Does Walking Make Neuropathy Worse? Here’s What Several Studies Say About The Effects Exercise For Nerve Damage

Peripheral neuropathy is quite a painful problem for those who live with diabetes. The constant tingling and numbing in hands and especially in the feet can make daily life a living hell. Most people take neuropathic supplements to dull minimize the pain. Even though these supplements work, sometimes people still complain about lingering pain. 

This brings us to the question that what else can be done to treat peripheral neuropathy

Today, we will be discussing about whether walking makes your neuropathy worse or not the impact of walking on peripheral neuropathy. Did you know that walking everyday for 10 minutes can increase your life span by 2 years?

A Harvard Health Letter published in February 2013 revealed that if people walk 75 or 150 minutes a week, they can reduce the risks associated with chronic diseases. Moreover, a brisk walk will not just improve your mental and physical functioning but also promote enhance longevity.

People with peripheral neuropathy complain that they experience a sharp, shooting pain when the exercise, mainly walk. It’s probably they are doing it wrong, and by that we mean heavy-duty aerobic exercise.

This type of exercise is bound to make you lose your breath. When it comes to walking with peripheral neuropathy, all you have to do is set a brisk pace that gets your heart pumping. To make the walk less taxing, pick comfy shoes that cushion your feet. 

The Relation Between Neuropathy and Muscle Atrophy

Regular exercise is the key to building bone mass and various studies have been conducted on it. However, does exercise effect patients with neuropathy? What people don’t understand is that they can’t just follow any exercise routine to treat neuropathy.

There are plenty of dangers involved with sitting, and the longer diabetic patients sit, the more their peripheral neuropathy worsens. With time, the nerves get pinched, which adds more strain on the body and nerves.

Elderly couple with neuropathy going for a walk

As you can imagine, a chain reaction starts where blood circulation is interrupted and the nerves deteriorate further. 

As a result, the muscles stop receiving signals and any movement becomes quite painful. To understand what type of exercise works best for neuropathic patients, a study conducted by White CM, Pritchard J, and Turner-Stokes L. It was published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

To test functional ability, measures of mobility were taken into account such as walking, stair climbing, and running. A few other different exercises were tested for strength training for an 8-week period. The results revealed that exercise that contributed to muscle building such as walking only showed promise

As we all know, fluctuations in blood sugar level is are a part of diabetes. Patients who suffer from peripheral neuropathy can feel extreme pain when their blood sugar level flares up. Another reason to indulge in exercise such as light walking is to control your sugar level.

In fact, according to a study published in the Diabetes Care Journal by American Diabetes Association, regular physical activity not only improves blood glucose but also delays the onset of diabetes

Now that you know how walking can actually help with your peripheral neuropathy, let’s have a look at the four simple steps on how you can remain fit while managing never pain:

1. Consult Your Doctor First

Before hitting the gym or developing any kind of exercise routine, consult your doctor first. When you suffer from peripheral neuropathy, the body’s responses to injuries become slow. For example, if you have lost sensation in your feet or legs, you might not feel the pain when you stub your toe.

If the injury is severe, the pain can set in and cause problems later. This is why it is better to talk to a physical therapist and let him/her do a full check up. You can then ask him the therapist for an exercise routine that is more suited to the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy you have.

2. Choose Appropriate Exercise

Let’s assume that after your check up, the doctor tell that you that your nerve damage is severe in the foot. This means that you cannot perform any strenuous activities, which might force you to stand on your feet for too long. Taking into account the level of numbness and tingling in your feet, you will be more suited to short distance walks and swimming and that in a warm climate. 

Try to exercise inside the house for the first few days, so that if the flares up pain increases, you have soft ground to rest on. It’s possible that the peripheral neuropathy in your feet has made you prone to falls, which can be quite dangerous when you are exercising outside.

3. Wear the Right Shoes

The American Diabetes Association recommends wearing shoes with air midsoles or silica gel. You can also try Nike’s Training shows and Adidas’s Work Out Shoes that have been specifically created for exercising. Wear socks that pull moisture away and reduce friction. This way, you won’t have to worry about sores or blisters. 

4. Gradually Increase the Exercise Frequency

Always start small! Take a walk around the block and then head back home to inspect your feet. Soak them in warm water and pay special attention to how your feet feel throughout the day. Keep the same routine for a week and look for any changes. If everything iIs alright, increase your exercise time.

5. Aerobic Exercise

Here’s a light exercise routine for you to get started. As mentioned earlier, the purpose of exercising is to increase the heart rate, raise your breathing and feel a light burn in your muscles. You can achieve this in about 30 minutes, which is the ideal exercise time.

However, if you suffer from severe peripheral neuropathy, it is better start with just 5 to 10 minutes. At first, you might feel some pain if you haven’t been active for a long time but the pinching feeling will go away if you exercise regularly.

Following are some examples:

  • Join an aerobic class that teaches low-impact exercises
  • Take a walk after every meal
  • Stationary bicycle indoors
  • Swim
  • Yoga exercises

From all this, we can safely conclude that exercise such as walking can actually help dull the pain and inflammation associated with peripheral neuropathy. It prevents sensory dysfunction and improves mobility, which is achieved through light aerobic and flexing exercises.

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