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What is the Most Effective Treatment for Neuropathy in Feet?

An estimated 30 million people in this country suffer from peripheral neuropathy, or a type of nerve damage, in the feet. It results in weakness, pain, and numbness. Although peripheral neuropathy tends to happen in the feet, you can also experience it in your hands. 

The cause of this condition varies. It may be due to a toxin, traumatic injury, or infection. It is common among people with diabetes. According to The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy, 60% of people with it also have diabetes. Each year, 54,000 people with diabetes have amputations directly related to peripheral neuropathy in their feet. 

Treatment involves first managing the underlying condition, such as diabetes. Healthcare professionals will also try to treat the symptoms of the condition using medications and different kinds of therapies, including laser treatment for foot neuropathy.  

What Is Peripheral Neuropathy? 

The peripheral nervous system, which is everything except the brain and spine, sends sensory information to the central nervous system. Someone with peripheral neuropathy has damage to these critical nerves that affect that process. As a result, they experience:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Sharp or burning pain
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Poor coordination
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty moving affected areas

You may feel like you are wearing gloves or socks. 

There are different categories of neuropathy based on the number of nerves involved. Mononeuropathies, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, affect just one nerve, while polyneuropathy affects multiple nerves. Diabetic neuropathy is an example of polyneuropathy. 

How Do Lasers Work for Peripheral Neuropathy? 

Laser or photobiomodulation therapy can be effective for certain types of neuropathy. The exact mechanism is still being determined. Researchers believe that low-level laser therapy stimulates the nerve cells. It may also improve circulation around these nerve cells, especially in the smaller blood vessels. 

Deep-tissue laser therapy for neuropathy may trigger the regeneration of damaged nerve cells in those with diabetes. It can penetrate areas other therapies cannot. 

Types of neuropathy that might benefit from laser treatment include:

  • Diabetic – A long-term complication of diabetes where the disease causes damage to nerves in the feet.
  • Peripheral somatosensory – A sensitivity to touch sometimes associated with autism. 
  • Optic – Damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma is a common type of optic neuropathy that can lead to loss of vision. 

The benefits of laser therapy for neuropathy will vary from person to person. Some potential effects of this treatment would include:

  • Increased blood flow 
  • Removal of waste products
  • Nerve stimulation
  • Reducing the pain threshold of nerves in the area

Not everyone will be a good candidate for laser treatment for foot neuropathy. 

What To Expect During Laser Treatment For Neuropathy in Feet

Diabetic neuropathy laser treatment and other forms of laser therapy use infrared wavelengths of light. This light penetrates the skin, where the tissue absorbs it. That absorbed light can stimulate nerve growth factors. These are neurotrophic factors that can prompt the development of nerve cells. They also help healthy nerves maintain their normal function.

The goal of neuropathy laser treatment is:

  • Pain management
  • Improve the functioning of nerves
  • Stimulate repair and regeneration of nerve cells
  • Accelerate the healing process

The treatment can take 10 to 30 minutes. During this time, the practitioner will give you protective eyewear and run the laser device over the affected areas. You should feel no pain, and you’ll experience little to no sensation at all during the treatment. 

Can Red Light Therapy Cure Neuropathy?

Unfortunately, there is no current cure for neuropathy. Most therapies treat the condition's symptoms but do not reverse the damage done to nerves. This is why it is so critical that clinicians look for the underlying cause of the neuropathy, such as diabetes, and manage it. 

The level of pain involved with most neuropathies makes treating the symptoms a necessity, as well. Medications like over-the-counter pain relievers can be effective, but they can also damage major organs such as the kidneys through overuse. 

Lasers are a tool practitioners often use to manage chronic pain. The therapy is painless and something you can get multiple times a week. How effective is it, though? 

Research shows the efficacy of neuropathy laser treatment varies even from study to study. A 2015 study published in Laser Therapy found that low-level laser therapy did help some people with peripheral neuropathy. Another 2021 study published in Systemic Reviews found it less effective for pain for those with diabetic neuropathy. There is evidence that suggests the most effective choice for symptom relief is deep tissue laser therapy for neuropathy.  

What is clear is it will not cure the condition. The best way to know if it can be effective for your peripheral neuropathy pain is to consult a healthcare professional. They will look at the overall picture, including medical and family history. A clinician will also look for and treat the underlying cause as part of your treatment plan. That will help determine if laser treatment for foot neuropathy is the right choice for you.

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