Does Walking Make Neuropathy Worse or Better?

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It turns out that there are everyday activities that could be helping or hurting people with neuropathy. Nerve damage can worsen without the right treatment or because of certain habits.

When someone is experiencing tingling, burning, and discomfort in his or her hands and feet on a regular basis, the idea of moving can seem daunting.

That’s a valid feeling but research shows that movement can also help these symptoms decrease in intensity and frequency.

Researchers and medical professionals at the Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Neurology, and other health organizations report that moderate forms of exercise can hold many advantages for people with neuropathy.

Some patterns of behavior may be completely normal for most people but for those with neuropathy, it’s a different story. Sometimes it’s what people don’t do that can make nerve damage worse.

Why Exercise Matters

Regular exercise can actually help patients with neuropathy better deal with their condition. Daily movement keeps circulation flowing and can also preserve muscle mass. As most people with neuropathy know, the condition can deplete muscles so it becomes harder to maintain muscle mass. This is a problem because decreased muscle mass (or sarcopenia) can lead to increased risk of injury and disability.

Individuals who experience neuropathic symptoms may be afraid to delve into the world of exercise. Not only can it seem unachievable but certain workouts can lead to more pain than before. This is why it’s crucial for each person to find movement that appeals to him or her and is manageable. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all exercise program for folks with neuropathy. Unfortunately, sometimes it is all about trial and error. The good news is that there are some great places to start.

There are some suitable exercises for those with neuropathy that are both fun and effective. Low-impact aerobic activities such as swimming or light walking are fantastic ways to keep fit and relieve tingling and burning sensations in the feet, legs, arms, and hands. Water aerobics or an aquatics class is entertaining and puts way less strain on the body.

Get Professional Advice 

Individuals should always talk to their doctors before embarking on a new exercise program, no matter how small it may be. Medical professionals can help them find the most suitable workout for them while offering encouragement, advice, and resources. Most doctors can agree that walking is one of the best places to start, whether someone has neuropathy or not.

Benefits of Walking

Walking can be a great activity for those struggling with symptoms of neuropathy. In fact, the Mayo Clinic even recommends walking for most neuropathy patients. The benefits of walking are profound and varied; they span both the physical and mental health of individuals. Mayo Clinic studies show that hundreds of patients with neuropathy find relief and can control their pain better with regular bouts of walking.

Many folks with neuropathy have it because of a diabetes diagnosis. Walking is one natural way to help stabilize blood sugar levels and work towards a healthy weight. A study out of the University of Oslo found that walking after a meal can lower blood sugar as much as a diabetes medication can. There is no need to work up a sweat but getting the heart rate up a bit can make a huge difference.

How Long Should You Walk For?

Some doctors suggest just 20 minutes of walking three days a week. This is a schedule that most people can manage. Walking after a big meal such as dinner can even aid with digestion. For those who may not be at the level of daily or regular walking yet, a stationary bike is an alternative. The repeated movement helps to strengthen legs and muscles but there isn’t as much strain or pressure on the feet. Furthermore, there is less of an excuse not to exercise due to inclement weather or the sun setting early.

Walking is a low-impact exercise that can offset the negative consequences of sitting too much. Sitting for long periods of time can exacerbate the symptoms of neuropathy. Yet many individuals have jobs that require them to sit at a desk for hours each day. It is important for them to get up periodically even if it’s just to stand up and stretch. This pertains not only to people with neuropathy but to anyone with a desk job.

Danger of Sitting

Staying in a seated position for too long can cause pinched nerves. This means that it adds extra strain on the nerves, which can be incredibly painful or uncomfortable for those with neuropathy. If they ignore these pinched nerves, it can lead to sharp, burning pain and even permanent nerve damage. Long periods of sitting can also cut off circulation to the nerves.

Get Better Circulation

Circulation is a necessary process that the nerves need to get a renewed oxygen supply and important nutrients. Without these circulating substances, the nerves literally become starved of nourishment and oxygen.

Poor circulation can make people feel cold all the time or lose feeling in their hands and feet. Over a long period of time, these individuals may not realize that they have cuts, bruises, or other injuries on their hands or feet. This can lead to further complications.

Mental Benefits

Medical professionals shouldn’t forget to mention the mental benefits of walking. A brisk walk can be an instant mood lifter, easing feelings of self-doubt, brain fog, and anxiety. The act of walking releases a flood of endorphins, which are known by many to be “happy hormones”.

A good walk can help a person sleep better at night, something that folks with neuropathy would definitely appreciate. There are also benefits that don’t relate directly to neuropathy. Walking slows down mental or cognitive decline so it’s the perfect exercise to keep up as people get older. It can even aid memory, concentration, and the ability to focus. Anyone could use those benefits!

Exercise Alternatives

Movement can take on other forms as well. Horseback riding may not be the first exercise that comes to mind for neuropathy patients but it has proven to be an effective workout for people with this condition. Horseback riding requires the use of certain muscles, yet the foot muscles are relatively relaxed during this sport. This is great for people with extreme tingling and discomfort in their feet.

Equine therapy can help patients build up core strength, which will help them with their overall sitting and standing posture as well as their walking stance. Equine therapy has also proven itself to be a great way to gain mental clarity, personal empowerment, and better self-esteem. It is suitable for all ages and can be an accessible exercise for people of many different abilities and fitness levels. Plus, being around animals is healing in itself.

Yoga

Yoga can be a wonderful way for people to experience more inner calm, reduce stress, and get a more flexible body. Yoga can also help to stabilize blood sugar levels. The mental benefits of yoga are one way that patients can better cope with the discomfort of their neuropathy. This is one of the reasons why people with injuries turn to this ancient practice. Yoga helps people build up mental tolerance to adversity as well as strengthen their own physical bodies.

Stretching

People should never underestimate the power of stretching. This is something that everyone can do at his or her own pace and the benefits are profound. Stretching can help ease tired muscles or joints as well as reduce neuropathic symptoms.

The American Academy of Neurology recommends daily stretching for a total of about 30 minutes. These stretches don’t have to be done at all once; doing a five-minute stretch here and there throughout the day adds up.

Moreover, stretching before and after a walk can prevent injury or overworked muscles. Stretching improves circulation to the nerves, especially to the hands and feet. After a walk, patients can try elevating their feet for a bit, which can also increase circulation.

To motivate himself or herself, a person can give his or her feet and ankles a massage after completing a walk. Rest is important, too. After any exercise or activity, it’s essential that individuals take some time for their bodies and minds to rest. This can prevent future neuropathy flare-ups or any worsening of symptoms.

Conclusion

One thing that patients should keep in mind is that they don’t have to incorporate all of these activities or techniques into their days. Furthermore, they don’t have to adopt these strategies overnight.

They should start at their own pace and work their way up from there. It’s exciting and encouraging to see the progress each week. Some patients might like to keep a journal handy so they can record how they feel each week.

It may make it easier for them to assess if these practices are working for them. A buddy system can also be a motivator and make committing to a change easier. Patients may want to talk to their doctors about their desire to do more to control their neuropathy as well as advice on starting a walking routine.

Odds are that the doctor will be on board with encouragement, tips, and considerations for each particular patient. The combination of a proper diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements like Nerve Renew can lead to greater pain relief with fewer side effects than prescription drugs. Read our review here to learn more about it.

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