Laser Therapy for Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

laser therapy for neuropathy

The Effects of Laser Therapy on Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

Neuropathy describes nerve damage, and while several medical conditions can cause nerve damage, diabetes is the most common. Peripheral neuropathy is the most common complication of type 2 diabetes, affecting 60-70% of people with diabetes. However, one emerging treatment is laser therapy for neuropathy.

Diabetes can damage the nerves of the peripheral nervous system, which is the network of nerves that sends signals from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body and back. Peripheral nerves send sensory information from your hands and feet to your brain, such as messages that your fingers and toes are cold. Peripheral nerves also send pain messages from your body to your brain and send instructions from your brain to your muscles, digestive organs, immune system, and more.

Research suggests laser therapy may be a possible drug-free pain relief option for neuropathy.

How Diabetes Causes Peripheral Neuropathy

Diabetes is a condition in which the body has trouble using sugar, or glucose, for energy. Your digestive tract converts the carbohydrates and sugars you eat into glucose, which your cells use as fuel. Your bloodstream transports the glucose to various parts of your body. With some help from the hormone insulin, your cells absorb the glucose and function normally. Specifically, insulin “unlocks” your cells to allow glucose inside.

Immediately after you eat, the level of glucose in your blood rises. Glucose levels drop as insulin unlocks cells to allow blood sugar absorption. In people without diabetes, the cells have no problem absorbing glucose. In people with diabetes, however, the cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. Insulin resistance causes the glucose to remain in the bloodstream instead of moving into cells.

While glucose provides energy when used correctly, the presence of excess sugar can damage delicate tissue, such as nerves. Over time, excess glucose can damage nerves and interfere with the nervous system’s ability to send signals to the spinal cord and brain. High glucose levels, also known as hyperglycemia, can damage the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the nerves.

Symptoms of Neuropathy

Signs and symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy typically affect a person’s feet and legs first, followed by their arms and hands. These signs and symptoms are often worse at night. Symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Numbness or reduced ability to feel temperature changes or pain
  • Burning or tingling sensation
  • Sharp pains or cramps
  • Increased sensitivity to touch – even the weight of a bedsheet can cause pain
  • Serious foot problems, such as infections, ulcers (sores), and bone and joint pain

The nerve damage and reduced sensation in your feet make it easier to injure your feet and develop infections. Because you cannot feel any discomfort, infections, ulcers, and even gangrene can develop easily. Poor circulation associated with diabetes also makes it harder for your feet to heal. In extreme cases, untreated diabetic peripheral neuropathy can even result in amputation of the extremity. More than half of all amputations performed each year are associated with diabetes.

Laser Therapy for Neuropathy Treatment

Also known as photobiomodulation (PBMT), laser therapy uses specific infrared wavelengths of light to impart health benefits. While these wavelengths are invisible to the naked eye, infrared light can cause several beneficial changes inside the body.

The light penetrates the skin to reach nerve tissue deep inside. Once absorbed by your tissues, the light stimulates the production of nerve growth factors, which are special compounds that help regenerate and heal damaged nerves. PBMT also improves the transmission of messages in peripheral nerves and strengthens the impulses traveling through the affected nerves.

The use of high-intensity laser therapy can help reduce many of the signs of diabetic peripheral neuropathy by:

  • Easing pain
  • Accelerating nerve repair and regeneration
  • Improving nerve function
  • Speeding healing

Science supports the use of laser therapy to treat diabetic peripheral neuropathy. In fact, in one study, participants with the condition who underwent PBMT enjoyed a 75 percent improvement in their diabetic neuropathy pain.

Laser therapy is also highly customizable, which makes PBMT perfect for people with diabetes, as everyone with diabetic peripheral neuropathy experiences the condition in their way. The advanced features of Apex Laser System and Aspen Laser’s TriWave technology make it the best intervention for the nonpharmacologic treatment of pain, numbness, and other symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

For more information about how laser therapy can help treat diabetic peripheral neuropathy, consult with your healthcare professional, physical therapist, or PBMT provider.

This content was originally published on September 13, 2021, and was last updated on May 2, 2022.

8 Questions To Ask Your Doctor or Chiropractor About Laser Therapy

8 Questions To Ask Your Doctor or Chiropractor About Laser Therapy

8 Questions To Ask Your Doctor or Chiropractor About Laser Therapy

Patients who are informed about their conditions and treatments and are involved in making decisions about their care get the most out of their medical treatments — and they often enjoy better health outcomes. This is especially true when you are about to undergo innovative treatments, such as laser therapy.

Working with your healthcare provider to make informed decisions is known as shared decision-making. This approach helps patients commit to a laser treatment program that often involves treatment a few days a week, for several weeks.

Before starting any new therapy or treatment, it is always important to talk to a doctor or chiropractor familiar with your medical history and ask questions about the care you will receive. However, many patients are unsure what questions to ask, which means they may not be informed enough to make decisions about their care. To ensure you get the information you need, and to decide if laser therapy is a good fit for you, here is a list of eight questions about laser therapy to ask your doctor or chiropractor.

 

Top 8 Questions About Laser Therapy

 

1. Is laser therapy effective for treating my pain?

Laser therapy effectively manages pain for several conditions and ailments, including:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Acute and chronic inflammation
  • Overuse injuries
  • Post-surgical healing

Your doctor or chiropractor can help you determine if laser therapy may be effective for treating your pain.

2. Is deep laser tissue therapy right for me?

Deep laser tissue therapy may be right for you if you have certain musculoskeletal conditions, such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Knee pain
  • Ligament sprains
  • Lower back pain
  • Muscle strains
  • Neck pain
  • Neuropathy
  • Pain from muscle spasms
  • Tendonitis

Deep laser therapy is a treatment delivered by high-powered class IV lasers that emit red and near-infrared, which penetrate deep into the body to promote musculoskeletal healing.

3. Does laser therapy help reduce inflammation?

Inflammation is normally a beneficial response to an injury, in that acute inflammation triggers the release of substances that promote healing. Acute inflammation comes on quickly and disappears when the body begins to heal. Inflammation can become a problem when it becomes chronic, though, especially if the inflammation continues for a long time. Chronic inflammation is associated with body pain, muscle and joint pain, frequent infections, and other health issues.

Laser therapy helps reduce both acute and chronic inflammation. The light wavelengths used in laser therapy stimulate mitochondria, which produce the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that body cells use as fuel while they recover from injury. Laser therapy also improves circulation to help tissues in the affected area get the oxygen and nutrients they need for healing.

4. Why choose laser therapy over pain medication?

Pain can change your life. Ongoing pain can prevent you from working, driving a car, doing everyday household chores, taking care of your family, or engaging in your favorite pastimes. Medical treatments such as surgery, injections, and physical therapy can alleviate pain for many patients. And oftentimes, patients who continue to experience pain after medical treatment will resort to over-the-counter analgesics or even prescription pain relievers, such as the opioids hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin).

While these prescription painkillers are effective, they cause unwanted side effects, such as mental fog, drowsiness, nausea, and constipation. These side effects can also prevent you from going to work, taking care of your family, and other aspects of daily living. Many pain medications can cause physical dependence and addiction, making it challenging to stop using them. Opioids may also slow breathing, which can lead to overdose and death.

Laser therapy does not cause any of these dangerous or debilitating side effects. In fact, there are no known risks or side effects with laser therapy that might occur with other treatment approaches.

5. How soon should laser therapy begin?

Your doctor or chiropractor can tell you when you should begin laser therapy. In most cases, you should begin laser therapy as soon as possible. Like other treatments, laser therapy typically works best when started early.

6. How long should laser therapy last?

While many people feel better immediately after their first laser therapy treatment, most people enjoy optimal relief from their condition after undergoing regular treatment sessions for several weeks. As with any other treatment, consistency is the key.

7. Can I undergo laser therapy along with other treatments?

Yes! Since laser therapy does not involve medications, it will not interfere with any prescription or non-prescription drugs you may already use. Laser therapy also makes an excellent add-on treatment for physical therapy, surgery, injections, or other therapies you may need to treat your condition.

8. Who should I contact about laser therapy?

The doctor or chiropractor that diagnosed your condition may be able to provide laser therapy. If not, don’t worry — a growing number of medical offices, chiropractic practices, and other healthcare facilities are now offering laser therapy. 


If you are seeking a laser therapy provider in your area that is also an Aspen Laser partner, we have got you covered!

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