Innovations in Neuropathy Treatments: Laser and Shockwave Therapy

Do you ever experience tingling, numbness, or burning pain in your hands and feet? These could be symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, a surprisingly common condition affecting millions of people. 

Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage in the nerves outside of your brain and spinal cord, specifically those that connect to your hands and feet–AKA the peripheral nervous system. This damage can cause a variety of uncomfortable sensations and impact your balance and coordination. Peripheral neuropathy can significantly affect your quality of life, making everyday activities challenging.

Recently, two new technologies have emerged as drug-free, non-invasive solutions for neuropathy: laser treatments and shockwave therapy. Let’s talk about how they work.

Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy

The tingling, numbness and burning pain associated with peripheral neuropathy all stem from damaged nerves. Our peripheral nerves act as messengers, carrying signals between your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. When these nerves become damaged, they can send mixed or even false signals, resulting in the uncomfortable sensations you might experience.

What causes neuropathy?

The most common culprit behind peripheral nerve damage is diabetes mellitus. High blood sugar levels associated with this disease can damage nerves, particularly in the hands and feet, in what’s called diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

However, diabetes isn’t the only source of nerve pain and damage. Other possible causes include: 

  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency 
  • Infections like shingles and Lyme disease
  • Traumatic injury, compression and repetitive stress 
  • Toxins, including alcohol and some medications
  • Vascular damage or disease

It’s important to note that this list isn’t exhaustive. If you’re experiencing symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, consulting a healthcare professional for diagnosis is crucial to determine the underlying cause and develop the best treatment plan. 

Current Treatment Options for Neuropathy

If you’ve been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, there’s good news: several treatment options can help manage your symptoms. Traditional approaches often involve medications to manage pain, such as antidepressants or anticonvulsants. Another option is physical therapy. Physical therapists can teach you exercises to improve strength, flexibility and balance, potentially helping you manage the impact of neuropathy on your daily activities. 

While these treatments can be helpful, they may have limitations. Medications can have side effects such as drowsiness or dizziness, and their focus is often on pain management rather than addressing the underlying nerve damage. Physical therapy, while valuable, might not fully address the pain or sensory issues you’re experiencing. 

Innovative Approaches: Class IV Laser Treatments and Shockwave Therapy

Alongside traditional treatments, innovative options like Class IV laser therapy and shockwave therapy are the newest tools for managing peripheral neuropathy. These non-invasive approaches, typically available in chiropractic clinics, offer a promising alternative for individuals seeking drug-free pain relief. 

Here’s what makes them stand out:

  • Non-invasive: Unlike surgeries or injections, these treatments are entirely non-invasive, meaning there are no needles or incisions involved. This translates to a more comfortable experience with minimal recovery time.
  • Minimal Side Effects:  Laser therapy and shockwave therapy are generally well-tolerated, with minimal side effects reported. 
  • Potential for Pain Relief:  A key benefit of both treatments is their potential to reduce neuropathic pain. By addressing underlying issues like blood flow and inflammation, these therapies may offer significant relief and improve your overall comfort.
  • Improved Quality of Life:  With reduced pain and potentially improved nerve function, laser therapy and shockwave therapy may significantly enhance your quality of life. You might experience better mobility, increased balance and a renewed ability to enjoy daily activities.

How Does Laser Therapy Treat Neuropathy?

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) utilizes specific wavelengths of laser light to interact with damaged nerves. Laser irradiation is thought to cause photobiomodulation, a process that stimulates the release of growth factors and proteins called cytokines. These fight inflammation in the body, increase blood vessel dilation and production of ATP (energy for cells) and even encourage nerve regeneration. The laser light is also believed to release endorphins, your body’s natural pain relievers.

Research on the efficacy of low-level laser therapy treatment for neuropathy is ongoing, but some studies suggest it may be a helpful tool for managing pain and improving nerve function in Type 2 diabetes patients.

What does Class IV laser mean?

The term “Class IV” refers to the classification system established by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for medical lasers based on their power output. Class IV lasers are the most powerful type used in therapeutic settings. While they deliver a higher output compared to lower class lasers, they are still carefully controlled to ensure safe and effective treatment. 

In the context of neuropathy treatments, Class IV lasers are used in low-level laser therapy, also known as cold laser therapy, to deliver precise doses of light energy to stimulate cellular activity and promote healing.

How Can Shockwave Therapy Help with Neuropathy?

Shockwave therapy uses acoustic waves (sound waves) to target affected tissues. These waves are thought to stimulate blood flow, promote tissue repair and potentially reduce inflammation. 

In the case of peripheral neuropathy, shockwave therapy may help improve blood flow to damaged nerves, which can aid in healing and pain reduction. Additionally, the stimulation from the shockwaves may contribute to improved nerve function. 

As with laser therapy, research into this treatment is ongoing. However, at least one clinical trial has shown it to be effective for post-shingles nerve pain.

Taking Charge of Your Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy can be a challenging condition, but there’s hope. Alongside traditional treatments, innovative approaches like laser therapy and shockwave therapy offer promising possibilities for managing pain, improving nerve function and ultimately enhancing your quality of life. 
While research on these therapies is ongoing, the potential benefits are significant. Remember, the best course of action is to discuss these options with your healthcare provider. They can help you determine if laser therapy or shockwave therapy might be a good fit for your individual needs and create a personalized treatment plan to help you find relief and improve your overall health.

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