Exercise & Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder involving damage to the nerves outside of the spinal cord and brain. The damage to the nerves causes them to produce symptoms which are often painful and unpleasant. According to the National Library of Medicine, among other conditions, the nerve damage that causes peripheral neuropathy can be from diabetes, kidney failure, toxins or trauma to the nerves. It is often not possible to find a cause. The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can make exercise challenging.


Symptoms Influencing Exercise

The Mayo Clinic states that peripheral neuropathy can produce a variety of symptoms including numbness, sharp, stabbing pain, lack of coordination, extreme sensitivity and muscle weakness. Because peripheral neuropathy symptoms are individual to each person with the condition, the level of exercise and physical activity you are able to engage in will depend on your unique situation. Seek medical attention if you have not been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and notice these indications, or if your symptoms change.

Types of Exercise

The type of exercise you choose will depend on the extent of your peripheral neuropathy and the advice of your health care professional. Some people with mild cases of the disease may be able to carry on a fairly normal exercise routine. Others may need to carefully tailor their physical activity to their condition. The National Library of Medicine states that physical therapy, occupational therapy and other activities supervised by a professional may help increase mobility and reduce symptoms. Your health care provider can prescribe these treatments.


The dangers involved in exercising with peripheral neuropathy depend on the symptoms you are experiencing. If your muscle control and coordination are compromised, falls will be a concern. Numbness in your feet will reduce or eliminate your ability to feel blisters, cuts or other damage. If the peripheral neuropathy has affected autonomic nerves (ones controlling organs and glands) you may face challenges such as the loss of blood pressure control and challenges with breathing and heartbeat regularity, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Additionally, autonomic nerve damage can reduce your ability to feel low blood glucose levels which is especially dangerous if you are a diabetic.


Consult your health care provider and work together to establish precautions which will allow you to exercise safely. If your muscle coordination is affected, you may need special devices such as braces or canes to allow you to exercise with a reduced risk for falls. If you are a diabetic or are prone to low blood glucose levels, check your blood glucose before, during and after exercise and be prepared to respond. Protect your feet by wearing good shoes and make a habit of carefully inspecting them following exercise. Using a mirror can help you make a thorough examination and detect any redness, sores or cuts on the soles of your feet.


Exercise is not only possible for individuals with peripheral neuropathy, but it can have a positive effect on your condition, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The Mayo Clinic states that exercise can help reduce neuropathy pain and brings other health benefits such as blood glucose control. In addition to other therapies prescribed by your health care provider, you may find consulting with a massage therapist, a podiatrist and other specialists helpful.


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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.