Shoulder Pain Relief with Laser Therapy

We don’t realize how much we use our shoulders until something goes wrong.  We use them for putting away dishes, lifting our kids, playing sports, trade work and so much more.  The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the body.  It moves in more directions than any other joint.  This tremendous mobility makes the shoulder joint vulnerable to problems.  Shoulder pain is one of the most common musculo-skeletal conditions that I see in my naturopathic practice.  If you have shoulder pain, it is wise to try and determine the source of the problem and take an active role in treatment so you can get back on track as quickly as possible.  Laser light therapy is a safe, painless and effective treatment for a variety of shoulder problems.

Determining the source of the problem requires a detailed physical examination of the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, bursa, ligaments and nerves.  I can often learn a great deal through a thorough physical exam involving structural palpation, muscle testing, orthopaedic tests and measuring range of motion.  Diagnostic imaging (x-ray, ultrasound, MRI or CT) can be helpful but are not always available for people with mild to moderate injuries.

The most common conditions I see are rotator cuff problems.  The rotator cuff is a sheath that is made up of four muscle tendons:  the suprapinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis muscles.   Tendonitis can set in, the tendons can become impinged under the top of the shoulder (acromion process of the scapula) or the tendons can be partially or fully torn.  The most common tear is in the supraspinatus muscle that runs along the top / back of the shoulder, under the acromion and attaches to the top of the arm bone (humerus).   When this muscle is affected, lifting the arm up to the side is very painful or impossible.   Rotator cuff issues are often associated with bicep tendonitis and bursitis, although these conditions can occur alone.  In bicep tendonitis, the tendon becomes inflamed or fibrotic, and commonly creates a deep, throbbing ache in the front of the shoulder.  Bursitis (inflamed padding of the shoulder) can create very acute pain with raising the arm.  Tears in the labrum (cartilage cuff inside the socket) can create deep joint pain and frozen shoulder.  Arthritis, in the ball and socket joint or where the collarbone meets the shoulder, can cause pain and reduced range of motion.

What are the treatment options?  Anti-inflammatory drugs create problems with daily use.  Surgery is necessary to repair a complete rotator cuff tear, but for most other conditions the effectiveness of shoulder surgery, according to published reports, is difficult to predict at best.  Exercise and stretching are important, but may not be feasible when the shoulder is too painful to move.  Laser therapy is a very effective treatment for speeding the healing of shoulder problems.  Extensive research has shown that laser light therapy is safe and effective treatment for tendonitis, bursitis, arthritis and other issues that affect the shoulder.  It reduces inflammation, increases circulation, speeds metabolism on a cellular level, reduces fibrosis and scar tissue, and strengthens tissue.  These mechanisms result in rapid resolution of pain.  Placebo controlled studies of laser therapy for even frozen shoulder have shown significant reduction in pain and disability.   In my clinic I use a state of the art laser light therapy machine with an extra large treatment head that uses nine laser beams to bathe large areas of the shoulder in the therapeutic light.  The laser beams can penetrate deeply into the tissues to safely and effectively promote healing.  Most of my patients with shoulder issues treated with 9-12 sessions of laser light therapy heal quickly, take less pain medication and are able to resume work and normal activities.

So take care of your hard working shoulders.   With laser light therapy, stretching, and therapeutic exercise, you may be able to enjoy relief from shoulder pain.

Wondering if laser therapy is right for you? Dr. Macdonald offers a free 15-minute consultation. Contact her naturopathic medical clinic in downtown Courtenay at (250) 897-0235 or via this website.

FAQ about Laser Therapy

Joint Pain Relief with Laser Therapy

Joint pain slowing you down?  There may be more options for treatment available than you know.  There is a relatively new physical therapy modality called laser therapy that can create rapid healing of joint problems.  It is a painless, effective therapy for the treatment of a wide array of muscle, joint, back and skin issues.  In my practice, it has been an invaluable tool for helping my patients.  Most of my patients who have utilized laser therapy for their joint problems have had relief from pain, increased range of motion, and are able to return to exercise and work   Also, in my experience, laser therapy is the only therapy that shows consistent benefit for arthritis sufferers.

This technology uses multiple laser diodes to bathe abnormal tissue with photons.  Photons are particles of energy that are absorbed by the cell.  Once inside the cells, light energy can be converted into biochemical energy to accelerate cell function.  The therapeutic light beam permits penetration of deep tissues without adversely affecting normal cells and the body’s natural tissue healing processes are enhanced.  The therapy doesn’t just mask symptoms.  It is curative and as logic dictates, symptoms resolve.

The Theralase laser device that I selected for my naturopathic medical clinic is a top of the line, Health Canada approved unit that is used in physiotherapy clinics and burn units around the world.  It has 9 laser diodes in one unit and allows for efficient, safe, powerful treatments.  Let’s look at a number of common joint problems and how they can be addressed with laser therapy:

Jaw pain:  In a published placebo controlled study, laser therapy was shown to significantly reduce pain, increase range of motion and decrease tender points in patients with MRI confirmed temporo-mandibular joint pathology.

Shoulders:  Shoulder pain can be caused by tendonitis (biceps tendonitis for example), rotator cuff injuries (often a torn supraspinatus muscle), bursitis, or deep joint problems.  Often several of these mechanisms can co-exist.  Laser therapy can effectively address each of these mechanisms and result in improved range of motion and decreased pain.  Many of my patients have also reported that they sleep better since their shoulders don’t hurt at night.

Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow:  These conditions are medically called epicondylitis,  inflammation of the tendon that attaches to the medial and lateral bumps of the elbow.  A placebo controlled study in Switzerland found that total relief of the pain and improved function was achieved in 82% of the acute cases.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (hand and wrist pain / numbness):   The treatment of this condition with laser therapy has been extensively studied.  In a review of 5 significant studies, it was found that the average success rate was 84%.  The patients had pain for an average of two years prior to entering the studies.  I have had several patients able to cancel surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome after about 9 treatments with laser therapy.

Bursitis of the hip:  This condition causes pain when sleeping on the affected side and also with activity.  It is the condition that I have found responds most consistently to laser therapy.  All the patients we have treated for this condition have improved, and I too have used it successfully for the same issue.

Knee Pain:  Osteoarthritis of the knee is a very common cause of significant disability for many seniors.  Who wants to wait until the condition is so bad that surgery is the only option?  In fact, studies have shown that with laser therapy, surgery can be avoided in many cases.  In humans, a meta-analysis of 36 randomized placebo-controlled trials found that 2-4 weeks of laser therapy offered significant pain relief compared to placebo controls.  Trials showed significant decrease in pain, reduction of swelling, increased range of motion and circulation.  Animal studies show that laser actually regenerates worn cartilage, increasing the thickness of cartilage.  Since real healing is what occurs with laser therapy, the results are sustained.  I have certainly seen the long term effects myself and in my patients.  Arthritis patients return for more treatments, but usually it is for a different joint!

Plantar fasciitis:  This painful condition affects the bottom of the foot.  I usually recommend stretches, exercises and massage for patients with this condition, along with laser therapy.  Research shows that patients report significantly less pain after a series of laser treatments.  A placebo controlled study found that the thickness of the plantar fascia was reduced.  Another study showed that 90% of patients experienced relief:  64% of patients had no pain and another 26% were significantly improved.  Unlike other treatments for plantar fasciitis, laser therapy is a painless process.

So why suffer?  Laser therapy is a safe and effective tool that can help you get back to the life you desire.  For more information about Dr. Macdonald’s state of the art laser therapy machine, click on laser therapy on her website www.getwellhere.com.  To book a free 15 minute consultation to see if laser therapy is the right treatment for you, call her medical office at 250 897-0235.

Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a naturopathic physician with a medical practice in downtown Courtenay. 

FAQ about Laser Therapy