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How do I Exercise with Neuropathy?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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To exercise with neuropathy, or nerve damage, you should aim for a moderate workout schedule rather than overdoing it. It's important to have regular exercise sessions though, because it may lessen the extent or intensity of neutopathy over time. In general, exercises that don't put a lot of pressure on the skeleton, especially the feet, are good for people with neuropathy.

Running, jogging, hiking, walking and step aerobics may be too much when exercising with nerve damage. If you have moderate to severe neuropathy in the feet or legs, overdoing or even moderately doing these activities may cause foot ulcers or joint damage. If the feet or legs aren't swollen, sore or have a "pins and needles" feeling, then a limited amount of these types of exercises may be able to be done.

Aqua aerobics in the shallow end of a swimming pool may be fine in moderation, as the water helps cushion the feet and joints. However, as there is still contact with the feet on the pool floor, deep water aerobics can offer even more cushioning exercises. Swimming is often an excellent physical activity for those who exercise with neuropathy. Since it involves whole body movement, swimming can provide overall toning as well as cardiovascular benefits when done at a brisk pace.

While regular exercise is especially important for diabetics with neuropathy, as it can help lower blood sugar, proper fitting shoes and checks of the feet after workouts is important. Yoga can be an extremely beneficial exercise with neuropathy, as it's gentle on the body, but if it's done in bare feet, diabetics must be sure to take caution in not getting any scrapes or even a tiny pebble on either foot. Something as minor as a scratch on the foot may go unnoticed by those with neuropathy, as their feet are typically numb. If untreated, a foot infection may become so severe that amputation is necessary.

If you begin the type of exercise that best suits your degree of neuropathy, you should aim for about 30 minutes three to five times a week, depending on your fitness level and physician's recommendations. In addition to water exercises, cycling may be another activity that you find you can do with neuropathy. It's important to begin any type of exercise with neuropathy slowly and build up your time spent on it gradually.

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Discussion Comments

By Animandel — On Feb 15, 2014

Drentel - There was a time when doctors told patients with peripheral neuropathy to avoid exercise, but this has changed. Unless a specific case warrants otherwise, doctors usually recommend patients exercise as a way of treating the nerve damage.

Of course if running becomes too painful, a person with peripheral neuropathy symptoms may find it necessary to try some of the other exercises mentioned in the article. From my experience talking with patients, I recommend swimming. If you don't swim, biking is a good alternative. Both of these activities cause less impact on the body than does running.

By Drentel — On Feb 14, 2014

I have experienced the pins and needles sensation and numbness in my feet. I have been to the doctor and had tests run and no cause has been definitively determined. I have been told that the symptoms could be caused by nerve damage, but I do not have diabetes, which I was pleased to learn.

When I run, my feet feel better. The tingling sensations seldom happen, and the swelling and numbness don't occur as often when I run regularly. As I said, in my case, nerve damage is an educated guest. If that is indeed what I have then I agree with the article that moderate running can be a good neuropathy treatment.

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