Making Light of Pain

David Rindge, LAc, DOM, RN
Acupuncture Today
October 2011

Science and clinical experience have shown that low intensity lasers, leds and pulsed electromagnetic field therapy can significantly improve quality of life and alleviate pain even in many chronic conditions.  What would be the health and financial benefits for all Americans if these methods were on the front lines?

Interstitial Cystitis, Fibromyalgia, Asthma, Chronic Fatigue – Case Study

“Karen” was a 56 year old female diagnosed with interstitial cystitis and fibromyalgia in 1996.  Her chief complaints were constant bladder pressure / discomfort with urgency and urinary frequency, often requiring a restroom visit every half hour or less.  To address these concerns, laser needle therapy was administered transcutaneously over the bladder.  Her pre-treatment pain score of  4 was reduced to 1 immediately following laser needle therapy.

She reported significant improvements in bladder comfort overall with less pain, pressure and spasming and increasing freedom from the need to urinate with laser needle treatment. “Karen” is a snowbird, spending part of the year in her Florida home close to our clinic and the balance in Pennsylvania.  She was seen for 34 visits between February and June 2010 before leaving for Pennsylvania.

Besides administering laser needles over the bladder, she received low intensity laser probe and LED treatment as well as bio-electromagnetic therapy for pain in her neck, both shoulders, low back, coccyx and both knees – as well as to address asthma, sinusitis and digestive issues.  Her pain scores generally improved following treatments, and she also reported better breathing, digestion, energy and mood.  She began to exercise regularly, including walking, working out on a rebounder and eventually jogging.

I called “Karen” who was still in Pennsylvania on February 28, 2011 in preparation for this article and to inquire about her health and spirits and the long-term effects of our treatment.  “I am doing well,” she said.  “My bladder has been significantly better overall.  Before laser needle treatment I used to have a lot of pressure over the bladder, especially when rising to a standing position.  This has improved.  The biggest improvement lasted up until the cold weather which has always been very hard for me.  You should know that I was mostly house bound prior to beginning laser treatment.  When I started to exercise, I found that I could go farther and farther and choose where I wanted to go without thinking about my bladder or needing to urinate.  My energy has improved, and it’s still better.  My knees seldom bother me now and only a twinge if they do.  Shoulder and neck are better but could use more treatment.  I want others to know about the benefit of laser needles in IC and of laser light and magnetic fields.  I am dreaming of Florida sunshine, warmth, friends, birds, seashells, jogging, wonderful organic food and getting more pounds off the healthy way and of continued healing.”

Interstitial cystitis can be personally devastating.  In one survey of patients diagnosed with this condition, 55 percent reported that they had contemplated suicide, and 12 percent said they had actually attempted it;  40 percent were unable to work; 27 percent were unable to have sex because of pain;  27 per cent experienced a breakdown in their marriages.[1]

Trigeminal Neuralgia / Facial Pain / Headaches – Case Study

“Shirley” was a 58 year old female with a 15 year history of debilitating facial pain diagnosed variously as neuropathy in neck, ear and face, trigeminal neuralgia and neurological headaches.  She had been told that having all of her teeth removed was a possible solution. On her intake she wrote, “Many, many doctors.  My whole life is completely ruined by this.”  Her right-sided pain extended from the posterior and anterior neck to the mastoid bone, into the ear (at times), and it branched from the TM joint to the cheek and to the lower jaw.   During exacerbations, she often experienced pain behind the right eye and frontal headaches, and she reported depression, stress and thoughts of suicide, low energy, poor sleep and multiple digestive disturbances.

“Shirley” was treated with laser therapy, acupuncture and sometimes bio-electromagnetic therapy.  Pain scores which had been as high as 10 were reduced following treatment, and her baseline pain level improved.  “It’s given me back my life,” she said. She was discharged after 14 visits and has treated herself at home with an LED system.  Five months later she reported that although she still has had bad days, her quality of life, energy level, mood and comfort are better than they have been in some time.

Muscle Weakness and Wasting, Pain – Case Study

“Fay” was a 68 year old female with severe neck and shoulder pain whose chief complaints were weakness and muscle wasting, especially in the right arm, hand and fingers and the inability to grip objects or write.  Her hands were hot and painful when touched.  She said that tentative diagnoses of complex regional pain syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis had been proposed, and she reported that she had rheumatoid arthritis after sharing labs with me in which her erythrocyte sedimentation rate (52) and rheumatoid factor (21.7) were elevated.  Laser therapy was administered over the stellate ganglion[2] initially and later with direct contact to the affected arm, hand and fingers as pain eased.  She also received acupuncture and bio-electromagnetic therapy.

“Fay’s” vitamin D level tested low (18), and she began supplementing with 10,000 i.u. of D3 daily.  She also began a routine of swimming and water aerobics.  She was discharged after 24 visits and credits laser therapy plus exercise with a complete turnaround in her health.  Pre-treatment pain scores at her last few visits were 1-2 versus 8-9 at the outset of therapy, and she has regained muscle mass and the use of her hands, even to sew and paint watercolors.

Can we do better?

Pain is the chief reason people visit doctors.  As such, delivering the best possible therapy should be among the highest priorities in health care.

Low intensity lasers, LEDs and bio-electromagnetic therapy have been documented to help move the body through inflammation and to heal damaged tissue, regenerating bone, ligament, the lining of blood vessels, muscle, nerve, tendon and more, even improving health as measured by a wide variety of biomarkers.

While pharmaceuticals may make people feel better, they seldom have been shown to cure chronic painful conditions.  Energy-based treatments offer the possibility of a better way.  All three individuals in the case studies in this article had been experiencing long-standing, debilitating pain.  All sought treatment through conventional means without satisfaction, and all found benefit from energy-based treatments.

Chronic Pain –> Disability

Chronic pain affects more than one out of three U.S. citizens (>100 million of us).  Direct costs have been estimated at $100 billion.   Yet this number vastly understates the true financial burden, pain and suffering to the disabled directly and indirectly and to the economy and nation as a whole.

Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability.  Its price tag is enormous.  Yet many of these negatives might be avoided if energy-based treatments were implemented as first line therapies.  To see what researchers have reported about the effects of laser and bio-electromagnetic therapies in pain, visit:

You may be interested to learn what scientists have had to say about the benefits of these therapies in arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis and back pain, conditions reported as the #1 and #2 causes of disability.

NAALT 2011

If you are interested in learning about laser and other phototherapy, you are invited to attend the North American Association for Laser Therapy’s 2011 conference September 22 – 24, 2011 at the Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Shining Light On Inflammation & Repair is this year’s theme.

Keynote speakers will be Dr. Chukuka Enwemeka, a pioneer in the field of photobiomodulation, founding member of NAALT and co-editor of PhotoMedicine and Laser Surgery and Dr. Roberta Chow, principal investigator and author of perhaps the most widely read study in phototherapy and founding member of the Australian Medical Laser Association with 20 years clinical and research experience.

To learn more and register on line, visit

[1] Self-care effectiveness and health outcomes in women with interstitial cystitis: implications for mental health clinicians. DCWT Brennan – Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 1998 – Informa Healthcare
[2] Laser therapy over the stellate ganglion has been used successfully in complex regional pain syndrome also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Wee JS, Jung JC, Han JY, Lee SG, Rowe SM., Effects of Stellate Ganglion Irradiation by the Low-level Laser Therapy on Reflex Sympathetic Dystorphy of the Hemiplegic Arm. Chonnam Med J. 2001 Mar;37(1):49-54.