Peripheral neuropathy includes more than 100 different manifestations of nerve damage that can prove potentially incapacitating, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The development of this condition is a multifactorial process that’s highly complicated. It often begins with a gradual, almost unnoticeable, onset. But the long-term effects can prove devastating for patients.
Fortunately, an exciting new avenue of research continues to shed light on the role of fitness in the prevention and management of the condition. An active lifestyle also appears to play a crucial role in some of peripheral neuropathy’s most distressing symptoms. Here’s what your patients need to know about exercise and neuropathy.
Exercise and Neuropathy
Encouraging patients to lead an active and healthy lifestyle starts with understanding which exercises provide the most benefit for those suffering from peripheral neuropathy. While there are caveats to recommending any exercise regimen, three types of exercise generally considered beneficial include aerobics, balance exercises, and stretching.
Aerobic exercises should focus on moving large muscle groups and contribute to deep breathing and the release of feel-good endorphins. Endorphins not only make us feel great, but they represent the body’s natural painkillers. For patients new to fitness, as little as ten minutes of aerobics per week can lead to vast improvements over time. Swimming, bicycling, or brisk walking are excellent ways for patients to get out there and move.
The benefits of balance exercises are multi-layered. They can reduce joint stiffness and muscle tightness while improving a patient’s overall balance. This proves vital to reducing and preventing falls. For those new to balance training, simple exercises include calf raises and side leg raises. Even a few minutes a day will lead to incremental improvements long-term.
A daily stretching routine also comes with many advantages. It can reduce the risk of exercise-related injury, and it represents a fantastic warm-up and cool-down before and after the main exercise routine. An excellent place for your patients to start is with two simple leg stretches, a calf stretch and a seated hamstring stretch.
What to Avoid With Peripheral Neuropathy
When it comes to exercise and neuropathy, patients must bear in mind the loss of sensation they’ve already experienced as it can contribute to unnoticed injuries. For this reason, they should practice good foot health, including regular examinations. Numbness may lead to injuries your patients may not even realize they have, including blisters, twisted ankles, or stubbed toes.
Some podiatrists have reported patients with advanced neuropathy walking around on fractured feet without realizing it (via Everyday Health). This can lead to a worsening of the condition that may require major surgical reconstruction. For these reasons, you’ll want to work closely with patients to ensure they’re getting the most out of an exercise plan without risking injuries. You’ll also want to discuss other ways to manage neuropathy through nitric oxide supplementation combined with NeuropaCalm treatment.