction in healing time by increasing intracellular metabolism.

When the infrared light is applied to the injured area, the light painlessly penetrates the skin’s surface and the underlying tissues. The therapy triggers cellular activities and processes that promote healing and help reduce pain and swelling. In short, LLLT jump starts the healing process and can reduce pain and the length of time for recovery from injuries.

Cold laser therapy can stimulate all cell types including muscle, ligament, cartilage, nerves, etc., so a number of conditions can be treated by cold laser therapy. Some of the conditions that may typically be treated by cold laser therapy include:

  • Arm pain
  • laserArthritis pain
  • Back pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia pain
  • Knee pain
  • Migraine headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Neuropathy
  • Repetitive Stress Injuries
  • Soft Tissue Injuries
  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Tendonitis
  • Wound Healing

Effectiveness of Cold Laser Therapy

For years, physicians have been using cold laser therapy on patients who are seeking effective, alternative methods for pain relief. Since 1967 there have been over 2,500 clinical studies published worldwide. Many of these studies are double-blinded, placebo-controlled and have demonstrated cold laser therapy to be a proven method for pain relief.

Cold Laser Therapy has been used in clinical practice all around the world for over four decades. In 1916, Albert Einstein conceived the theory of Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation or LASER. In 1967, Professor Andre Mester began using low power lasers in medicine. Dr. Mester is recognized by many as the grandfather of laser therapy.

Benefits of LLLT

LLLT is non-invasive and does not require a surgical incision. There is no prolonged recovery time when receiving LLLT. It does not involve taking any medications and does not cause any serious side effects when administered correctly by a doctor. LLLT has many health benefits and is known to:

  • Alleviate acute pain
  • Alleviate chronic pain
  • Develop muscle tissue and collagen
  • Facilitate tissue repair
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Increase cell metabolism
  • Reduce edema
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Stimulates nerve function
  • Encourage wound healing
  • Support the immune system


Cold laser therapy should not be used over any suspicious cancerous lesions, or carcinoma, over the thyroid, on pregnant patients, and there should not be direct irradiation of the eyes, as the laser can cause permanent damage to the eyes.

Pregnant women are recommended not to undergo the procedure since its effects on unborn children are not yet known. The doctor and the patient should use protective eyeglasses so that there is no direct eye exposure.


Cold laser therapy is one option among a variety of treatment approaches that can potentially provide pain relief or pain reduction, especially for patients seeking a treatment without the use of surgery or drugs.

It can be used alone or in combination with a number of other therapies. At SOL Santa Cruz, Cold Laser Therapy is yet another method in the set of tools to help assist in pain relief and healing for the neuro-musculo-fascial-meridian system.

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 to learn more about how to harness the power of light to benefit healing and performance.