Tension-type headache is among the most prevalent primary headache disorders and may be related to stress or musculoskeletal problems. Due to the possible side effects of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), opiates, and other analgesics, the medical community is trying to find safe, alternative ways to treat tension-type headaches. Laser Therapy also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is one such treatment that is proving to be revolutionary in the treatment of chronic or acute pain, primarily due to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
Whether you suffer from a chronic headache due to tension or stress, constant throbbing pain can be uncomfortable and frustrating. WHO estimates the prevalence of headache disorders, or recurring headaches, among adults to be around 50% globally, although the problem affects individuals of all ages.
What is Laser Therapy? Is it Useful?
Since 1967, more than 100 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials (RCTs) have been conducted to investigate the effects of Laser Therapy, with more than 1,000 supporting laboratory research studies. Numerous conditions, including osteoarthritis, wounds, chronic pain, muscle exhaustion, and parietal nerve injury, have been the subject of RCTs with promising results. 
Laser Therapy or photobiomodulation is a fairly recent treatment and has been shown to enhance cellular metabolism, stimulate anti-inflammatory responses, and is known for its analgesic effects. Transcranial PBMT (photobiomodulation therapy) is the term used to describe noninvasive Laser Therapy, which involves delivering light to the brain and head. In this treatment, light passes through the scalp, periosteum, bone, meninges, and dura mater and finally reaches the cortical surface of the brain.
Procedure and Side Effects
Photobiomodulation or Laser Therapy involves applying laser light, with varying outputs and wavelengths, directly to the region being treated. The light is then absorbed by the bodily tissue. The injured cells react to the red and near-infrared light by triggering a series of physiological responses that promotes healing and cellular regeneration. Common wavelengths used to treat superficial tissue range from 600 to 700 nanometers (nm), while wavelengths between 780 and 980 nm are for deeper penetration.
To the patient, the laser instrument will feel like it is touching their skin, but the process is painless and noninvasive. Usually, each treatment only lasts a few minutes. There are no reported side effects of Laser Therapy, and unlike drugs, it doesn’t cause dependence or addiction.
How can Laser Therapy help with Tension-Type Headaches?
Laser therapy reduces inflammation/edema, induces collagen synthesis, stimulates the production of myofibroblasts, and in turn accelerates wound healing.  It also decreases oxidative stress, leading to increased cellular respiration and slowing down muscle fatigue.  All of these benefits, including slowed down muscle fatigue, can evidently contribute to helping with tension-type headaches. Here is some scientific literature that suggests the efficacy of laser therapy in treating headaches.
Research on Laser Therapy and Headache
The efficacy of Laser Therapy in the treatment of primary headaches is well-documented. A significant systematic review of 9 RCTs shows that Laser Therapy helps decrease the frequency, duration, and intensity of headaches.
One study investigated the effects of laser acupuncture on chronic tension-type headaches. The trial included 50 patients who suffered from chronic tension-type headache, where 25 received laser acupuncture and the rest were in a placebo group. Pain intensity, duration, and the number of attacks were investigated for three months. The results revealed that, compared to the sham group, significant improvements were noted in the treatment group, with reduced pain and less frequent attacks over the long run.
Laser Therapy for Muscle Tension and Musculoskeletal Pain
Investigations into the effects of light on muscular soreness after muscle damage have shown positive results. A study showed significant improvements in the treatment of muscle tension and hardness through the use of Laser Therapy. Laser Therapy also has neuro-regenerative effects by altering mitochondrial oxidative metabolism, which suggests that it can have benefits in stress management. Another review of the literature published between 1960 and 2008 shows the efficacy of Laser Therapy in tissue regeneration. LLLT has been shown to promote healing in a variety of musculoskeletal pathologies, leading to relief from pain and stress. When combined, all of these advantages of Light Therapy can be applied in the treatment of headache.
An ample amount of research shows the efficacy of laser therapy in treating tension-type headaches. You can finally get rid of throbbing pain, waves of nausea, and discomfort caused by headaches by using an effective and safe treatment procedure. Check out our FDA-cleared, customizable, unattended laser devices. We would be happy to discuss your laser options, please complete the contact us form.
 World Health Organization. (2016, April 8). Headache disorders. WHO. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/headache-disorders
 Hamblin MR. Photobiomodulation or low-level laser therapy. J Biophotonics. 2016 Dec;9(11-12):1122-1124. doi: 10.1002/jbio.201670113. PMID: 27973730; PMCID: PMC5215795.
 de Freitas LF, Hamblin MR. Proposed Mechanisms of Photobiomodulation or Low-Level Light Therapy. IEEE J Sel Top Quantum Electron. 2016 May-Jun;22(3):7000417. doi: 10.1109/JSTQE.2016.2561201. PMID: 28070154; PMCID: PMC5215870.
 Hamblin MR. Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation. AIMS Biophys. 2017;4(3):337-361. doi: 10.3934/biophy.2017.3.337. Epub 2017 May 19. PMID: 28748217; PMCID: PMC5523874.
 Salehpour F, Mahmoudi J, Kamari F, Sadigh-Eteghad S, Rasta SH, Hamblin MR. Brain Photobiomodulation Therapy: a Narrative Review. Mol Neurobiol. 2018 Aug;55(8):6601-6636. doi: 10.1007/s12035-017-0852-4. Epub 2018 Jan 11. PMID: 29327206; PMCID: PMC6041198.
 Hennessy M, Hamblin MR. Photobiomodulation and the brain: a new paradigm. J Opt. 2017 Jan;19(1):013003. doi: 10.1088/2040-8986/19/1/013003. Epub 2016 Dec 14. PMID: 28580093; PMCID: PMC5448311.
 Medrado, A.R., Pugliese, L.S., Reis, S.R.A. and Andrade, Z.A. (2003), Influence of low level laser therapy on wound healing and its biological action upon myofibroblasts. Lasers Surg. Med., 32: 239-244. https://doi.org/10.1002/lsm.10126
 Posten, W., Wrone, D.A., Dover, J.S., Arndt, K.A., Silapunt, S. and Alam, M. (2005), Low-Level Laser Therapy for Wound Healing: Mechanism and Efficacy. Dermatologic Surgery, 31: 334-340. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1524-4725.2005.31086
 Jówko, E., Płaszewski, M., Cieśliński, M. et al. The effect of low level laser irradiation on oxidative stress, muscle damage and function following neuromuscular electrical stimulation. A double blind, randomised, crossover trial. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil 11, 38 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13102-019-0147-3
 Leal Junior EC, Lopes-Martins RA, Dalan F, Ferrari M, Sbabo FM, Generosi RA, Baroni BM, Penna SC, Iversen VV, Bjordal JM. Effect of 655-nm low-level laser therapy on exercise-induced skeletal muscle fatigue in humans. Photomed Laser Surg. 2008 Oct;26(5):419-24. doi: 10.1089/pho.2007.2160. PMID: 18817474.
 Gomes AO, Martimbianco ALC, Brugnera Junior A, Horliana ACRT, da Silva T, Santos EM, Fragoso YD, Fernandes KPS, Nammour S, Bussadori SK. Photobiomodulation for the Treatment of Primary Headache: Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials. Life (Basel). 2022 Jan 11;12(1):98. doi: 10.3390/life12010098. PMID: 35054491; PMCID: PMC8781567.
 Ebneshahidi NS, Heshmatipour M, Moghaddami A, Eghtesadi-Araghi P. The effects of laser acupuncture on chronic tension headache–a randomised controlled trial. Acupunct Med. 2005 Mar;23(1):13-8. doi: 10.1136/aim.23.1.13. PMID: 15844435.
 Yonezu T, Kogure S. The effect of low-level laser irradiation on muscle tension and hardness compared among three wavelengths. Laser Ther. 2013;22(3):201-7. doi: 10.3136/islsm.22.201. PMID: 24204094; PMCID: PMC3813998.
 Huang YY, Gupta A, Vecchio D, de Arce VJ, Huang SF, Xuan W, Hamblin MR. Transcranial low level laser (light) therapy for traumatic brain injury. J Biophotonics. 2012 Nov;5(11-12):827-37. doi: 10.1002/jbio.201200077. Epub 2012 Jul 17. PMID: 22807422; PMCID: PMC5379852.
 da Silva JP, da Silva MA, Almeida AP, Lombardi Junior I, Matos AP. Laser therapy in the tissue repair process: a literature review. Photomed Laser Surg. 2010 Feb;28(1):17-21. doi: 10.1089/pho.2008.2372. PMID: 19764898.
 Cotler HB, Chow RT, Hamblin MR, Carroll J. The Use of Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) For Musculoskeletal Pain. MOJ Orthop Rheumatol. 2015;2(5):00068. doi: 10.15406/mojor.2015.02.00068. Epub 2015 Jun 9. PMID: 26858986; PMCID: PMC4743666.
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