Effects of laser therapy on rheumatoid arthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Wen-Chun Chia, Ching-Hsiang Chang, Wen-Hsuan Hou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of laser therapy on rheumatoid arthritis.

DESIGN: A search of controlled trials was conducted in different medical electronic databases. The primary outcome was immediate pain relief after treatment. Secondary outcomes were level of functional disability, morning stiffness duration, and 3-month follow-up for pain.

RESULTS: Ten trials met the inclusion criteria. Rheumatoid arthritis treatment with laser therapy significantly improved immediate pain relief [standardized mean difference (SMD), -0.839; 95% confidence interval (CI), -1.336, -0.343] and overall functional score (SMD, -0.309; 95% CI, -0.587, -0.031). There was no significant improvement in morning stiffness duration (SMD, -0.519; 95% CI, -1.176, 0.138) and 3-month follow-up for pain (SMD, -1.125; 95% CI, -2.311, 0.061). There was no publication bias (Egger's regression, p=0.277). However, heterogeneity was noted despite the removal of an outlier (Q=18.646; I2=57.096). Results of subgroup analyses suggested that high-intensity laser therapy and nerve irradiation is better suited for immediate pain relief. Meta-regression analyses showed no significant linear relationship between the treatment effect with laser wavelength or number of treatment sessions.

CONCLUSIONS: Laser therapies provide significant immediate pain relief and improve function for rheumatoid arthritis patients, but without significant improvement in morning stiffness duration and 3-month follow-up for pain.Systematic review registration number: CRD42020192906.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Feb 1 2021


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