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Laser treatment of neck pain

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SBU Assessment

Presents a comprehensive, systematic assessment of available scientific evidence for effects on health, social welfare or disability. Full assessments include economic, social and ethical impact analyses. Assessment teams include professional practitioners and academics. Before publication the report is reviewed by external experts, and scientific conclusions approved by the SBU Board of Directors.

Low level laser (Low Level Laser Therapy, LLLT) is sometimes used as a treatment method in connection to neck problems. The method is used both by qualified medical personnel and by occupational groups outside of healthcare. There is no consensus on how the treatment is to be administered. As an outcome measure for pain a visual analogue scale is often used (VAS 0–100 mm), but other measuring scales are also used. The aim of this report is to investigate if there is any scientific basis for treatment with low level laser therapy, as opposed to placebo treatment, decreasing the perception of pain in individuals 16 years of age or older with acute or chronic neck pain.


  • In cases of chronic neck pain, low effect laser therapy can provide relief from pain for 2–6 months after the completion of treatment.
  • The studies have not especially focused on side effects, but no serious complications or side effects have been reported.
  • One treatment programme of ten treatments with low level laser costs between SEK 2200 and 4600, depending on whether the treatment is administered by a physiotherapist or a physician. There are no cost-effectiveness studies comparing low level laser to other treatments.
  • Several well-executed studies are necessary to determine with certainty the effects of treatment with low level laser compared to placebo and other methods, above all in cases of acute pain, and with regard to function and working capacity, and to long-term effects.

How to cite this report: SBU. Laser treatment of neck pain. Stockholm: Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment (SBU); 2014. SBU report no 2014-03 (in Swedish).

Published: Report no: 2014-03

Project group

This Alert report is a collaboration between CAMTÖ and SBU.


  • Georg Lohse, physiotherapist
  • Ylva Nilsagård, PhD, physiotherapist
  • Håkan Geijer, Associate Professor, Chief Physician
  • Mia Svantesson, PhD, Registered Nurse Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Örebro University Hospital
  • Ruzan Udumyan, epidemiologist


  • Mikael Nilsson (Project Director)
  • Sofia Tranæus (Assistant Project Director)
  • Anna Granath (Project Administrator)
  • Emelie Heintz (Health Economist)
  • Laura Lintamo (Analyst)
  • Hanna Olofsson (Information Specialist)
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