How Exercise & Diet Can Manage Pain Associated with Peripheral Neuropathy in Diabetics
Day to day living with peripheral neuropathy can be rough, physically and emotionally. I work with several clients who suffer daily with pain, numbness and burning sensations in their hands and feet that impair the ability to function independently in activities of daily living such as walking unassisted or handling objects (coffee cup, fork, pen).
My clients acquired peripheral neuropathy in different ways. One client lost feeling in her fingers and toes as a result of chemotherapy treatment, another due to a massive stroke and several of my clients developed the condition as a complication of Type 2 Diabetes. What they all have in common is the desire to live independently, get stronger, reduce pain and prevent further nerve damage. Though their programs are highly individualized, the common thread is that we work to achieve their goals through consistent, guided exercise programming, stress management techniques and structured dietary guidance (utilizing a Registered Dietitian for my diabetic clients).
Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is a condition that can wreak havoc on the physical and emotional well-being of those who suffer with this dysfunction (damage) of the peripheral nervous system. Symptoms of PN may develop over days, weeks, months or years and may be short or long-term. The type of symptoms that present in each person will depend on which nerves are damaged and what may have caused the damage (i.e., Diabetes, nerve injury/trauma, chemotherapy treatment, alcoholism, nutritional deficiencies, tumors).
Peripheral Neuropathy is the most common complication of Diabetes. Experts note that up to 70% of people with Diabetes will develop some form of peripheral neuropathy. Typical symptoms may include burning and/or tingling (“pins and needles”) sensations, numbness or weakness in the extremities - fingers, hands, lower arms, toes, feet and lower legs – and/or trunk and pelvic area. The nerve damage in these areas may reduce sensory awareness to heat, cold or pain (i.e., cut or bruise) in the affected areas and may affect the ability to walk, sit, stand or hold/grip objects with the hands.
The cause of PN in Type II Diabetics is chronically high blood sugar levels, which causes nerve damage. However, with the integration and maintenance of healthy lifestyle habits, it is possible to regenerate peripheral nerve cells that haven’t been destroyed. Cell regeneration may reduce pain and restore sensation in the affected areas. For people with PN caused by Diabetes, regular exercise, including strength, balance and flexibility training and soft tissue release combined with proper nutrition and effective stress management techniques may prevent further damage and increase overall quality of life.
Benefits of exercise include:
Benefits of a balanced diet include:
> increased blood flow
> blood sugar level stabilization
> increased oxygen to cells
> reduced cellular inflammation
> increased nutrients to nerve-endings
> prevention of increased nerve damage
> increased muscle strength
> increased cardiovascular endurance
Foods that may aggravate PN
> decreased muscle atrophy
- processed, packaged foods
> improved emotional well-being
- refined sugars
> increased energy
- refined grains
> increased balance and stability
- saturated fats
The recommended amount of exercise is 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, including aerobics and resistance training. To achieve this when you're dealing with the effects of neuropathy, you can choose aerobic activities like swimming, utilizing a stationary bike or chair-based group fitness classes. You can also work with a physical therapist to restore function in affected areas and then work with a fitness professional to design a strength training program to increase muscle mass, balance and flexibility.
A balanced diet rich in whole foods is best. Nutrition is highly individual and diabetics should work with a nutritionist to develop the best nutrition plan to restore optimal health and vitality. Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks (soda, artificial juices, etc.).
If you or someone you know suffers from peripheral neuropathy caused by Diabetes, there is help for you to reduce and/or alleviate your symptoms! Check out the resources below for more information and contact me when you’re ready to take the next step towards maximizing your health!
References Best Peripheral Neuropathy Diet | Foods To Avoid. (2019). Retrieved 25 July 2019, from https://www.foundationforpn.org/living-well/lifestyle/nutrition/
How to Treat the Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy. (2019). Retrieved 25 July 2019, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/peripheral-neuropathy-explained-190109
Peripheral Neuropathy and Diabetes. (2019). Retrieved 25 July 2019, from https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/peripheral-neuropathy-risk-factors-symptoms#1
Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2019). Retrieved 25 July 2019, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Peripheral-Neuropathy-Fact-Sheet#3208_6