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  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. 

Knee Pain Relief with Laser Therapy

One of the most common injuries that people experience as they get older is knee pain.  You depend on your knees to stay active.  Knee pain can significantly affect quality of life when it limits the enjoyment of your favorite activities, and especially if it interferes with your sleep.  Years ago, in my naturopathic medical practice, I was struck by the lack of good options for helping people with knee pain and set out to find a treatment that would provide real and lasting pain reduction for my patients.  I too had an old knee injury that was becoming arthritic.  I was impressed by the research on laser therapy and have been delighted to find that it has helped me and many of my patients to enjoy life without knee pain.  Laser therapy has helped patients with knee problems to enjoy reduced pain, increased mobility and a return to the activities they enjoy.

Low Intensity Laser Therapy (LILT) has been used successfully as a treatment for an extensive range of acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions.  This painless procedure speeds the healing of tissues, including cartilage, ligaments, muscles, bursa, nerves, tendons and skin.  It enhances DNA synthesis, cell replication, cellular nutrition, circulation and has both anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects.  The effectiveness of treating knee pain with laser therapy has been well established in human and animal placebo-controlled, double-blind studies.

The majority of the knee pain is due to osteoarthritis.  Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear on the knee joint and affects 80% of people by the age of 65.  When cartilage begins to wear down in the knee joint, the bone begins to get exposed and irritated, sometimes causing bone spurs to form.  This breakdown can lead to sharp medial knee pain.  It is often worse first thing in the morning, after sitting or driving for a while, and going down stairs.  Swelling may be present, especially in the inner side of the knee. Baker’s cysts in the back of the knee may also contribute to pain and swelling.  With recent studies showing little benefit from arthroscopic surgery for arthritic knees, and the side effects of pain medications making them an undesirable long term treatment option, patients are left with either pain and limitation or the long wait for knee replacement.

Laser therapy is an excellent treatment choice for arthritis that has been proven to work in many well designed studies.  In animal studies, laser therapy has been shown to decelerate the arthritic process, regenerate worn cartilage, and increase the thickness of cartilage.  In humans, a meta-analysis of eight randomized placebo-controlled trials found that 2-4 weeks of laser therapy offered significant, lasting pain relief compared to placebo controls.  It was shown to be more effective than acupuncture or other physiotherapy treatments.  Another more recent clinical trial measured a significant decrease in pain, reduction of knee swelling, increased range of motion and circulation compared to a placebo group that was treated with a sham laser.

In my naturopathic medical practice, I use a state of the art Low Level Laser Therapy machine called the Theralase that utilizes a unique laser probe providing nine laser beams versus the usual one.  This higher intensity treatment is ideally suited for treating joints like the knee.

Other knee conditions that can be successfully treated by low level laser therapy include chondromalacia patella (often seen in runners), meniscus tears (pain in the inner and outer knee), rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, and ligament strains and tears (often acute sports injuries).

Over the counter and prescription anti-inflammatory medications, while providing good pain relief, come at a cost.  Sustained use of ibuprofen (Advil) increases the risk of bleeding ulcers and other gastro-intestinal side effects.  Patients looking for safer anti-inflammatories have several options.  For those who are currently dependent on anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, I will often write a prescription for a topical anti-inflammatory medicine called Diclofenac.  Numerous studies have shown that prescription strength topical diclofenac provides similar pain reduction in osteoarthritis of the knee to oral NSAIDS like ibuprofen, without the risk of stomach bleeding.   Alternatively, a natural topical cream called Traumeel was recently featured in the International Journal of Internal Medicine.  Upon review of the placebo controlled studies of Traumeel, it was concluded that “Traumeel has shown comparable effectiveness to NSAIDs in terms of reducing symptoms of inflammation, accelerating recovery, and improving mobility, with a favourable safety profile”.  Natural oral anti-inflammatories include fish oil and turmeric.  Both of these natural medicines have many side benefits instead of side effects!  One turmeric extract product called Mireva has shown to have superior absorption and effectiveness.  In a large, nine month placebo controlled study of Meriva’s effect on osteoarthritis of the knee, the Mireva group showed a significant decrease in pain and increase in range of motion versus the placebo group.  So don’t let knee pain slow you down.  With natural medicines and laser therapy, safe, painless and effective treatment is available.

To book a free 15-minute consultation with Courtenay naturopathic physician Dr. Deidre Macdonald to see if laser therapy is right for you, please call (250) 897-0235 or contact us here.

Hip Pain Relief with Laser Therapy

Hip pain can be a real pain in the butt!  Understanding the cause of your hip pain will help you determine the best treatment for you.  There are non-surgical solutions to hip pain, even for degenerative osteoarthritis of the hip.


Osteoarthritis is basically wear and tear in the ball and socket joint.  The “ball” is the head of the femur (upper leg bone) and the socket is the acetabulum- a part of the pelvis.  It is important to differentiate true hip pain from other types of pain in the hip region. True hip pain is usually felt towards the front, in the groin region. It may radiate down the front of the thigh.  The most effective non-surgical therapy for hip arthritis is low level laser therapy.  It is a painless technique proven to significantly reduce the signs and symptoms of arthritis.  I have used laser light therapy since 2007 in my naturopathic medical practice and have had many patients with hip arthritis regain mobility and reduce pain dramatically. 

Greater Trochanteric Bursitis:

Pain felt on the lateral part of the hip (side of the hip) is usually due to greater trochanteric bursitis. It is aggravated by walking, lying down on the affected side, and crossing the leg of the affected side. It can be painful to press on the boney part of the side of the hip.  This is the most common cause of hip pain that I see in clinical practice.  I use state of the art laser light therapy to relieve this condition.  In most cases, 8 to 10 thirty minute treatments alleviates the problem and patients can regain mobility and enjoy a good night sleep again.  There are other bursas in the hip area that can create acute pain, often in the front groin area.  Laser therapy reduces inflammation and pain in any bursitis.

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction:

The Sacroiliac joints are located at the very bottom of the back. There is one on either side of the spine. The Sacroiliac joints help make up the rear part of the pelvic girdle and sit between the sacrum and the Ilia (hip bones).  These joints provide subtle movement in the pelvic girdle when walking.  They can become malaligned, too mobile or too fixed resulting in problems with surrounding structures such as ligaments and muscles.  Therefore, sacroiliac joint problems can cause a wide range of symptoms throughout the lower back and buttocks, or even into the thigh or groin.

Classic symptoms are:

  • Difficulty turning over in bed
  • Struggling to put on shoes and socks
  • Pain getting your legs in and out of the car
  • Stiffness in the lower back when getting up after sitting for long periods and when getting up from bed in the morning
  • Aching on one side of your lower back when driving long distances
  • There may be tenderness on palpating the large ligaments which surround the joint and hold it together.

There are many approaches to relieving sacroiliac joint problems, such as chiropractic adjustments and other manual techniques to re-align the joint.  Laser therapy effectively targets the ligaments that are strained in the joint, quickly reducing pain. Strengthening the ligaments that provide the joint structure, laser therapy often creates long term results.

Piriformis syndrome:

The piriformis muscle runs across the buttock from the edge of the sacrum to the top of the femur, specifically at the greater trochanter.  If this muscle is tight, it can aggravate both trochanteric bursitis and sacroiliac joint problems.  It is also one possible cause of sciatic nerve pain that can run down the leg.  The sciatic nerve runs through the belly of the piriformis muscle, so if the muscle is tight, the nerve can become irritated.

Treatments can include stretches that target the muscle, massage for the area, and laser light therapy.  Laser light therapy increases circulation to the muscle, triples the energy output of muscle cells (ATP), causes nutrients to flood the cells, increases collagen synthesis and ultimately speeds the healing process and results in rapid resolution of muscle and ligament problems.

Referred pain from the nerves in the spine:

Pain felt in the buttock is often referred from the lower back.  Degeneration of the spinal vertebrae can result in narrowed channels for the nerves that exit the spine (spinal stenosis). Nerves can become pinched and pain can be felt both in the spine and down the buttocks and legs (as in sciatica).  Degenerated or protruding discs can also cause pressure on the nerves that affect the hip area.
In my experience only about 5% of patients truly require surgery for such problems.  Laser light therapy has been shown to significantly reduce pain from disc disease in over 90% of patients in a Canadian clinical trial.  Spinal stenosis also responds well to this treatment that is used in physiotherapy clinics across Canada.  I use a state of the art laser light therapy machine called Theralase.  Our laser probe provides a safe, high intensity treatment from nine laser beams.  Laser light stimulates cellular processes that help regenerate and heal damaged tissues.

So don’t suffer with hip and back pain.  When I assess a patient with hip pain, a detailed physical examination and medical history are critical in determining what the root of the problem is.  Then, with targeted, effective treatments, relief can often be had without drugs or surgery.  Don’t wait until it’s too late!

To book a free 15-minute consultation to see if laser therapy is right for you, or for more information about Dr. Deidre Macdonald’s naturopathic medical practice in downtown Courtenay, contact her office at (250) 897-0235 or via this web site. Most extended health plans accepted.