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Do Patients With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Benefit From Low-Level Laser Therapy? A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

  • Thierry P. Franke
    Affiliations
    Department of Rehabilitation, Physical Therapy Science & Sports, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neurosciences, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • Bart W. Koes
    Affiliations
    Department of General Practice, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

    Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Sven J. Geelen
    Affiliations
    Department of Rehabilitation, Physical Therapy Science & Sports, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neurosciences, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • Bionka M. Huisstede
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author Bionka M. Huisstede, PhD, Rehabilitation, Physical Therapy Science & Sports, University Medical Center Utrecht, Building W01.121, PO Box 85500, 3508 GA Utrecht, The Netherlands.
    Affiliations
    Department of Rehabilitation, Physical Therapy Science & Sports, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neurosciences, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
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      Abstract

      Objective

      To systematically review the literature on the effectiveness of low-level laser therapy for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.

      Data Sources

      The Cochrane Library, PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and Physiotherapy Evidence Database were searched for relevant systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) up to April 8, 2016.

      Study Selection

      Two reviewers independently applied the inclusion criteria to select potential studies.

      Data Extraction

      Two reviewers independently extracted the data and assessed the methodologic quality.

      Data Synthesis

      A best-evidence synthesis was performed to summarize the results of the 2 systematic reviews and 17 RCTs that were included. Strong evidence was found for the effectiveness of low-level laser therapy compared with placebo treatment in the very short term (0 to ≤5wk). After 5 weeks, the positive effects of low-level laser therapy on pain, function, or recovery diminished over time (moderate and conflicting evidence were found at 7- and 12-wk follow-up, respectively).

      Conclusions

      In the very short term, low-level laser therapy is more effective as a single intervention than placebo low-level laser therapy in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, after which the positive effects of low-level laser therapy tend to subside. Evidence in the midterm and long term is sparse.

      Keywords

      List of abbreviations:

      CTS (carpal tunnel syndrome), FSS (function severity scale), LLT (low-level laser therapy), PMF (pulsed magnetic field), RCT (randomized controlled trial), SSS (symptom severity scale), WALT (World Association for Laser Therapy)
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