Light therapy and Peripheral Neuropathy
Light therapy and Peripheral Neuropathy
What is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy occurs when there is direct damage to a nerve outside the brain and spinal cord. Most commonly, it affects the hands and feet. However, it can also affect the sciatic nerve, or nerves in the neck and shoulder. Sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck radiculopathy and thoracic outlet syndrome are all common types of peripheral neuropathies, and many people with disc bulges or pinched nerves in their neck or back can also go on to develop this kind of injury.
The pain in peripheral neuropathy is a specific type of pain, that can feel like sharp stabbing pain or an intense dull ache. Often, there is also numbness, pins and needles, burning, or muscle weakness and paralysis. Sometimes it feels like you’re wearing gloves or socks when you’re not, and even the slightest touch, such as the feeling of bedsheets against the skin, can feel excruciating. It can also disrupt digestion, circulation, blood pressure or urination, as well as balance, gait, and movement coordination.
Anyone can develop peripheral neuropathy, however it is particularly common in people with autoimmune disease, diabetes, post-chemotherapy, or after shingles (a varicella zoster infection of the nerves). It affects nearly 50% of adults with diabetes during their lifetime, and can lead to foot ulcers in up to 50% of cases . It can also affect up to 70% of people after chemotherapy treatment . In people undergoing chemotherapy, light therapy has also been shown to be effective in treating associated lymphoedema, pain, dermatitis, and jaw issues .
Peripheral neuropathy significantly impacts on peoples’ quality of life, not just due to the intense pain, but also the increased difficulty walking and moving, as well as the other effects on movement, sensation and body function. In extreme cases when it is not treated effectively, the destruction of the nerves is so great it can lead to amputation.
Medication for peripheral neuropathy is unfortunately not very effective, and many people still experience intense pain. Because peripheral neuropathy is a condition of the nervous system, the drugs are usually very powerful, and come with serious side effects. Lyrica, or pregabalin, a common medication that is often prescribed for neuropathic pain, can be highly addictive, and can lead to strong withdrawal symptoms. Many people are also made to stop driving, as the side effects can also include intense dizziness and drowsiness, as well as weight gain and dysregulated appetite.
How does light therapy help?
Light therapy is a natural, painless therapy that’s shown to be effective in treating peripheral neuropathy [3-5]. Red and infrared laser light used at very specific doses and wavelengths has been shown to modulate pain signals from injured nerves, as well as promote healing and repair by improving blood flow and circulation through nitric oxide release. It also triggers a whole cascade of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and regulates the influx of intra-cellular calcium, both which are fundamental for nerve growth and repair. In this way, light therapy has been shown to stimulate neurogenesis, which is the growth of new healthy nerve cells, as well as be neuroprotective against future nerve damage.
Check out this systematic review, for instance, which summarises some of the research for low-level laser light therapy for diabetic peripheral neuropathy (link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31405692/).
Which device to buy?
Given nerves can take a long time to heal, having a device that is drug-free, effective, painless, and can be done from the comfort of your own home is extremely useful. The SYMBYX Biome DermaCare and PhysioCare devices are both medically-approved laser light therapy devices available for home-use. Both devices can be used to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as improve tissue repair. The DermaCare uses red light at the wavelength of 635 nm, which is effective for treating peripheral neuropathy of the hands and feet. However, for deeper issues, such as sciatica, the PhysioCare may be the recommended device. This is because it uses infrared light, at 904 nm, which penetrates deeper. If you are unsure which device is best for you, our international Clinical Support team are available to provide ongoing support and guidance. They are well-versed in treating people with peripheral neuropathy, and you can contact them anytime at email@example.com.
To find out more information about our devices, and to order, please go here. All our devices come with free international DHL shipping.
- . Wang J, Huang Z, Deng H, et al. Low level light therapy/photobiomodulation for diabetic peripheral neuropathy: protocol of a systematic review and meta-analysis .BMJ Open 2022;12:e059476. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-059476
- Joy, L., Jolien, R., Marithé, C., Stijn, E., Laura, S., Hilde, L., … Jeroen, M. (2022). The use of photobiomodulation therapy for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy: a randomized, placebo-controlled pilot trial (NEUROLASER trial). Supportive Care in Cancer, 30(6), 5509–5517. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-022-06975-x
- Robijns, J., Censabella, S., Bulens, P., Maes, A., & Mebis, J. (2017). The use of low-level light therapy in supportive care for patients with breast cancer: review of the literature. Lasers in Medical Science, 32(1), 229–242. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10103-016-2056-y
- M, A., Ummer V, S., Maiya, A. G., & Hande, M. (2019). Low level laser therapy for the patients with painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy - A systematic review. Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome Clinical Research & Reviews, 13(4), 2667–2670. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsx.2019.07.035
- Vieira, W. F., Malange, K. F., de Magalhães, S. F., Lemes, J. B. P., dos Santos, G. G., Nishijima, C. M., … Parada, C. A. (2022). Anti-hyperalgesic effects of photobiomodulation therapy (904 nm) on streptozotocin-induced diabetic neuropathy imply MAPK pathway and calcium dynamics modulation. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 16730–16730. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-19947-2
- Robinson, C. C., Klahr, P. D. S., Stein, C., Falavigna, M., Sbruzzi, G., & Plentz, R. D. M. (2017). Effects of monochromatic infrared phototherapy in patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Revista Brasileira de Fisioterapia (São Carlos (São Paulo, Brazil)), 21(4), 233–243. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bjpt.2017.05.008