Acupressure for foot and toe pain

Exercises for Peripheral Neuropathy

What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy occurs due to damage of the peripheral nervous system. These peripheral nerves connect the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to the rest of the body (arms, legs, face, and organs).  Common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include pain in the hands or feet, inability to feel temperature changes like heat and cold, and sensations like numbness or tingling.  You may experience different symptoms depending on which nerves are affected.  This article will discuss some exercises that can help heal peripheral neuropathy, as well as how Chinese Medicine can help.

Exercises for Peripheral Neuropathy:

You can treat peripheral neuropathy in many ways depending on what type of peripheral neuropathy you have.  Some common treatment options include taking medications like painkillers, having warm baths, and treating the underlying cause of the condition.  But exercise is also a key component of treatment.  Exercise increases blood circulation which reduces symptoms like pain and numbness and can even help to regenerate nerves as well.  Stretching, balancing, and aerobics are three important exercises that can help with peripheral neuropathy.  As always, make sure you warm up properly before starting your exercise, by doing dynamic stretches like arm circles.

Exercises for Peripheral Neuropathy

Stretches for Peripheral Neuropathy:

Stretching is an important part of exercise.  It can increase your flexibility and reduce the likelihood of injury if done correctly.  Before doing any static stretches, always warm your body up by doing some dynamic stretches.  These could include swinging your arms or legs to get the body moving.

Calf stretches and hamstring stretches are both good static stretches to help with peripheral neuropathy.  Whenever you perform static stretches, make sure to keep the breath flowing freely, and don’t push yourself to the point of pain.  Once you get into position, try to gradually relax into the stretch so that your muscles can stretch out.

To stretch the calf muscles, stand with one leg about a metre in front of the other leg, with both feet facing forward.  As you gradually bend the front knee, try to press down through the heel of your back foot.  You should feel a stretch through the calf of your back leg.  If your front knee extends forwards beyond your front foot, you’ll need to move your front foot forwards a bit.  This stretch can be held for 15 seconds and can be repeated three times for each leg.

The seated hamstring stretch can also be performed three times for each leg and can be held for 15 seconds each time.  Sit on a chair with one leg pressed firmly on the floor and the other leg straight out in front of you.  The front leg should be straight with the heel on the floor and the toes pointing upwards.  This stretches the tendon at the back of the leg, called the hamstring.  To increase the stretch, gradually lean forward over the extended leg, keeping the back straight, until you feel a stretch.  

Balancing Exercises:

Practising balances can also help to improve peripheral neuropathy symptoms.  There are many balances out there which you can do, especially in areas like yoga.  While you may think that balance is all about the muscles, an important aspect of balance is the gaze.  When doing any balance, set your eyes to focus on a visual point, and maintain that focused gaze throughout the balance.

A calf raise is one balance that can be beneficial.  Stand with both feet firmly in the ground and stand near a wall for balance.  Slowly lift your heels off the ground so that you are balancing on your toes.  Then gradually lower your heels to the ground.  You can repeat this balance 10 to 15 times.  As your balance improves, you may gradually be able to balance without using a wall for support.

Aerobic Exercises:

Aerobic activities are another way to help heal peripheral neuropathy.  These exercises promote deep breathing and increased blood circulation, which means more oxygen can get to different parts of your body.  This can help to reduce neuropathy symptoms.  

Exercise is most effective when done regularly.  Try to set up a doable exercise routine where you do at least 20-30 minutes of physical activity most days.  Cycling, walking briskly, and swimming are all good starting points for aerobic exercise.

Exercises for Peripheral Neuropathy

How Can Chinese Medicine Help?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the health of the body is directly related to the functioning of five main organs called the Zang organs.  These organs are the liver, heart, spleen, lungs, and kidneys.  These organs are fundamentally connected to each other, the whole body, and the elements of nature.  When one of these organs is out of balance and stops functioning properly, you may experience symptoms.  For example, the liver (and gallbladder) control the functions of detoxification, as well as maintaining the joints, tendons, and nerves.  This means that when the liver or gallbladder is weak, you may experience nerve problems like the neuropathy.

Chinese Medicine techniques like acupuncture can help to recharge the affected organs in the body.  This is done by applying very thin needles to specific pressure points in the body, which connect to the energy meridians.  Healing the weaker organs allows them to function properly again, which encourages the body to heal itself.  Acupuncture can also increase blood circulation and stimulate nerves, which may directly reduce the symptoms of neuropathy.

Conclusion:

Overall, exercise is a great way to treat peripheral neuropathy.  Stretching, balancing, and aerobics are all very beneficial for healing the symptoms of neuropathy, and promote overall health.  Chinese Medicine can also help to treat conditions like peripheral neuropathy, through techniques like acupuncture.

For more information about how Chinese Medicine treatments like acupuncture can help you, please see our website at https://balancetcm.co.nz/traditional-chinese-medicine-hamilton/.

For information about neuropathy and Chinese Medicine, see our webpage at https://balancetcm.co.nz/category/a-z-diseases/neuropathy/.

Exercises for Peripheral Neuropathy

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References:

Anthony, K. (2018, September 18). Exercises for Peripheral Neuropathy.  Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/exercises-for-peripheral-neuropathy

Carey, E. (2021, October 5). Peripheral Neuropathy. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/peripheral-neuropathy

Centre of Balance Hamilton: Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine (n.d.). Archive for category: Neuropathy. https://balancetcm.co.nz/category/a-z-diseases/neuropathy/

Phua, S. (n.d.). What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine? Centre of Balance Hamilton: Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine. https://balancetcm.co.nz/traditional-chinese-medicine-hamilton/