Laser Therapy and Knee Arthritis


Arthritis results in the deterioration of joints through the process of inflammation. The most common form is osteoarthritis. This type of joint disease affects approximately 80% of the population by the age of 65. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the hands, feet, spine and large bearing joint such as the hips and knees.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the lifetime risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knees has been estimated at 46%. Class 3 laser therapy, also known as photobiostimulation or laser biostimulation has been used successfully as a therapeutic approach to treat an extensive range of acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions. Over the past 50 years, class 3 laser research using wavelengths in the red to infrared range (600-900 nm) has been applied from in vitro cellular studies to in vivo animal and human studies.

In particular laser therapy for the treatment of degenerative osteoarthritis of the knees has been a topic of interest both in animal research and human, placebo-controlled, and double-blind clinical trials. A number of animal studies have measured a beneficial affect with laser therapy on cartillage formation.

Class 3 laser therapy has been found to decelerate the arthritic process, regenerate articular cartilage, increase the level of stress proteins, thereby improving the repair of cartilaginous erosion and significantly increasing the number of chondrocytes and the thickness of the articular cartillage. Placebo-controlled studies have also offered clinically relevant pain relief, reduction in knee circumference and pressure sensitivity when compared to placebo controls treated with sham laser.

A recent study has shown that patients with osteoarthritic knees are unlikely to benefit from arthroscopic surgery. Patients in this study who received only conservative treatment (no surgery) did just as well as those who underwent arthroscopic surgery at the two year follow-up assessment. On the other hand, clinical trials have indicated that laser therapy for osteoarthritis of the knees alleviates pain to a significant degree, along with the restoration of normal function and overall quality of life.

In summary, laser therapy is effective at both the cellular and systemic level, activating a variety of mechanisms including cartilaginous regeneration, DNA synthesis, and improved microcirculation and has both an analgesic and an anti-inflammatory affect. Patients treated experience pain relief, improved mobility, improved tolerance to activity (functional capacity) and overall improved quality of life in general.