CNS – Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Spinal Cord Injury

Copyright 2011 by David Rindge.  All rights reserved.

The greatest obstacle to healing damage to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is overcoming autoimmune and other factors which inhibit nerve regeneration.  If we can apply methods to accomplish this, the prospects for greater functional recovery from brain and spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease stand to improve significantly.

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries can result in partial to complete paralysis and loss of sensation below the site of the trauma. Approximately 250,000 Americans have spinal cord injuries, and about 11,000 new cases occur annually.  52% are paraplegic and 47% quadriplegic.  Care is mostly supportive and palliative – and very expensive.  Average lifetime costs for the care of paraplegics are $428,000 and $1.35 million for quadriplegics. [1]

Whereas peripheral nerve injury may be relatively easy to heal, regeneration of neurons in the brain and spinal cord is more difficult, commonly hindered by autoimmune issues, secondary injury and lack of growth factors.  For the last 30 years management of acute spinal cord injuries has usually included high dosages of steroid drugs with the rationale for treatment based more perhaps on the theory of their physiological effects than the reality.   Outcomes have been disappointing.  In a 2006 survey of spine surgeons, only 24% reported that they believed that methylprednisolone had clinical value in spinal cord injury, yet 90.5% reported continuing to administer this steroid treatment .[2]  Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Light on Nerves

A growing body of science suggests that energy-based treatments, particularly laser phototherapy, may improve recovery and quality of life in spinal cord injury and other CNS conditions, including multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.   Low intensity lasers have been documented to protect nerves and preserve their function, increase axonal regrowth and myelination, diminish scar tissue at the site of the lesion and may even reduce degeneration of associated motor neurons in the spinal cord.

Byrnes et al studied the effects of transcutaneous laser light in spinal cord injury in rats.  6% of light penetrated to the spinal cord, and treatment significantly increased the number of axons and the distance of nerve regrowth, suppressing immune cell activation and restoring some portions of function to their baseline levels. [3]

Low intensity laser therapy has proven to be useful to enhance the proliferation of stem cells and other cultured cells and is being studied as a key method to stimulate the regeneration not only of peripheral and CNS neurons but other cells and tissues.  [4,5,6,7]

Perhaps the most compelling evidence of phototherapy's promise to raise the bar in treating CNS disorders comes in its documented effects to protect nerves in:


Multiple Sclerosis

“Our results from the use of laser therapy on multiple sclerosis cases shows that laser biostimulation is a successful and effective method by which to treat patients,” said Dr. Cezary Peszynski-Drews, director of the Laser Diagnostics and Therapy Center of the Technical University of Lódz, Poland.  He has been treating MS patients with this method since at least 2003 and also noted, “While it does not prevent multiple sclerosis, it makes patients significantly stronger, even in the most advanced stages of the disease. After treatment patients are able to move around on their own, walk short distances, and make their own breakfast. They are not totally dependent on someone else to help them and this in itself is a personal success.”   Click here to view the full article in The Warsaw Voice.

MS is an inflammatory disease in which myelin, a protective lining around axons in the brain and spinal cord, is attacked by the immune system.  Over time injured nerves can degenerate to form the multiple sclerotic plaques which give the condition its name.  Signs and symptoms are the result of degraded nerve transmission and may include pain, loss of sensation, spasticity, bladder or bowel dysfunction, and loss of vision.  MS is highly individual, depending upon the location and degree of injury of nerves affected.

In a study at the University of Heidelberg, 42 subjects with MS received a series of 10 treatments with transcutaneous laser irradiation of the blood over 4 superficial veins within two weeks and a second series of three sessions over 3 weeks.  Subjects reported a 16% improvement in physical quality of life and a 67% improvement in psychological quality of life.  It is noteworthy that the improvements in both physical and psychological quality of life were long lasting, still well above baseline 12 months following the last treatment.

Multiple Sclerosis – Case Study

“Tim” was a 61 year old male diagnosed with relapsing, remitting MS 12 years earlier. His chief complaints were pain (neck, wrists, knees, ankles), numbness, tremors, weakness, poor coordination, fatigue, depression, weak appetite, memory loss, vertigo and sleep > 10 hours daily.   It should be noted that had often only been eating a single daily meal – or just snacked as opportunity allowed when his employer referred him to our clinic and offered to pay for a series of treatments.  “Tim” was also taking 15 drugs: avonex, synthroid, zestril, prozac, wellbutrin, ritalin, gabapentin, thorazine, klonopin, flexeril, sinequan, acyclovir, darvocet, lodine, phenergan. [4]

“Tim” was asked: 1) to begin taking breakfast, lunch and dinner, 2)  have his Vitamin D level tested, and 3) have all his current medications reviewed by an objective medical doctor.  He was treated with laser therapy, transcutaneous laser blood irradiation, LED therapy and acupuncture during 5 regular weekly office visits and also received 10 sessions of bio-electromagnetic therapy, near daily at the outset.

All pain scores improved progressively.  Vitamin D level was found to be in the low normal range, and he began supplementing.  Eight months after completing the treatment series paid for by his employer, “Tim” was asked to describe the results.  “I am stronger, and pain is less,” he said.  “The effects have lasted.  The biggest difference is that I can feel things and hold onto them better with my hands.  My energy and mood are better.”

Standard practice in treating MS has been limited in large part to pharmaceutical drugs thought to slow its progression (beta interferons), treat symptoms or reduce inflammation during exacerbations (steroids).  While these methods may be helpful, to this writer’s knowledge they have not reversed the condition.  Energy-based treatments, including laser and LED phototherapy and bio-electromagnetic therapy, have been shown to stimulatee nerve regeneration and function, even in CNS injury.  They may reduce the demyelination, inflammation and neuropathies which are associated with multiple sclerosis.  Implementing these energy-based therapies and studying their effects has the potential to raise the bar in health care and may significantly improve quality of life in MS.

Parkinson's Disease

Signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are associated with damage to the substantia nigra, cells at the base of the brain which produce the neurotransmitter, dopamine.  When Shaw et al administered near infrared light to dopaminergic cells from the substantia nigra, they found that it protected them from the effects of MPTP, a substance which induces Parkinson-like symptoms.  “In summary, our results indicate that NIR (near infrared) light treatment offers neuroprotection against MPTP toxicity for dopaminergic cells in the SNc (substantia nigra), but not in the ZI-Hyp (hypothalamus.”  Click here to view the full abstract.

Breakdown and impaired function of mitochondria resulting in insufficient ATP production has also been implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease.  Trimmer et al proposed that, as a result, axonal transport may be reduced in PD and also observed, “..that a single, brief treatment with near-infrared light can restore axonal transport to control levels. These results are the first demonstration that LLLT (low level laser therapy) can increase axonal transport in model human dopaminergic neuronal cells and they suggest that LLLT could be developed as a novel treatment to improve neuronal function in patients with PD.”  See the abstract in its entirety here.

Parkinson's Disease – Case Study

“Sylvia” was a 74 year old female who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 4 year’s earlier, also diabetic and on blood pressure medication.  Her complaints were muscle weakness, poor coordination, low energy, back pain, depression and stress.  She was treated with near daily bio-electromagnetic therapy x 35 days and weekly acupuncture and laser therapy.

"Sylvia" reported significant improvements in energy, muscular control and mood right away.  "Sylvia" has a system in home for daily self-treatment.   Blood pressures and sugars, color and demeanor also improved.  Her gait became steady and rapid.   Time to go from a sitting in the lobby to supine position in the treatment room was reduced from 40 to 21 seconds.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) – Case Study

“Robin” was a 53 year old female who first came to our clinic for allergies, asthma and low energy in February of 2006.  She responded well to treatments for these issues and much more.  Long before her official diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in July of 2009, laser, LED and bio-electromagnetic therapies were being applied to treat muscle weakness, numbness and tingling in her arms and legs with good results.  She reported improved muscle strength, greater  tactile sensation and overall energy following treatment.  "Robin" was treated in her home during the last few weeks and passed on in February 2010.

Laser Therapy Research in Neurological Disorders

‘Bio-electromagnetic Therapy Research in Neurological Disorders

[1] Spinal Cord Injury Facts & Statistics

[2] Eck JC, Nachtigall D, Humphreys SC, Hodges SD. Questionnaire survey of spine surgeons on the use of methylprednisolone for acute spinal cord injury. Spine. Apr 20 2006;31(9):E250-3.

[3] Polypharmacy is “the act or practice of prescribing too many medications.” Websters Revised Unabridged Dictionary.

[3] Byrnes KR, Waynant RW, Ilev IK, Wu X, Barna L, Smith K, Heckert R, Gerst H, Anders JJ.  Light promotes regeneration and functional recovery and alters the immune response after spinal cord injury. Lasers Surg Med. 2005 Mar;36(3):171-85.

[4} Alghamdi KM, Kumar A, Moussa NA Low-level laser therapy: a useful technique for enhancing the proliferation of various cultured cells. Lasers Med Sci. 2011 Jan 28. [Epub ahead of print]

[5] Tuby H. Maltz L. Oron U, Implantation of low-level laser irradiated mesenchymal stem cells into the infarcted rat heart is associated with reduction in infarct size and enhanced angiogenesis.Photomed Laser Surg 2009 Apr;27(2):227-33.

[6] Eduardo Fde P, Bueno DF, de Freitas PM, Marques MM, Passos-Bueno MR, Eduardo Cde P, Zatz M. Stem cell proliferation under low intensity laser irradiation: a preliminary study. Lasers Surg Med. 2008 Aug;40(6):433-8.

[7] Shefer G, Ben-Dov N, Halevy O, Oron U. Primary myogenic cells see the light: improved survival of transplanted myogenic cells following low energy laser irradiation. Lasers Surg Med. 2008 Jan;40(1):38-45.

[8] June 17, 2010, Laser Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis, The Warsaw Voice

[9] Physical and psychological benefits to quality of life reported following transcutaneous blood irradiation in MS courtesy of Dr. Detlef Schikora, University of Paderborn, Faculty of Science, Germany.

[10] Polypharmacy is “the act or practice of prescribing too many medications.” Websters Revised Unabridged Dictionary.

Copyright 2011 by David Rindge.  All rights reserved.