The effect of low-level red and near-infrared photobiomodulation on pain and function in tendinopathy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized control trials

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Tripodi, Nicholas ORCID: 0000-0001-5062-0409, Feehan, Jack ORCID: 0000-0002-9627-1299, Husaric, Maja ORCID: 0000-0001-5627-7541, Sidiroglou, Fotios ORCID: 0000-0002-9399-8484 and Apostolopoulos, Vasso ORCID: 0000-0001-6788-2771 (2021) The effect of low-level red and near-infrared photobiomodulation on pain and function in tendinopathy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized control trials. BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, 13. ISSN 2052-1847


Background: Tendinopathy is a common clinical condition that can significantly affect a person’s physical function and quality of life. Despite exercise therapy being the mainstay of tendinopathy management, there are many potential adjunct therapies that remain under investigated, one of which is photobiomodulation (PBM). PBM uses varied wavelengths of light to create a biological effect. While PBM is used frequently in the management of tendinopathy, high quality evidence supporting its utility is lacking. Methods: A systematic search of the Pubmed, CINAHL, SCOPUS, Cochrane Database, Web of Science and SPORTSDICUS databases was performed for eligible articles in August 2020. Randomized Control Trials that used red or near-infrared PBM to treat tendinopathy disorders that made comparisons with a sham or ‘other’ intervention were included. Pain and function data were extracted from the included studies. The data were synthesized using a random effects model. The meta-analysis was performed using the mean difference (MD) and standardized mean difference (SMD) statistics. Results: A total of 17 trials were included (n = 835). When compared solely to other interventions PBM resulted in similar decreases in pain (MD -0.09; 95% CI − 0.79 to 0.61) and a smaller improvement in function (SMD -0.52; 95% CI − 0.81 to − 0.23). When PBM plus exercise was compared to sham treatment plus exercise, PBM demonstrated greater decreases in pain (MD 1.06; 95% CI 0.57 to 1.55) and improved function (MD 5.65; 95% CI 0.25 to 11.04). When PBM plus exercise was compared to other interventions plus exercise, no differences were noted in pain levels (MD 0.31; 95% CI − 0.07 to 0.70). Most studies were judged as low-risk of bias. The outcome measures were classified as very low to moderate evidence quality according to the Grading of Recommendation, Development and Evaluation tool. Conclusion: There is very-low-to-moderate quality evidence demonstrating that PBM has utility as a standalone and/or adjunctive therapy for tendinopathy disorders. Trial registration: PROPERO registration number: CRD42020202508.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1186/s13102-021-00306-z
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3202 Clinical sciences
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3406 Physical chemistry
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4201 Allied health and rehabilitation science
Current > Division/Research > First Year College
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords tendinopathy, photobiomodulation, pain, low-level laser therapy, meta-analysis, systematic review
Citations in Scopus 4 - View on Scopus
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