Nerve pain management is a priority for anyone experiencing neuropathy and its symptoms. Neuropathy pain can be very extreme and significantly affects a person’s normal day-to-day activities. It can also impact their loved ones.
While there are solutions such as opioids, topical creams, and anti-inflammatory drugs, they only provide temporary relief. Plus, they often come with side effects or risks like addiction. These treatments primarily target the symptoms and not their underlying cause.
Promising news for patients and their loved ones is the application of infrared therapy for neuropathy. This safe, effective, and drug-free treatment provides long-lasting pain relief.
If you’re only now learning about this revolutionary treatment, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we cover the basics of infrared therapy and its mechanism in neuropathy treatment.
An Overview of Neuropathy and Common Symptoms
Neuropathy is a condition in which the nerves in a particular part of the body are damaged or destroyed. As a result, the nerves are no longer able to send correct messages to the brain. The brain interprets this lack of messages as numbness, pain, or tingling, which comprise the major symptoms of neuropathy.
Depending on the severity, cause, and the body part affected, neuropathy symptoms can also include:
- Tingling or pins and needles sensation
- Sensitivity to touch
- Muscle weakness
- Burning or sharp jabbing pains
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Double vision
- And more.
Because neuropathy affects the nerves in the body, it can also lead to changes in motor skills, senses, and normal bodily functions.
Neuropathy can develop in any person at any age and for various reasons. Some of the most common ones include diabetes, autoimmune disorders, infections, alcoholism, certain medications, trauma, vitamin deficiencies, etc.
Those affected by neuropathy often find themselves unable to perform daily activities because even simple movements like walking can trigger a painful sensation in their body. The condition is debilitating and can get worse with age if not treated or managed correctly. The nerve damage can even spread to other parts of the body.
But all this doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story.
Infrared therapy for neuropathy CAN stop the condition from progressing, heal the affected nerves, and help you gain back control of your body.
Keep reading to learn all you need to know about how infrared therapy works in neuropathy treatment.
Effectiveness of Infrared Therapy for Neuropathy Treatment
Infrared therapy is a treatment method that uses infrared light to manage symptoms in patients experiencing acute and chronic pain. It is a painless procedure that delivers different light wavelengths to target body parts with damaged nerves. It also helps heal injured body parts.
Apart from being painless and safe, infrared therapy has little to no side effects and is a non-addictive option for pain management.
There are many applications of infrared light in treating health conditions such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetic neuropathy, tendonitis, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, temporomandibular joint pain, back pain, neck pain, etc.
Infrared Light vs. Red Light: Are They Same?
To put it simply, infrared light and red light are different types of light. However, they are on the same electromagnetic (EM) spectrum as ultraviolet (UV) light, which we get from the sun.
Red light is visible to the naked eye, while infrared light is invisible. The body can feel it in the form of heat.
There’s often a lot of confusion between red light and infrared light, and for good reason. For starters, they’re quite close on the EM spectrum. Visible red light is 630 to 700 nanometers in wavelength, while infrared light falls between 800 and 1,000 nanometers. They are used to treat various physical health-related and skin conditions because they have similar effects on the body.
However, infrared light works far better at managing symptoms of acute and chronic pain and regenerating tissues.
Let’s look at the mechanism that powers infrared therapy for neuropathy treatment.
The Science Behind Infrared Neuropathy Treatment
Studies have shown that wavelengths between 700 and 1,000 nanometers are ideal for treating inflammatory conditions. And as mentioned above, infrared light (800 to 1,000 nanometers) fits this range perfectly.
In addition, infrared light can penetrate the inner layers of the skin to go as deep as 2 to 7 cm. This means it can reach the muscles, bones, and nerves, which further broadens its scope of impact and treatment.
While it can lead to various effects, neuropathy treatment involves two key mechanisms that make a huge difference: the cellular-level impact and its effect on blood circulation.
Cellular-Level Mechanism of Infrared Light Therapy in Neuropathy
At the cellular level, infrared light therapy does many things that influence the healing processes for neuropathy in various ways. But its essential action involves encouraging the cells’ self-healing mechanism, especially the nerve cells in the affected body part.
Here’s how it works on the cellular level:
It begins when infrared light enters the skin. As established earlier, it can penetrate deep under the layers where the photoreceptors in the cells absorb it. This triggers metabolic actions and stimulates the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) via activating cytochrome C oxidase.
ATP makes up the cell’s energy storehouse and is often depleted in the parts of the body most affected by neuropathy. Infrared therapy for neuropathy is designed to stimulate ATP production to enable the cells to resume their optimal function and begin working toward repairing the damage.
When the cells have more energy to carry out their regular activities, it can improve blood flow to affected areas, which is another symptom of neuropathy. ATP can also help with smooth muscle contractions and the active transport of nutrients to the blood vessels, further strengthening the cells.
Other than ATP production, infrared light promotes fibroblast growth. Fibroblasts are the main cell components of connective tissues, which help with overall repair and other critical processes. They secrete collagen and other fibers to regenerate nerve cells needed in neuropathy treatment.
A majority of these actions also coincide, influence, and are affected by other cell activities that are also a result of infrared light therapy.
Let’s take a look at the second critical mechanism that helps in neuropathy treatment.
Improved Blood Circulation Using Infrared Heat Therapy for Nerve Pain
When cells are exposed to infrared light during infrared therapy for neuropathy, they are stimulated to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a cell-signaling molecule that leads to many beneficial results, including helping the arteries relax. It regulates blood pressure in the body and prevents the clumping of platelets.
Nitric oxide also acts as a vasodilator, allowing the blood vessels to widen. When the blood vessels dilate, they can allow more blood to flow. Not only does this improve blood circulation, but it also helps deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to the damaged nerves.
Secondly, the appropriate wavelength also activates hemoglobin (the molecule that attaches to oxygen in the red blood cell) to release oxygen more efficiently in the treated tissues. Thus the combination of increased blood flow and increased oxygen delivery enhances the cell’s ability to carry out its function.
But there’s yet another mechanism at play. And that’s the ability of infrared light to enhance the antioxidant activities in the nerve cells.
Oxidative stress is often a common sign of inflammation in the body, especially in the areas affected by neuropathy. It can lead to the worsening of the condition and prevent the cells from healing and repairing the damaged nerves.
Inflammation is also one of the reasons why those with neuropathy experience painful sensations in certain body parts.
Fortunately, inflammation and oxidative stress can be brought under control by infrared therapy using nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps eliminate free radicals, the major culprits for oxidative stress in the body. This controls symptoms, allowing the affected person to go about their daily life without experiencing debilitating pain.
Over time, the release of nitric oxide helps keep the inflammation in the cells low while supplying the cells with oxygen-rich and nutrient-rich blood needed for continuous healing and recovery.
Infrared therapy is often administered in multiple settings to support these healing processes until they’re not needed by the patient anymore.
From halting all daily activities to increasing stress in anticipation of pain, neuropathy can have many adverse effects on a person’s life. A solution that not only addresses the pain but also goes beyond it to repair the nerves might finally be on the horizon.
With infrared therapy for neuropathy, patients can look forward to a pain-free life and put themselves on the path of recovery.
While there are many infrared light treatments available at skincare clinics and in the form of self-use devices, we suggest getting an appointment with a physician. A professional specialist will help ensure you or your loved one gets safe therapy and will use suitable devices and mechanisms for their condition.
While the treatment is largely safe and without side effects, you want to make sure it’s effective with minimal sessions required.