Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) for Neck Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression

Anita R Gross*, 1, Stephanie Dziengo3, Olga Boers3, Charlie H Goldsmith2, Nadine Graham1, Lothar Lilge4, Stephen Burnie3, Roger White5
1 McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
2 Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada
3 School of Rehabilitation Sciences, Physiotherapy Program, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
4 Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada and Senior Scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, UHN, Canada
5 Theralase Inc., 1945 Queen Street, East Toronto, Ontario M4L 1H7, Canada

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© Gross et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestrictive use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the McMaster University, 1400 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 1C7, Canada; Tel: 905-525-9149, Ext. 22867; Fax: 905-524-0069; E-mail:
§ The Cervical Overview Group is an international research group that conducts and maintains systematic reviews for neck pain.



This systematic review update evaluated low level laser therapy (LLLT) for adults with neck pain.


Computerized searches (root up to Feb 2012) included pain, function/disability, quality of life (QoL) and global perceived effect (GPE). GRADE, effect-sizes, heterogeneity and meta-regression were assessed.


Of 17 trials, 10 demonstrated high risk of bias. For chronic neck pain, there was moderate quality evidence (2 trials, 109 participants) supporting LLLT over placebo to improve pain/disability/QoL/GPE up to intermediate-term (IT). For acute radiculopathy, cervical osteoarthritis or acute neck pain, low quality evidence suggested LLLT improves ST pain/function/QoL over a placebo. For chronic myofascial neck pain (5 trials, 188 participants), evidence was conflicting; a meta-regression of heterogeneous trials suggests super-pulsed LLLT increases the chance of a successful pain outcome.


We found diverse evidence using LLLT for neck pain. LLLT may be beneficial for chronic neck pain/function/QoL. Larger long-term dosage trials are needed.

Keywords: Low level laser therapy, neck pain, systematic review.