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Exercise Programs for Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when nerves become compressed, injured or severed 12. This results in symptoms including pain, numbness, tingling and lack of coordination, particularly in the feet and hands. While these symptoms can make exercise more difficult, exercise is highly beneficial to those who experience nerve damage. Understanding what exercises benefit you most can help to reduce peripheral neuropathy symptoms 12.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Significance

A number of conditions that affect the nerves can cause peripheral neuropathy 124. These include diabetes, which is one of the most common causes; infection; injury; autoimmune disease; poison exposure; and tumor growth. If nerve cells have not been completely killed off due to peripheral neuropathy, nerve cells can regenerate and symptoms can improve 12. Following an exercise program for peripheral neuropathy can help to reduce symptoms while nerve cells heal 12. As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, exercise programs for peripheral neuropathy should include a combination of resistance, cardiovascular and flexibility training 12.

Flexibility Exercises

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Repeated stretching throughout the day as part of your exercise program can help to relieve tingling and numbness associated with peripheral neuropathy, according to the American Academy of Neurology 12. Examples of beneficial stretches include reaching the arms up over the head, reaching for your toes while standing, and performing torso rotations. Hold stretches for 30 seconds each. Perform these and other stretching exercises for five-minute intervals six times per day to experience symptom improvement.

  • Repeated stretching throughout the day as part of your exercise program can help to relieve tingling and numbness associated with peripheral neuropathy, according to the American Academy of Neurology 1.
  • Perform these and other stretching exercises for five-minute intervals six times per day to experience symptom improvement.

Cardiovascular Training

Cardiovascular exercise is the calorie-burning portion of a peripheral neuropathy exercise program 12. Getting your heart pumping helps you to maintain a healthy weight and stimulates blood flow. Water aerobics is a low-impact exercise that does not require those with peripheral neuropathy to place pressure on their feet — an area where many experience pain 12. Walking or riding an exercise bicycle are additional methods that can improve symptoms.

Resistance Training

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Resistance training for peripheral neuropathy involves lifting weights, using resistance bands or leveraging the body’s own resistance in order to build muscle 12. If you are prone to peripheral neuropathy in the feet or lower legs, calf raises and toe pointing and flexing are resistance-training exercises that build muscles in these areas 12. For the arms, wrist circles, bicep curls and shoulder presses can be beneficial. If you are utilizing weights, start slowly to prevent post-exercise pain and soreness. Resistance training is particularly helpful for older adults who are wheelchair-bound or unable to engage in cardiovascular exercise, according to Neurology Reviews.

  • Resistance training for peripheral neuropathy involves lifting weights, using resistance bands or leveraging the body’s own resistance in order to build muscle 1.

Benefits

Exercising to relieve peripheral neuropathy offers benefits for both mind and body 12. Exercise stimulates blood flow, which can help to reduce cramping in affected areas and strengthen nerve tissue. Resistance training increases muscle strength, which prevents muscle wasting and increases stability. Peripheral neuropathy exercises also can help to relieve stress that can lead to depression in those with this condition 12.

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