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The effect of LASER on nerves

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THE EFFECTS OF LASER ON NERVES

Presenter: Chow R

The effect of light on retinal neurons is a well known example of light

sensitivity within the nervous system. What is less well known is the light

sensitivity of nerves of the somatosensory system. These nerves are

predominantly the unmyelinated C fibres and thinly myelinated Aδ fibres,

which convey noxious stimulation from skin to spinal cord. The terminals of

these nerves are well within the penetration depths of many lasers used

therapeutically. Light must be absorbed by the neuron to have a biological

effect. Absorption occurs by photoacceptors the most well known of which

is cytochrome C oxidase present in all mitochondria. In neurons, ATP-rich

mitochondria travel the length of the axon from the cell body to peripheral

terminals along the cytoskeleton delivering ATP as required. When laser

is absorbed by the mitochondria and other photoacceptors in peripheral

nerves conduction block occurs and the cytoskeleton is disrupted slowing

transport of neurotrophic factors from the periphery at sites of injury and

inflammation to the dorsal horn. Disruption of the cytoskeleton leads to

down-regulation of synaptic activity at the dorsal horm, which modulates

pain long term. Light has profound effects on the peripheral nervous

system which is the basis for its pain relieving effects.

Key Practice Points:

• Understand that nerves can absorb light which profoundly alters bioelectrical

and neurotrophic function.

• In a clinical context understand that one of the mechanisms for pain

reduction with laser relates to changes in nerve function.

CPD Points: 0.5

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