Introduction to Low-Level Laser Therapy (“LLLT”) Technology

Medical researchers began using laser biostimulation in the late 1960’s with low-powered laser beams that produced non-thermal effects on human tissue. The first reported cases involved slow-healing ulcers. The efficacy of this low-level laser therapy, or “LLLT,” is substantiated by responsible research that continues (See “Studies”).

Laser wavelengths between 820 nanometers (nm) and 840 nm have an extremely low absorption rates in human tissue. This means that laser light penetrates deeply at those frequencies. Experimenting clinicians found that an 830 nm laser at an output of between 60 milliwatts (mW) and 90 mW of power is optimal for treating chronic pain.

An example of how LLLT works involves soft tissue trauma. These types of injuries consist of damage to the deep, sensitive layers of tissue beneath the epidermis, including muscular, neural, lymphatic, and vascular tissue. The human body normally reacts to this soft tissue trauma by “splinting” the injury with edema, a thin or watery fluid in tissue spaces or cell interstices. However, excess edema causes swelling that inhibits movement of the damaged tissue. These injuries result in two types of pain. The first is actual traumatic pain from the injury itself, and the second pain is from the swelling that results. LLLT focuses first on the lymphatic system which maintains the body’s fluid balance, while the laser light also helps absorb the excess edema. LLLT thus provides relief in two ways.

The MicroLight ML830® was cleared by the FDA for treatment of carpel tunnel syndrome. (See “About Us”). This clearance followed a Motors double-blind study on CTS that was conducted at General Motors. In recent years, the FDA cleared several other LLLT devices under sponsors’ claims that those other devices are “substantially equivalent” to the ML830®. Those other devices have FDA clearance to advertise relief from such conditions as: minor chronic neck and shoulder pain, and iliotibial band syndrome

Additional LLLT devices in the same FDA product category as the ML830® – “NHN” or “Lamp, Non-Heating, For Adjunctive Use In Pain Therapy” – are allowed by the FDA to claim relief from: knee disorders, rotator cuff tendonitis, post-surgery, and bilateral breast augmentation

Another group of LLLT devices are those which rely on moderate heat as part of their function – under FDA product classification “ILY” or “Lamp, Infrared, Therapeutic.” These ILY devices have FDA clearance to represent to the public that they provide temporary relief from:

  • Acne vulgaris
  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated discs
  • Intractable pain
  • Lesions
  • Muscle spasms or stiffness
  • Post-surgical pain
  • Post-trauma acute pain
  • Posterior facet syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Sprains and strains
  • Wound-healing