Local Clinic Pioneers Nerve Damage Treatment

Updated: 05/07/2013 10:44 PM KSTP.com By: Stephen Tellier

Pain in your hands, numbness in your feet, and on the worst days, losing the ability to move your limbs.

Those symptoms are caused by the same common, incurable condition that affects hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans. But a local clinic is pioneering a new treatment that's showing remarkable results.

"I like to feel that I am very tough and can handle pain," said Mike McGraw, a patient at Realief Neuropathy Centers in St. Louis Park.

McGraw is always on his feet, working as an insurance agent. But several years ago, he had to start assessing damage done to his own body.
"There would be days where you just couldn't walk because the pain was so great," McGraw said.
He had constant burning, tingling, and numbness in his feet, and in his legs up to his knees. He tried painkillers and physical therapy. Nothing worked.
"The pain was so bad, I was going to try anything," McGraw said.
Now, lasers are bringing his legs back to life -- basically waking up nerves that had stopped working.
"After my first visit here, I noticed a remarkable change," McGraw said.
McGraw has peripheral neuropathy, a breakdown of the nerves in the hands and feet. His was brought on by diabetes. But it can be caused by chemotherapy, viral and bacterial infections, and an array of other diseases. There is no cure, and few effective treatments.
"It was debilitating," said Alan Bignall, who helped found Realief Neuropathy Centers.
He suffered from the same symptoms, until he got the laser treatment himself.
"This was life changing for me. It took me from a guy hobbling around to a guy who can now run and jump and do all that stuff again," Bignall said.
"It's just enhancing the body's ability to make those dysfunctional nerve tissues work better," said Dr. Timothy Kelm, with Realief Neuropathy Centers.
The clinic has treated hundreds of patients already, and claims that more than two out of three report an improvement in quality of life.
McGraw is back on his feet. And he plans to stay on them.
"I can do a lot more than I used to be able to do. Now, my family would tell you that's still not a lot, but it's more than I was able to do before," McGraw said, with a laugh.
Since the treatment is relatively new, the benefits have not been conclusively proven by the larger medical community. But new research conducted by a doctor with the Mayo Clinic found the treatment worked for most patients.
It is not yet covered by most insurance companies, and costs between $2,500 and $3,500 on average.
See raw video of the procedure here.