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A guide to cold laser therapy for knee pain

Knee pain is a problem is known to affect individuals of every age. Structure of the knee is a complex one, including joint bones (fibula, femur, and tibia), the kneecap (patella), ligaments, cartilage (meniscus) and tendons. Pain can originate in any of these parts ultimately leading to knee pain. Knee pain is a common problem these days and it can have multiple causes. It can either prevail throughout the knee or staged to a specific area of the knee. Knee pain is more often followed by restriction of movement. In order to solve this issue, its underlying cause must be known.


The severity of knee pain and location vary differently in different cases. Common signs and symptoms observed in knee pain due to different conditions could include:

  • Stiffness along with swelling.
  • Redness of knee accompanied by the warming of the area.
  • Restricted movement.
  • Weakness.
  • Noises of bulging and popping. 
  • Loss of stretching of knee muscles.
  • Instability of knee leading to difficulty in walking.
  • Discomfort in the knee due to hitching.
  • Damage of the ligament of the knee leading to difficulty in walking up and down.
  • Difficulty in bending of the knee.
  • Difficulty in transferring weight from one knee to another.


Causes of Knee Pain

There are multiple causes of knee pain ranging from injuries to mechanical problems and different types of arthritis. Knee pain can originate from one of the many structures of the knee. The knee could swell and cause severe pain when an infection occurs. These are enlisted as:

  • ACL injury
  • Fractures
  • Torn meniscus
  • Knee bursitis
  • Patellar tendinitis
  • Loose body
  • Iliotibial band syndrome
  • Dislocated kneecap
  • Hip or foot pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Gout
  • Pseudogout
  • Septic arthritis
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome

What is the treatment for knee pain?

Treatment of knee pain depends upon the location of origination of pain. Some of the general treatments involved are:

  • Physical therapy
  • Injections
  • Surgery
  • Other therapies including Acupuncture 

Cold Laser Therapy (CLT) for Knee Pain

Therapy employing light has been utilized by human beings since prehistoric time. Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, and Aztecs used to call it solar therapy and later on it took the name of non-ionizing UVB phototherapy of lupus vulgaris. In the modern era, cold laser therapy is becoming the best option for the treatment of pain, especially the one associated with the knee. Although, treatment through cold laser is still in its infancy stage but yet, many physicians recommend it because of its outstanding results in many other fields. Many latest studies have concluded that it is most effective and efficient in eliminating pain, including knee pain.

  • Clinicians refer to laser therapy because it is used for temporary as well as permanent relief of pain.
  • There are recommendations that cold laser therapy can handle several diverse kinds of ailments including arthritis, joint disorders, and severe pains.
  • Cold laser therapy can, if not permanently, cure almost every kind of pain occurring in any part of the body temporarily.
  • Use of cold laser therapy is beneficial because it does not heat up the tissues of the area under treatment like other surgical lasers.

Case Studies

A Cochrane review of 2005 explained the capability of cold laser therapy in reducing the pain occurring due to rheumatoid arthritis. RA is a common cause of pain in the knee. At that time, cold laser therapy was appreciated for causing pain loss for a short period of time with only a few side effects.

Another study was carried out in 2008 which reviewed the previous placebo-controlled studies carried out on the effectiveness of cold laser therapy on tennis elbow. It also found out that LCT was effective in reducing the pain of group receiving therapy as compared to the placebo group.

In 2009, another comparative study was carried out, investigating the effectiveness of cold laser therapy on knee pain. Two groups with knee pain were designed, one group was given laser therapy while others receive no laser therapy. In the end, the group who received laser therapy experienced less pain as compared with the placebo group.

How does it work?

LCT actually employs light which has various wavelengths and it works differently on different wavelengths. Clinicians and manufacturers recommend different wavelengths for a different kind of pain depending upon the area of pain. Therefore, one must be extremely careful before going for a CLT.


CLT is a non-invasive and non-intrusive procedure usually performed by a clinician, physician or a doctor at an office with a small handheld device. You will be asked to wear eye protection because the laser can harm your eyesight if seen directly into it. The wavelength of light will be adjusted to by your physician according to the severity of pain in the knee. The physician will hold the device of CLT near your knee or might touch your skin of knee for a minimum of 30 sec and a maximum of five minutes, again, depending upon the severity of pain. Duration of exposure of CLT also depends upon the size of the area under treatment and dose recommended. Light will pass through the skin to the tissues of the knee. Tissues will absorb the light energy reaching them. Light energy after being absorbed, reduce the inflammation of the knee and encourage the regeneration of the damaged tissues. (Please Watch: BioFlex Laser Therapy) You will feel better usually after one treatment but how many treatments you will need would be finalized by the damage that had occurred to the knee. In case of severe damage, you will need to visit the clinic many times in a week for a  few weeks or even months.

It generally takes more than a single treatment to feel better. How many it takes will vary depending on how much damage there is to your knee. You may need to return several times per week for a few weeks or months. There will be slight tickling sensations but you will not experience any heat or cold during the treatment. After receiving treatment, you can directly go home as there is no recovery time required and it will be totally painless.

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