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cold laser and post herpetic neuralgia (phn) from shingles

“Although the rash typically resolves over the course of 4 to 5 weeks, the pain may persist for months, or even years, after the rash has disappeared. Known as PHN (Post-Herpetic Neuralgia), this phenomenon can often be debilitating to the patient.”  The July 2013 issue of Practical Pain Management


The medical journal Practical Pain Management (a journal for Pain Clinics / Pain Doctors) recently ran an article on the benefits of using COLD LASER THERAPY to treat people suffering from Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (Neur = Nerve, Algia = Pain).  The Herpes Zoster Virus — the same virus that causes Chicken Pox — never completely goes away, but instead hides in the nerve root right next to the spinal cord.  The virus can go dormant for decades at a time.   Later in life, for a wide variety of reasons (stress, weakened immune system, ANTIBIOTIC USE, POOR GUT HEALTH, etc, etc), people get what we typically call the SHINGLES.  Of the one million new cases of Shingles a year, over half occur in people over the age of 60. Because the Shingles always displays in a Dermatomal Pattern that is related to the individual nerves (see picture at left or click the previous link), they tend to manifest in rather clear cut and delineated manners, whether on the head or body.  Although the Shingles themselves tend to last 2-4 weeks, about 50% of the people over 50 years of age who get Shingles end up with what is called Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN).  This means that the Herpes Virus stays in the nerve causing pain long after the visible signs of the disease itself are gone.  Not only can this nerve pain induced by the Herpes Zoster Virus be virtually debilitating, it can go on for months —- or even in some cases, even years. 

The standard treatment for severe cases of Shingles has always been anit-viral drugs like Acyclovir.  However, what is a person supposed to do when the Shingles themselves are gone, and the Neuralgia remains?  Pain pills are a short term option, but everyone knows that these lose their effectiveness over the course of time, not to mention the side effects associated with long term use.  Although there are many natural remedies that help certain people with their Post-Herpetic Neuralgia, by far the most promising is Cold Laser Therapy.

In general, patients presenting with PHN usually categorize their pain at a 9 out of 10, which has a large impact on their quality of life and daily activities….  Patients undergoing LLLT [Cold Laser Therapy] normally notice an immediate improvement in pain of approximately 20% to 30% during the administration of the first 3 treatments. During the course of 10 to 15 treatments, patients usually experience 80% to 90% relief of pain and other symptoms.  The July 2013 issue of Practical Pain Management

Cold Laser Therapy works on the premise that every single cell in your body has photo receptors (light receptors).  According to the article, “Photon particles of light are absorbed by the mitochondria through cytochrome c oxidase and result in increased cellular Adenosine Tri-Phosphate [ATP] levels.”  In simple English, this means that when certain frequencies of light stimulate these photo receptors, it turns on the mitochondria to produce the one and only source of energy that cells can use —- ATP.    We know that specific frequencies of laser light can penetrate deep into injured or diseased tissues and stimulate the production of cellular energy by as much as 8 times. 

Think for just a moment about why this would be important as far as any healing process is concerned.  If you have an abundance of energy in a local area, that energy can be used for repairing or regenerating tissue instead of simply maintaining normal cellular functions.  It’s sort of like having some extra money at the end of the month to take care of whatever needs to be taken care of.  The really cool thing about using Cold Laser Therapy for pain control is that it is not simply masking pain like medications do, but actually healing the tissue.  You feel better because you are really better — not because you took pain meds that only mask the symptoms.   The rather amazing thing is that this is not the first study of its kind to look at Cold Laser Therapy for Post-Herpetic Neuralgia.  Here are a few of many others.

  • The year I graduated from Kansas State University (1988), Dr. Moore and team used Cold Laser Therapy to treat severe PHN patients (all had pain levels of 10 out of 10).  On average, they experienced a pain reduction of nearly 75%.  When looked at again in 3-6 months, it was found that 80% of these patients still showed the good results from their original treatment with the Cold Laser.  One of the conclusions was that, “all patients saw an improvement of at least 40%, which is comparable to the most successful pharmacological treatment, but without the harmful side effects.
  • In 1996, Dr. Moore again used Cold Laser Therapy on 20 different PHN patients that had not responded to at least six months of standard medical treatment.  Although there was virtually no change in the control group, the Cold Laser group showed pain that went from an average of 10 to an average of 2.
  • Dr. Moore came back later that same year with a paper looking at 300 PHN patients treated over a nine year period.  It was determined that patients with PHN of the head had over 60% pain relief, while those with PHN on the torso showed nearly 80% pain relief.  This study also showed that Cold Laser Therapy was significantly cheaper than conventional methods for treating Post-Herpetic Neuralgia due to Shingles.
  • In 1991, Dr. Iijima treated 18 severe PHN patients.  The various ways that pain were measured showed that pain diminished by an average of 55% – 65%.
  • Again in 1991, Dr. Otsuka’s team in Japan showed that treating PHN patients with Cold Laser Therapy showed similar pain blocking effects of nerve block injections.  The thing to notice in all these studies is that the effects of the Cold Laser tend to be long term.  Nerve blocks are short lived.
  • Yet again in 1991, Dr. McKibbin treated 39 patients suffering with long term PHN with a Cold Laser. On average, they showed pain at a level of 8.5 prior to treatment, and 3.3 post-treatment.  A year later, their average pain had dropped to less than 3.
  • A year before the McKibbin Study, Dr. Hong published his own study showing that 60% of those with PHN that he treated with the Cold Laser were completely out of pain in one year. These were long term PHN patients that had failed to respond to conventional methods.
  • Let’s go ‘old school’ and get the time machine out for this one.  The year I was a freshman in high school (1981), Dr.  Hachenberger had good results treating over 40 PHN patients with Cold Laser.

Although insurances are not yet paying for treatment with Cold Laser Therapy (and probably never will if the Pharmaceutical Industry’s ever-powerful lobby has its way), you can see that the results are nothing short of miraculous.  In my office, a treatment using Cold Laser usually lasts about 10 minutes or so, and currently costs $30.00.  Depending on where the lesion is, I often let a person treat them self or let a spouse treat you.  For more information, stop by COLD LASER CURE and spend a few minutes looking around.

Treatment is noninvasive, has no adverse effects, and no drug interactions. It can be safely administered over metal implants and pacemakers without concern. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is discouraged as they can mask symptoms and interfere with the effects of treatment, which works to expedite and resolve the inflammatory process, rather than suppress it.  The July 2013 issue of Practical Pain Management


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