Don't let nerve pain keep you on the sidelines

Published On: Nov 20 2012 11:39:43 AM EST

By Cindy Kuzma, Pure Matters

Regular exercise is important for controlling your diabetes. That doesn't change just because you have neuropathy or nerve damage caused by high blood sugar. But you may have to take special precautions to stay in the game.

Reap the Benefits of Working Out

Physical activity keeps your weight and cholesterol down. It also helps your blood sugar stay in check. Your nerve damage is less likely to progress when these factors are in control.

When you have diabetes and neuropathy, your chances of falling are higher than normal. But exercises that improve your strength and balance can counter this risk. What's more, regular physical activity:

Experts recommend that people with diabetes get 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. That's enough to burn at least 1,000 calories weekly. Moderate activities include:

Exercising with Peripheral Neuropathy

With this condition, diabetes-related nerve damage affects your arms, legs, hands, and feet. You'll usually develop symptoms first in your feet or legs. You might feel numbness, burning, pain, or tingling.

This type of neuropathy can make it harder to control your movements. It also can mask the pain of an injury, especially to your feet. Protect your feet or legs during exercise by:

Always talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. If your neuropathy is severe, he or she might advise activities where you're not supporting your body weight. For example, choose biking, swimming, rowing, and arm exercises instead of running or walking.

Exercising with Autonomic Neuropathy

Sometimes, nerve damage also affects involuntary actions in your body. This is called autonomic neuropathy. Symptoms include problems with your bladder, digestive troubles, and difficulty with sexual activity. It may also impair your cardiovascular and respiratory systems and the nerves connected to your eyes.

Because it affects your heart and blood pressure, you might find that moving quickly feels more difficult with autonomic neuropathy. Talk with your doctor before beginning a new regime or if you're having trouble with your current workouts. You might be more comfortable with lower-intensity activities.

Once you've cleared your plan with your health care team, remember these tips: