Synovial membrane inflammation plays an important role in osteoarthritis (OA) pathophysiology. The synovial tissue of patients with initial OA is characterized by mononuclear cell infiltration and the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and other mediators of joint injury. The study aims to evaluate the effect of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) at doses of 2 and 4 J on joint inflammation in rats induced by papain through histopathological analysis, differential counts of inflammatory cells; gene expression of IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-10; and TNF-α protein expression. Male Wistar rats (20) were randomly divided (5 animals each) into a negative control group, an inflammation injury positive control group, a 2-J LLLT group subjected to injury and treated with 2 J of LLLT, and a 4-J LLLT group subjected to injury and treated with 4 J of LLLT. The animals were subjected to joint inflammation (4 % papain solution) and treated with LLLT. On the day of euthanasia, articular lavage was collected and centrifuged. The supernatant was analyzed for TNF-α protein expression by ELISA and IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-10 mRNA by RT-PCR. The joint tissue was also examined histologically. ANOVA with Tukey's post hoc test was used for comparisons. All data were expressed as means ± S.D. (p < 0.05). Both laser modalities were efficient in reducing cellular inflammation and decreasing the expression of IL-1β and IL-6. However, the 2-J treatment led to more reduction in TNF-α than the 4-J treatment. A single application of LLLT with 2 J was more efficient in modulating inflammatory mediators and inflammatory cells.