Photobiomodulation for Nerve Regeneration
Many people know that photobiomodulation (PBMT) reduces inflammation, eases pain, and promotes healing in damaged tissue. But you might be surprised to learn that PBMT can also help regenerate nerves!
The nervous system is the body’s primary communication system. The nerves in the peripheral nervous system carry impulses back and forth from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Damage to those nerves disrupts the communication between the brain and the part of the body served by the damaged nerves.
Signs of nerve damage include numbness or tingling, sharp pain, sensitivity to touch, and muscle weakness in the affected part of the body—signs and symptoms can be severe enough to prevent someone from using an arm or leg. Because of the pain and dysfunction it causes, nerve damage can significantly reduce a person’s quality of life.
Damage to the nerves can cause a wide variety of health conditions, known collectively as peripheral neuropathy. Scientists have identified more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy, and each presents its own symptoms and outcomes.
Causes of Nerve Damage
Causes of nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy include:
- Physical injuries
- Autoimmune diseases
- Blood and blood vessel problems
- Kidney and liver disorders
- Nutritional or vitamin deficiency
- Hormonal imbalances
- Exposure to toxins
About Nerves & Their Ability to Regenerate
Nerves are cable-like bundles of fibers, known as axons. A layer of proteins and phospholipids form a protective sheath around the nerve fibers. This layer, known as myelin, insulates the axons and increases the speed and efficiency at which impulses travel along the nerve fibers.
Nerve damage can interfere with communications between the brain and the affected part of the body. Damage to the protective myelin sheath, known as demyelination, can slow down communication. A severed nerve can stop communication completely between the brain and the now-disconnected area of the body.
The Body can Heal Nerve Damage
The body can often recover from nerve damage by forming new myelin or by regenerating nerves. Nerves that have lost their myelin can form a new protective sheath in a process known as remyelination. This process helps the transmission of impulses return to normal speed and efficiency, and helps the patient feel better.
In the case of severed nerves, the part of the nerve still connected to the brain can develop stumps that sprout a new section of nerve, in a process known as neuronal sprouting. Special proteins occurring naturally in the body, known as nerve growth factors, trigger the neuronal sprouting and myelin formation that helps nerves recover and reconnect.
Unfortunately, recovery from nerve damage is usually slow. Depending on the severity of the damage, the body can regenerate nerves in 6 to 12 weeks. For patients experiencing pain, numbness, and limb impairment, three months is a long and uncomfortable recovery period.
PMBT Improves Nerve Function and Regeneration by Supporting the Body’s Ability to Heal
Photobiomodulation therapy can stimulate the production of nerve growth factors to speed neuronal sprouting and myelin formation to help shorten recovery time, so patients feel better faster.
PBMT, also known as red light therapy or laser therapy, uses the power of light energy to trigger beneficial changes in the body. PBMT devices emit specific wavelengths of light, which penetrate the skin to reach tissue deep inside. Once absorbed into tissue, the light stimulates the production of nerve growth factors, which helps nerves regenerate and heal. PBMT helps improve nerve signal transmission and speeds up the process of nerve cell reconnection. The treatment also increases the strength of the impulse and optimizes its effects on muscles.
Researchers have published numerous studies on the benefits of using PBMT for nerve regeneration. In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Lasers in Medical Science, researchers found that exposing injured nerve tissue to a specific wavelength of light used in red light therapy could accelerate the regeneration process.
In one systematic review published in 2018, researchers looked at 26 studies performed in the previous decade. They found that PBMT could accelerate the nerve regeneration process, increase the number of myelin fibers, and improve the organization of the thin layer of tissue that makes up the myelin, known as lamellae. The review of the studies also revealed that photobiomodulation improves the electrical properties of the treated tissue, decreases inflammation, eases pain, and promotes the development of blood vessels and collagen, which provides support for body tissues.
Perhaps most importantly, the review showed that PBMT actually helps the nerves regenerate by releasing growth factors. The authors of the review concluded that red light therapy helps nerves regenerate faster and improve function sooner.
For more information about using photobiomodulation for nerve regeneration, consult with your laser therapy provider. This advanced approach to treatment can help reduce the pain, numbness, and dysfunction associated with nerve damage.