Peripheral Neuropathy Exercise Precautions
Peripheral neuropathy is a disease related to nerves. Peripheral nerves get damaged due to various underlying diseases such as diabetes. Peripheral nerves primarily control the muscles. Any disease in these nerves may lead to weak muscles. Other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include numbness, pricking sensation, pain, and improper coordination and balance. Exercises are advised to the patients to strengthen their muscles and improve balance. However, precautions are necessary while performing exercises to reduce the risk of injury or worsening of the condition.
Peripheral Neuropathy Exercise Precautions
Peripheral neuropathy is the condition characterized by pain, muscle weakness, poor balance, numbness and tickling sensation and sensitivity to touch. Although various exercises, including peripheral neuropathy rehabilitation exercises, are recommended to the patients, precautions should be taken while exercising. Doing exercise without the guidance of an expert may do more harm than good. Some of the precautions, to be followed by peripheral neuropathy patients, while exercising are:
- Do not perform heavy exercises right from the beginning. Gradually increase the intensity and frequency of exercise to avoid any complications.
- Walking should be preferred over jogging due to the latter’s increased pressure effect on the foot.
- In the case of diabetic neuropathy, the patient should always inspect the feet for any injury after exercise.
- Avoid doing exercise if you have a foot injury or back inflammation as it may further worsen the condition.
- Always perform exercise under the advice and guidance of an expert.
- Various exercises are recommended for peripheral neuropathy but you should opt for that particular exercise that best suits your condition.
- Always wear comfortable footwear while doing exercise.
- Avoid socks that cause friction and does not help absorbing moisture, as it may lead to tissue injury.
Exercises Recommended In Peripheral Neuropathy
Doing exercise in peripheral neuropathy helps reduce pain and strengthens muscles. Research has proven that exercise plays an important role in improving muscle strength and managing fatigue, two commonly found symptoms in patients with peripheral neuropathy. Exercise also helps improve blood circulation to the affected nerve, thereby enhances the process of healing and revitalization. Exercises that prove to be helpful in peripheral neuropathy are broadly divided into four categories:
a) Aerobic Exercise
Neuropathic pain requires frequent use of pain killers. Taking pain killers for a longer period may cause side effects. To reduce the frequency of pain killers, it is essential that the secretion of the body’s own natural painkillers such as endorphins should be released. One of the primary aims of aerobic exercise is to increase the secretion of endorphins. Aerobic exercise increases the movement of large muscles and helps to breathe with full capacity. This improves blood circulation and increases endorphin secretion. Initially, exercise for 10 minutes, three days a week. Gradually increase the time of exercise to 30 minutes with a similar frequency of three days a week. Aerobic exercise includes swimming, stationary bicycle indoor and brisk walking (outside or on a treadmill).
b) Balance Training
Peripheral neuropathy may lead to stiff muscles because of poor nerve conduction. In such a condition, the risk of falling is significantly increased. Balance training improves balance by reducing stiffness of muscles and joints and also helps in maintain sufficient balance. Side leg raise exercise is done by raising a leg on one side while balancing the body with the help of a chair. Similarly, the steps are to be repeated with another leg. The patient should try to hold their body on one leg for 5-10 seconds. Once the patient gets successful in balancing with the support of the chair, he should try to perform without a chair. Other balancing exercises include hip extension, hip flexion, and calf raises exercise.
c) Stretching Exercise
Stretching exercises improve muscular and joint flexibility. Doing these exercises on a routine basis reduces the risk of injury. These exercises are generally done before aerobic exercises to warm up the body. Various flexibility exercises include seated hamstring stretch, calf stretch, and plantar fascia stretch. In the plantar fascia stretch, the patient stands by its face towards the door frame. The heel is placed at the closest distance from the door frame. Patient leans forward and the toe moves up on the frame while the heels slide back. The knee can also be bent on the door frame to increase the stretch.
d) Strength Training Exercise
Strength training exercises enhances the strength of muscles and helps to perform other exercises with improved strength. Strength training exercises recommended in peripheral neuropathy are Seated Dorsiflexion, Chair Squat, and Kitchen Counter Calf Raises. Seated dorsiflexion is done for peripheral neuropathy in feet. In seated dorsiflexion, the patient is seated on the front part of the chair. The feet are placed flat on the floor. The patient is advised to lift the toe and ankle as high as possible. Ankles and toes are slowly let down.
Exercise increases muscle strength and improves balance in patients with peripheral neuropathy. It also helps in reducing further injuries during routine activities by enhancing muscular and joint flexibility. Exercises such as stretching, balancing and aerobic are done after consulting with peripheral neuropathy doctor. However, such exercises should be done with caution to avoid any injury.