Lasers in Medical Science

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 165–177 | Cite as

Effect of low-level phototherapy on delayed onset muscle soreness: a systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Fernando Kenji Nampo
  • Vinícius Cavalheri
  • Solange de Paula Ramos
  • Enilton Aparecido Camargo
Review Article


To determine the effectiveness of low-level phototherapy (i.e. light-emitting diode therapy [LEDtherapy] or light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation therapy [LASERtherapy]) on pain, skeletal muscle injury (creatine kinase [CK] levels and edema) and skeletal muscle function (range of movement and strength) in people undergoing an exercise protocol. (Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PEDro, SciELO and LILACS up to May 2014), we included randomized controlled trials, quasi-randomized controlled trials and crossover studies in which study participants were allocated to receive either low-level phototherapy or placebo treatment. Phototherapy should have been applied in a single treatment session, either before or after an exercise protocol. We identified 15 studies involving 317 participants. Meta-analyses were limited by substantial heterogeneity. Compared to the placebo group, reduction in CK levels was only observed when LASERtherapy was applied before an exercise protocol (standardized mean difference = −0.66; 95 % CI = -1.30, −0.02). No between-group difference in edema, range of movement and strength were detected when phototherapy was applied before or after exercise. Evidence from this review suggests that low-level phototherapy may not have substantial effect in the treatment of skeletal muscle injury and pain caused by exercise. Definitive conclusions are limited due to the small number of included studies in each meta-analysis, disparities across the included studies and small sample sizes.


Low-level laser therapy Phototherapy Skeletal muscle Muscle soreness Exercise 


Compliance with ethical standards


EAC is beneficiary of Conselho Nacional de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento Científico (CNPq) productivity grant. Remaining authors had no financial support for the submitted work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fernando Kenji Nampo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Vinícius Cavalheri
    • 4
  • Solange de Paula Ramos
    • 5
  • Enilton Aparecido Camargo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyUniversidade Federal de SergipeSão CristóvãoBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Physical TherapyUniversidade Federal de SergipeLagartoBrazil
  3. 3.Latin American Institute of Life and Natural SciencesUniversidade Federal da Integração Latino-AmericanaFoz do IguaçuBrazil
  4. 4.School of Physiotherapy and Exercise ScienceCurtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  5. 5.Department of HistologyUniversidade Estadual de LondrinaLondrinaBrazil

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