Exercise is a bit of a two-edged sword for those of us suffering from Peripheral Neuropathy. On the one hand, it is not only important for our general health – but for some it can even help reduce nerve pain. On the other hand, for many people with neuropathy, the pain is so intense that conventional exercise is simply not an option. So what can those of us who find ourselves in this group do if we still wish to incorporate exercise into our plan of attack?
Although conventional forms of exercise may be out of the question, there are various low impact exercises that have helped many Neuropathy patients with extreme pain and sensitivity to control or reduce their symptoms. Though not all exercises will work for everyone, here are five low impact exercises that have helped many of our patients cope with intense pain and reduce their symptoms:
Swimming / Water Aerobics
Swimming or water aerobics are a great option for Neuropathy sufferers as the water helps minimize the impact on the body – especially the feet. In fact, scientists say working out in water can make you up to 90% lighter than your actual weight! Water-based exercises are good for cardio and strength. Those with nerve pain are at an increased risk of muscle degeneration as regular exercise often takes a back seat or is eliminated together from daily routines. Swimming is one of the best low impact exercises for maintaining muscle mass.
One form of exercise we occasionally hear of from our followers is equine therapy. For those suffering nerve pain in the feet, horse riding can be a physically exerting form of exercise – minus the impact on the feet. In addition to helping you maintain and even build muscles in your core – it also offers a variety of other therapeutic benefits such as cognitive improvement, confidence-building, emotional empowerment and increased sense of control over one’s life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “walking three times a week, may reduce neuropathy pain, improve your muscle strength and help control blood sugar levels.” Over the years we’ve talked to hundreds of patients who have found consistent walking helps control their pain. For those who find even walking too difficult, using a recumbent bike is a great alternative that can give you equal results.
Yoga offers a wide variety of both physical and mental benefits. Physically, the regular practice of yoga can help control blood sugar – which is critical for those with diabetic neuropathy. Additionally, it can help reduce neuropathic pain. Mentally, the practice of yoga offers a long list of benefits. It soothes the mind, eases anxiety, improves memory and boosts concentration. For many, yoga enhances their mind and body’s ability to tolerate the pain.
Many of those practicing yoga will tell you that the healing power of yoga comes not only from the technique itself, but also from the friendships and associations built among those with whom they practice. For those looking to try this ancient practice, we recommend starting with a beginner’s class where you can learn with the help of an expert alongside those who are also learning.
According to the American Academy of Neurology, doing small amounts of simple stretching exercises throughout the day – five to ten minutes at a time for a total of 30 minutes – is an effective way for Neuropathy patients to improve circulation and fight muscle fatigue. This is especially true for those whose job or circumstances require them to sit for 8 or more hours a day. Proper circulation is not only critical to healthy hands and feet but it can also help provide some level of relief from pain.
What forms of exercise have you found helpful in maintaining your health while also minimizing the impact on your nerve pain? Share your tips below or leave a comment on our Facebook Page.