Exploring the efficacy of low-level laser therapy and exercise for knee osteoarthritis





Background: Knee Osteoarthritis (KOA) is a prevalent, chronic disorder with excessive functional, social and economic burdens. The goal of treatment is to alleviate the symptoms and slow the progression. Documenting the effects of exercise and LLLT as co-modalities in the management of KOA allows practitioners to implement this management tool as part of KOA rehabilitation, resulting in the earlier discharge from a supervised rehabilitation setting. 

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis (KOA). A randomised controlled trial (RCT) was conducted on 111 participants (aged between 40-75 years) diagnosed with KOA. Participants were randomised into an exercise (n=39), LLLT (n=40), or a combined exercise-LLLT (n=32) group. 

Methods: The Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) scale was used to assess pain and functionality. Knee range of motion was assessed using a goniometer, and the one-minute timed sit–to-stand test measured physical functionality at four time points: (T1) baseline, (T2) post 12-session intervention, (T3) one-month post intervention and (T4) three-month’s post intervention. Knee circumference was measured using a measuring tape. 

Results: WOMAC pain and functionality scale and knee circumference scores decreased in all three groups (P<0.05), but the combined exercise-LLLT group demonstrated better outcomes than the LLLT or exercise alone groups respectively. The combined exercise-LLLT group showed better acute and long-term benefits with participants experiencing a 3.5 centimetre decrease in knee circumference, 24 point improvement in the WOMAC pain and functionality scale, and a four repetition increase in physical functionality. 

Conclusion: The findings suggest that LLLT is a viable tool for managing KOA when used in conjunction with physical exercise. 


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How to Cite

Kholvadia, A., Constantinou, D., & Gradidge, P. (2019). Exploring the efficacy of low-level laser therapy and exercise for knee osteoarthritis. South African Journal of Sports Medicine, 31(1), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.17159/2078-516X/2019/v31i1a6058