A new device that combines low-intensity laser light and therapeutic ultrasound considerably reduces the pain experienced by patients with fibromyalgia.
A scientific study has shown that application to the palms instead of to tender points on different parts of the body has better analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. As a result of pain reduction, patients also sleep better and are able to perform daily tasks with less discomfort. Their overall quality of life also improves.
In an article published in the Journal of Novel Physiotherapies, researchers at the Optics and Photonics Research Center (CEPOF), one of the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs) supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation – FAPESP, describe the concomitant application of low-intensity laser light and therapeutic ultrasound for three minutes to the palms of the hands of patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The treatment consisted of ten twice-weekly sessions.
“The study describes two innovations: the device and the treatment protocol. By emitting laser light and ultrasound simultaneously, we succeeded in normalizing the patient’s pain threshold. Application to the palms differs from the focus on tender points found practically everywhere today in fibromyalgia care,” said Antônio Eduardo de Aquino Junior, a researcher at the University of São Paulo’s São Carlos Physics Institute (IFSC-USP) in Brazil and a coauthor of the article.
The research was also funded by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and the Brazilian Innovation Agency (FINEP).
The principal investigator for the project was Vanderlei Salvador Bagnato, Full Professor and Director of IFSC-USP.
In the study, 48 women aged 40-65 and diagnosed with fibromyalgia were divided into six groups of eight at the Clinical Research Unit run by IFSC-USP in partnership with the Santa Casa de Misericórdia hospital in São Carlos, São Paulo State.
Three groups received applications of laser or ultrasound separately or combined in the region of the trapezius muscle. The other three groups received applications only to the palms.
The results showed that treatment involving application to the palms was more effective regardless of the technique, but the laser-ultrasound combination significantly improved the patients’ condition. Assessments were performed using the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and the Visual Analogue Scale for Pain (VASP).
A comparison of the groups showed a difference of 57.72% in functionality improvement and of 63.31% in pain reduction for the ultrasound-laser group in the case of application to the trapezius. Ultrasound-laser application to the palms produced a 73.37% difference in pain reduction compared with application to the trapezius.
The idea of testing the effects of the new device in application to the palms of the hands arose from a review of the scientific literature.
“Previous studies showed that patients with fibromyalgia had larger numbers of neuroreceptors near blood vessels in the hands. Some patients even had red points in this region. We therefore changed focus to test the direct action of the technique on these sensory cells in the hands rather than just so-called pain trigger points, such as the trapezius, which is typically very painful in fibromyalgia patients,” said Juliana da Silva Amaral Bruno, a physical therapist and first author of the study.