Treatments For Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms can be excruciatingly painful and completely limit your day-to-day activities. Sometimes the pain, tingling, burning, warm, or cold symptoms slowly develop over weeks or months. Other times the symptoms develop very fast and become severe within a few weeks.
There are multiple known causes for peripheral neuropathy, including diabetes, toxic exposure, chemicals, medication reactions, inherited genetic disease, and then in some cases it develops without any known reason.
Treatment goals are to decrease the neuropathy symptoms. Some people respond better to medications to reduce their symptom intensity. However many people find that medications are not enough to decrease the burning and tingling intensity or eliminate the daily sensation changes in the hands and feet.
Conservative treatment for nerves damaged by neuropathy involve increasing cellular health and function within that nerve. Different treatments are utilized to enhance the sensation and stimulus through those nerves with specific exercises and activities. Many people with neuropathy find their balance slowly deteriorates over time or they become slightly unstable. Some find they develop hand muscle weakness or fatigue. These are all examples of a nerve not functioning as optimally as it should.
Damaged nerves are unable to completely heal and repair, in addition to their altered function. Nerves are usually able to transmit a signal from the spine down to the end of the nerve in the toes with an expected speed. The NCV testing that your physician may have performed often shows a decreased function in the ability and speed to transmit the signal down the nerve. If this is a motor neuron that controls muscle contraction, the signal is altered from the spine down to the muscles in the feet and toes. Sensory neurons show dysfunction in their ability to transmit the nerve signal from the toes back up to the spinal cord. These neurons are unable to produce their cellular products and repair mechanisms needed for the nerve to fully heal and repair, and the nerve remains in a state of chronic injury.
Vibration therapy enhances the signal from the toes up to the spinal cord and requires the body to send signals down the motor neurons to the feet and toe muscles. This stimulus of repeated sensory input to the spinal cord and response by the ankle and feet muscles to maintain stability increases processes within the nerves so it can repair and heal. Patients find that their balance quickly improves and they are not dragging their feet as often as they once had.
Class IV cold laser is another treatment that enhances cellular reactions within a nerve to promote healing and repair. Specific wavelengths and frequencies trigger metabolic reactions within the nerve to increase its energy production. When a cell has more energy it is able to use that energy to repair and heal. Cold laser also increases blood flow around the nerves, bringing more nutrients to the nerve for healing. These wavelengths and frequencies also increase the functional activity within the cell and have been shown to increase the rate of nerve axon growth and conduction velocity. Injured nerves are shown to repair and heal faster when exposed to specific doses and frequencies of cold laser therapy. Overall nerve function and activity improves with cold laser therapy.
Cold laser therapy has been utilized for many years in therapeutic offices. The newest laser is called a class IV cold laser because of the amount of energy it produces. Several of the wavelengths are the same that you may have seen with the older class III lasers. The older lasers were only able to produce enough energy to penetrate 2 - 3 cm into the skin. The new class IV cold laser has a depth of penetration of closer to 8 – 10 cm. In addition, it is able to produce 100 times the amount of power per minute compared to a class III laser.
The overall amount of energy produced and depth of penetration allows the class IV cold laser or low-level laser therapy to increase nerve function and repair. These lasers allow for increased stimulus into the nerve required to produce the necessary functions and changes within the metabolic nerve front and cell body.
Low-level laser therapy or cold laser therapy is applied to the affected feet or hands. The laser is also applied to the nerve root cell bodies, which are located in the low back. By applying laser therapy to the cell body and the receptors in the feet, the nerve is more fully activated and repair processes are enhanced compared to applying it to only one area.
The combination of low-level laser therapy and vibration therapy increases the stimulus to the nerve and enhances repair and healing. Combining these treatments is shown to be most effective at improving neuropathy symptoms. Most patients find significant improvement within three weeks of therapy. Some people find moderate improvement in symptoms while others show almost complete reduction in pain, numbness, tingling, and burning in their feet.