Our bodies are fascinating and capable of so much. Your body carries you through every day of your life. It’s your constant companion and your home.
While you do have to actively take care of your body, it also stays busy behind the scenes, running multiple systems with no intentional effort on your part — helping you breathe, digest, pump blood, and interpret the world around you.
It’s when something goes wrong with these behind-the-scenes systems that they grab your attention, especially if that malfunction causes a sensation you’ve never felt before.
This is often the case for people who experience neuropathy. Neuropathy can cause new and alarming feelings in specific parts of your body, like tingling, burning, and numbness. A common place for neuropathy to occur is in the feet.
Let’s walk through the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for neuropathy, including light therapy for neuropathy in feet, to help you get a handle on this challenging health issue.
What Is Neuropathy?
Before we get into light therapy for neuropathy in feet, we need to understand more about neuropathy and how this medical condition can affect your quality of life.
Generally speaking, neuropathy is a dysfunction of the peripheral nerves — the nerves located outside your brain and spinal cord. These nerves are part of the peripheral nervous system, the communication system your brain and spinal cord use to manage other parts of your body. Through this communication system, the peripheral nerves carry messages from your brain to your body parts, and from your body parts back to your brain.
Peripheral neuropathy is what happens when this system experiences damage or disruption. The damage may affect other body systems, like digestion and circulation, or it may cause symptoms in the extremities. The most commonly affected areas of the body are the arms, hands, and feet.
Common causes of peripheral neuropathy include:
- Metabolic issues
- Toxin exposure
- Cancer treatments
A qualified medical professional must diagnose neuropathy and its cause. In addition to treatment for the neuropathy itself, you may need additional medical interventions or lifestyle changes to fully control all your symptoms.
Symptoms of neuropathy include a tingling, prickling, throbbing, or burning sensation. In your feet, you may feel a sharp or shooting pain and experience muscle weakness, numbness, and/or difficulty moving. Neuropathy symptoms in your feet can affect your coordination and balance.
As you can see, peripheral neuropathy can be a significant health problem and seriously interfere with your quality of life. Thankfully, there are options for managing the symptoms and even correcting the issue. One of the more recent options undergoing research is light therapy.
Light Therapy for Neuropathy in Feet
Light therapy is an innovative treatment option for many medical conditions. Discovered accidentally by NASA in the 1990s, the healing properties of light have gained much well-deserved attention over the last several years.
You may have come across light therapy as a treatment for a wide variety of conditions. Research has shown that light therapy can aid in muscle recovery, heal burns and wounds, and treat acne and other skin conditions. Light therapy is even used in certain mental health treatments for issues like depression and seasonal affective disorder.
Light therapy works by exposing the body to select wavelengths of light, which then trigger specific biological reactions within cells. These reactions can promote healing, regulate hormones, or boost mood, depending on the wavelength of light and its application.
The wavelength of light you use depends on what effect you’re looking for. For example, red light is highly effective at reducing inflammation and stimulating healing, while blue light has impressive antimicrobial properties.
In the case of light therapy for neuropathy in feet, most research focuses on light wavelengths in the red and infrared parts of the light spectrum.
What Does the Science Say?
At the time of this writing, we can’t make a definitive claim about light therapy for neuropathy in feet. For that to happen, more clinical research is needed. However, some studies have shown support for the treatment, and anecdotal evidence from patients abounds. Some medical professionals also claim light therapy is an effective treatment, but since many also sell light therapy as a service, we have to scrutinize these claims carefully to rule out bias.
When looking into light therapy for neuropathy in feet, Podiatry Today acknowledged in 2007 that this could be a game-changing treatment for diabetic patients who are at high risk for foot ulcers, foot infections, or even amputation — if the scientific community could produce high-quality studies supporting it. The publication acknowledged a number of older supportive studies, such as this one from 2004, but noted that many of these were small, low-quality studies without proper parameters or guards against bias.
Since then, however, further clinical studies on light therapy for neuropathy in feet have produced positive results.
For example, one study from 2012 showed that infrared laser treatment improved pain and microcirculation compared to placebo. Another study from 2015, which used both red and infrared wavelengths, found a significant reduction in pain and improvement in temperature in people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
New discoveries are being made every day, and we continue to learn more about the potential healing powers of light therapy.
Other Treatment Options
While light therapy for neuropathy in feet is one possible treatment, it’s not the only option. There are many home remedies and medical treatments available.
Besides light therapy, other non-invasive treatments for neuropathy include:
- Physical therapy
- Biofeedback training
Like light therapy, these options come with little to no risk. Ergonomic shoes, low-impact exercise, and relaxation techniques like meditation are also fairly risk-free options that some swear by.
If your neuropathy symptoms persist or get worse, your doctor may recommend prescription medications to control pain and other issues, which may include oral medications or topical painkillers. In extreme cases, you may need surgery to take pressure off the affected nerve and prevent further damage. For most doctors, surgery is a last resort.
Even though light therapy for neuropathy in feet and other non-invasive treatments are readily available, it’s very important to consult with a medical professional if you start experiencing symptoms of neuropathy.
As soon as you feel odd sensations in your feet, such as tingling, numbness, or pain, make an appointment to see your doctor. Early intervention can help ensure you don’t suffer significant nerve damage.
Keep in mind that symptoms like weakness in one leg or any signs of paralysis could signal a stroke, and in such a case, you should seek emergency medical treatment right away.