When it comes to chronic pain treatment and management, many patients have tried it all. From exercise to injections to surgeries, some chronic pain conditions may feel incurable. Until now. A relatively new type of treatment is making waves and starting conversations all around the pain community: MLS laser therapy.
What is MLS laser therapy?
MLS laser therapy is a non-invasive pain management technique that uses low-level laser therapy to reduce pain and inflammation. It is most commonly used for pain related to arthritis or sciatica. It’s been used in Europe for pain management for decades, and has recently been used in veterinary care.
MLS therapy is also sometimes referred to as cold laser therapy (but only when utilized as specified below). MLS laser therapy is creating much discussion in the pain treatment community, but without much evidence of efficacy beyond the anecdotal. Multiwave lock system (MLS) laser therapy uses two therapeutic wavelengths – 808 nanometer (anti-edemic and anti-inflammatory) and 905 nanometer (analgesic) – to reach deeper into tissues and nerves that are affected by pain and inflammation.
According to Dr. Jean Santo, a pain management specialist and anesthesiologist, these synchronized wavelengths cause a metabolic reaction in the cells that stimulates healing and pain relief. In general, all laser therapy treatments work in essentially the same manner, according to doctor of chiropractic Dr. Phil Harrington, who trained at Palmer College of Chiropractic:
“By stimulating the cytochrome oxidase enzyme, we are utilizing that oxygen in the respiratory chain inside of the mitochondria, producing more ATP for that cell. So regardless of what kind of cell it is, it’s going to function at a higher level. Now, we are not turbocharging. We’re not making your body do anything that it could not normally do. We’re just facilitating the process. We are helping those cells produce the energy that they normally would, so they can function as they normally should.”
Lasers are, essentially, helping the cell to complete a natural process that has, for some reason, stalled or slowed. The following video, from the producers of the technology, gives a great overview of this treatment option.
How does MLS laser therapy work?
MLS laser therapy uses higher-powered Class 4 lasers. In some cases, laser treatments may use lasers similar to what you might find in a laser pointer. This is not a strong enough laser to be therapeutic. And unlike the type of lasers used to remove tattoos and other surgical or dermatological processes that pin pointedly focus on one area, MLS lasers have a wider range that allows them to spread deeply into the tissues of the body.
Combining the two wavelengths in an MLS laser offers the power of pain relief with an anti-inflammatory action. Lasers increase circulation in the treatment area, sending oxygen and blood to the painful region. This increased circulation and blood flow stimulates tissue healing, cell repair, and healthy tissue growth.
MLS laser therapy is indicated primarily for musculoskeletal pain, including:
- Muscle strains, sprains, and tears
- Arthritis and other degenerating joint conditions
- Slipped or bulging discs
- Spinal compression
- Injuries to the soft tissues
- Pre- and post-surgical pain
Other benefits may include things like improved nerve function and immunoregulation.
What is K laser therapy?
Another type of laser therapy, K laser therapy, adds a third wavelength to the treatment at 970 nanometers. Proponents of this treatment believe that this third wavelength is the most efficient way to increase microcirculation in the cells. In addition to the above conditions, K laser therapy is recommended for:
- Repetitive use injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome
- Traumatic injury
- Acute injury
- Frozen shoulder
Many also report relief from this type of therapy, noting that it works well for mild to moderate cases of pain.
Does MLS laser therapy work?
MLS laser therapy is promising, but there isn’t enough research on it to know for sure yet. A 2014 paper from the Frontiers in Physiology journal notes how there is simply not enough large-scale rigorous studies on this therapy yet to show objectively that it works. They note the following challenges for low-level laser therapy (LLLT) research:
“What tends to plague research using LLLT as a treatment modality is that there is no standard of care. Studies differ in overall dosage and wavelength which limits the ability to accurately draw conclusions. Currently, there are also no long-term studies that have evaluated LLLT.”
However, they do also go on to say that low-level laser therapy has shown some benefit in relieving neck pain. It may also prove to be even more beneficial when combined with an exercise program. The researchers note that:
“Pain is a very complex condition that manifests itself in a variety of different forms. Perhaps there is no set standard of care that will encompass everyone’s needs. However, it is clear that LLLT may be beneficial for many individuals suffering from pain, regardless of the condition that is causing it.”
One survey that did have positive results was on low-level laser therapy for rheumatoid arthritis
What is MLS laser therapy cost?
Both MLS laser therapy and K laser therapy are FDA-approved, but not necessarily as a pain-relieving treatments.
K lasers are approved as a warming device only, and MLS is still viewed as experimental. Both MLS and K laser treatments are usually not covered by insurance, but some doctors such as Dr. Santo offer a cash option for treatment. Dr. Santo charges $60 for each treatment, a price that is, for some, worth every penny. Lisa Knott, one of Dr. Santo’s patients, suffered from hip and back pain since high school until trying MLS laser therapy treatments. She found pain relief and increased mobility on the same day of the treatment.
Many other clinics charge between $60-$100 per treatment, though these costs may vary depending on how many treatments you need, the area being treated, and where you live.
Are there any MLS laser therapy reviews?
Even though there’s not much research on this treatment, there are patients who are reporting anecdotal relief from it. In addition to Knott’s pain relief, others have also shared their MLS laser therapy reviews. These include:
- Melanie’s review of MLS therapy for her plantar fasciitis on Runner’s World. She notes: “My four-month layoff decreased the acute pain, but it was the laser treatment that gave immediate, near-total relief, and that got me out running again. Well worth five appointments and $75.”
- Tom’s MLS laser therapy review for his psoriatic arthritis in his hands. He reports: “His pain was cut in half after the first week of treatment. After three more treatments during the second week, his hands were almost back to normal and swelling was almost completely gone. After a couple more treatments during the third week, the pain was gone and he was back to normal activity.”
- The same report from Herald & Review also discussed Barb, who suffered from pain after a total shoulder replacement. Her husband writes: “It’s the first time in over a year that my wife was able to put on her sweater without help, and she is able to do the dishes. She’s also forgetting to take her pain medications, and that’s a good sign.”
- Oakland Park Laser Therapy’s video gallery of patients who found relief with MLS laser therapy after suffering from conditions like knee pain, sciatica, and back pain. As one patient notes: “My knee is 90% better from what it was before and I am able to walk up and down stairs with ease!”
Finally, one patient talks about how MLC therapy helped with her foot pain.
Should I try MLS laser therapy?
All of the benefits of MLS treatment sound impressive, but there is very little scientific evidence to support the claims made by both patients and doctors. This does not necessarily mean that the treatment is ineffective, but rather that you should proceed with caution and pay very close attention to the way your pain responds. You should also always talk to your primary pain doctors before trying any new therapies or treatments.
MLS laser treatments may vary, from one treatment a week for six weeks to several treatments a week for a shorter period of time. Side effects are virtually non-existent as the laser is non-invasive and not designed to physically pierce the skin.
It is difficult to say definitively whether or not MLS laser therapy is a viable treatment option for chronic pain. It is promising for pain conditions, like foot pain, sciatica, and arthritis. The best way to approach this treatment is in conversation with your doctor. If you or someone you love has suffered from refractory chronic pain with little relief regardless of treatment, it may be worth it to give MLS laser therapy a try. Many suggest trying MLS laser therapy if your other option is surgery, as it provides a relatively low-cost opportunity to try a non-invasive approach to your pain.
What do you think about this potential chronic pain treatment? If you want to talk to a pain specialist in your area about this treatment option, click the button below.
Image from Cutting-Edge Laser Technologies