Some massage therapists’ legal scope of practice allows the use of lasers—and utilizing this tool in session could help reduce massage clients’ pain.

New research shows low-level laser therapy (LLLT) reduces pain after treatment for non-specific neck pain.

Chronic neck pain is a highly prevalent condition, affecting 10 to 24 percent of the population, according to a press release from the University of Sydney, Australia, where the study’s researchers are.

LLLT uses noninvasive, painless laser irradiation to aid tissue repair, relieve pain and stimulate acupuncture points. Incidence of adverse effects is low and similar to that of placebo, with no reports of serious events, the release noted.

In this study, the authors did a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials to assess the efficacy of LLLT in neck pain. They used a 100-point scale to determine difference in pain experienced.

The team identified 16 randomised controlled trials including a total of 820 patients. For acute neck pain, evidence was limited to two trials with mixed results, showing that patients were around 70% more likely to experience reduced pain following LLLT compared with placebo.

The authors say that the mechanisms for LLLT-mediated pain relief are not fully understood, but could involve reducing inflammation, nerve conduction of painful stimuli, and muscle fatigue. “Which of these mechanisms are most important cannot be determined, because all of the trials irradiated several points overlying joints, nerves, and muscles.”

The research will run in an upcoming edition of the Lancet.