Nerve damage symptoms don't need to stop you from exercising, but they do pose some limitations on which exercises you can, and should, do. Nerve damage symptoms can include muscle weakness, pain, numbness and tingling. Nerve damage can also inhibit your proprioception, or ability to sense position, and therefore you can more easily injure yourself exercising without realizing it. The right kinds of exercise, however, coupled with careful attention to your body as you perform them, can help reduce nerve damage symptoms, in part by slowing down the process of damage and helping prevent cramps, wasting and paralysis. See your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.
Low-impact exercises such as swimming, bicycling and rowing can help reduce nerve damage symptoms without risking further damage. For additional strength training, consider seated exercises and resistance training exercises for parts of the body not affected by nerve damage. Stretching and toning exercises help improve circulation and restore and retain range of motion. Balance exercises are helpful in preventing falls.
Exercises To Avoid
People with nerve damage to the feet should avoid weight-bearing exercises such as walking or running as they could cause foot injuries. Those with nerve damage to the heart and blood vessels, or autonomic neuropathy, are at greater risk of heart attack from strenuous exercise and therefore more limited in the range of exercises they can safely perform. Regardless of the parts of your body affected by nerve damage, you should always discuss with your doctor any exercises you are considering before taking them on.
With nerve damage to the feet, never exercise barefoot. Instead use quality walking or running shoes with socks that aren't too thick or tight, preferably ones that wick moisture. Check shoes for tears and punctures as well as rocks or other debris before putting them on. After your workout, check your feet for cuts, blisters, redness or swelling.
People with nerve damage should always take care to include gentle exercises in their routine for warming up before exercise and cooling down afterward in order to ease their heart gradually in and out of the routine and avoid overexerting any muscles. Self-massage is another effective way to gently encourage circulation and muscle flexibility.
- Cochrane Reviews: Exercise For People With Peripheral Neuropathy; C.M. White, et al.; Oct. 2004
- LSU College Of Education: Exercise Intervention Program For People With Peripheral Neuropathy; Angela Owings Broussard; 2005
- National Institute Of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet; Feb. 2011
- Health.com: How To Exercises If You Have Nerve Damage (Neuropathy); Anne C. Poinier, M.D., et al.; May 2010
- The Body: Managing Peripheral Neuropathy; Sam Page; 2009