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What is Cold Laser Therapy?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Cold laser therapy is a form of medical treatment that involves the use of a low intensity laser to address pain and inflammation. This treatment is generally classified as experimental or investigational, because the benefits are still the subject of debate. Many proponents of this technique make a number of claims about its efficacy, and patients would be well-advised to evaluate these claims critically and seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before embarking on any treatments.

The underlying science behind cold laser therapy is valid, as studies have shown that light of certain wavelengths can reduce pain and inflammation. Lasers can offer very focused beams of light that can be used to target specific areas, which means that in theoretical use, a low intensity laser calibrated to emit light of a specific wavelength could potentially be used very effectively to treat areas of inflammation on the body. Like all medical devices, however, cold lasers need to be carefully evaluated for safety and efficacy.

Other terms are used to refer to this treatment include low power laser therapy (LPLT), low level laser therapy (LLLT), biostimulation, soft laser, and laser acupuncture. In all cases, the technique involves exposing the skin to targeted laser beams for set periods of time and at set intervals. The light is supposed to stimulate damaged cells to promote healing and a reduction in inflammation and pain. The “cold” refers not the temperature of the laser, but to the fact that the laser is of low intensity, unlike the high intensity lasers that can burn the skin.

Some practitioners of acupuncture have suggested that cold laser therapy could be used much like acupuncture and acupressure, with the beams of the laser targeting specific points on the body. These individuals rely on their training and experience to support their beliefs, since the stimulation of pressure points can be used to treat a number of conditions treatable with acupuncture.

Medical professionals generally recommend cold laser treatments as part of an overall pain management program. For people dealing with chronic pain, it is an option that could be used to reduce the pain, while people with persistent inflammations may also benefit. This therapy should not be undertaken without medical supervision, however, and it is generally not recommended as a replacement for other forms of medical treatment, such as the use of physical therapy to manage chronic pain.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon330164 — On Apr 14, 2013

Here's the gist so some people can understand. The actual source of the light, cold laser, light-emitting diode or the Sun -- as long as the color wave-length (and power) are right -- it works. That's just science.

By anon327367 — On Mar 27, 2013

Cold laser is definitely not an exact science or guaranteed to work. The fact is, cold laser has evolved equipment wise much quicker than the knowledge and usage has (imagine admitting we don't actually know what heals!). This puts it in an interesting state as the efficacy yet it is not all that well understood (what is in any medicine?).

Proper devices used by appropriately trained clinicians will result in no risk to the client/patient so in that regard it is very safe. It's funny how people keep saying ask your doctor, yet they know nothing about this technology, except of course, the MD's who are making boat loads using this technology as a adjunct to basic and standard medical techniques.

By anon318311 — On Feb 07, 2013

Anyone who states it doesn't work is wrong. It does work. If you don't believe me, then you should check out the medical studies done by NASA and the U.S. military, among many, many others. Also, veterinary sciences have practiced its use for awhile now. Or you could just try it and see for yourself.

By anon312025 — On Jan 04, 2013

Over the Christmas holidays, I was in a house where I had to use three flights of stairs. By the end of the visit, I was limping, due to the pain in my knee. I have had two cold laser treatments on my knee. The pain is much less.

I cannot say that the decrease is only due to the cold laser, since I am no longer abusing the knee by walking up and down stairs several times a day. I can say that the pain is much less, at this stage of the recovery, than at other times I have had the similar injury to my knee.

By BioNerd — On Feb 03, 2011

Wouldn't the fact that this product is popular and mentioned on prominent websites seem to indicate that there is at least some benefit in it? I think it does. Science isn't the only source of trust.

By Qohe1et — On Feb 02, 2011

The novelty of the name and of the contraption suggest to me that people may buy this simply for its general appeal, or because they are in great pain and are looking for a solid solution. Uneducated people with money are the best buyers.

By arod2b42 — On Jan 30, 2011


That seems fairly cynical. I don't know if it is true that these unproven remedies are a scam. They haven't been proven, which means that they haven't been disproven. In this case, it is best to do your own individual research into this kind of thing rather than casually accept or dismiss it.

By SilentBlue — On Jan 28, 2011

It seems that cold laser pain therapy is a descendant of those old quack medical solutions that used to be vended to a market of gullible risk-takers looking for a quick fix. These kinds of mountebanks would sell their products at state fairs, and moved on to the next town the moment they were proven to be a sham.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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