NEUROPATHY AND EXERCISE
Neuropathy is a disease of the nerves. There are many types of neuropathy with different causes. Medical treatment must be directed toward the underlying cause of the disease, so it is important to discuss this with your physician.
The symptoms of neuropathy vary, and can include muscle weakness, loss of sensation, numbness, tingling, and pain. One of the senses that may be lost is "position sense", also called "proprioception." Because of the nerve damage, the person managing neuropathy cannot tell what position the affected hand, arm, foot or leg is in. When neuropathy is present in the foot, ankle, and leg, balance and walking may be impaired. A person managing neuropathy can damage the ankle joint without realizing it, sprain the ankle, or fall because of poor position sense.
Exercise greatly benefits those who are managing neuropathy because it can help to strengthen weak muscles, preserve range of motion of affected parts of the body, and improve balance.
SIT AND BE FIT programs are greatly beneficial to those managing neuropathy because they contain exercises that improve the circulation, range of motion, and strength in the legs. Some of the standing exercises also work to improve balance. Most of our SIT AND BE FIT programs also contain finger and hand exercises as well. Some of the exercises in SIT AND BE FIT programs use a small ball. Exercises using a small ball help to improve dexterity, strength, and range of motion in fingers and feet. The small ball can also provide a great self-massage when rolled back and forth underneath your foot.
Below are exercises that are especially beneficial to those who are managing neuropathy:
Exercises for neuropathy involving the hand and fingers:
- Touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the index finger, making a round circle. Stretch the hand open. Repeat with middle, ring, and little finger in succession.
- Touch the pad of the thumb with the pad of the index finger. Move the index finger down to the base of the thumb. Repeat twice with the index, middle, ring, and little fingers in succession.
- Place the palms of your hands on your lap. Lift the index finger twice, and tap your lap. Repeat twice with each finger in succession.
- Clasp your hands loosely together. Circle you thumbs around each other.
Seated Exercises for neuropathy involving the feet, ankles, and legs:
- Keeping heels on the floor, lift you toes off the floor, and tap them vigorously. Repeat 5 Times.
- Keeping heels together on the floor, lift your toes off the floor as high as possible. Turn your toes out, and put them back on the floor. (Your feet form a "V") Lift your toes again, bring them together, and put them back on the floor. Repeat 5 times.
- Straighten one knee. Point and flex your ankle 5 times. Circle the ankle clockwise then counter clockwise 5 times each. Repeat on the other side.
Standing Exercises for Balance:
It is very important that you are safe when you work on balance exercises so you do not fall. It may be necessary for you to have supervision or assistance from another person to prevent a fall. If your balance is good enough, you may stand by your kitchen sink, or behind a sturdy chair.
- March gently in place, lifting only your heels off the floor. When that becomes easy lift the heels and toes off the floor very slightly as you march in place. As your balance improves, lift your feet higher off the floor.
- Raise slowly up on your tip toes, then go back on your heels. The knees are kept straight, but not locked.
- Step to the side with your right foot, then bring the left foot next to the right foot. Step to the side with the left foot, then bring the right foot next to it. Repeat several times. As your balance improves, take a larger step to the side.
- Stand tall. Keeping your torso straight up and down, and your feet flat on the floor, bend your knees and hips slightly, sinking downward. Then straighten your hips and knees and stand back up straight. Repeat several times. As your balance and strength improve, bend you knees a little more. (If you have knee pain, stop the exercise.)
Recommended SIT AND BE FIT exercises for managing neuropathy:
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