Laser treatment of neck pain

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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).

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SBU Assessment presents a comprehensive, systematic assessment of available scientific evidence. The certainty of the evidence for each finding is systematically reviewed and graded. Full assessments include economic, social, and ethical impact analyses.

SBU assessments are performed by a team of leading professional practitioners and academics, patient/user representatives and SBU staff. Prior to approval and publication, assessments are reviewed by independent experts, SBU’s Scientific Advisory Committees and Board of Directors.

Published: 5/20/2014
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Report no: 2014-03