Diabetic Nerve Pain and the Battle to Stay Active

Diabetic nerve pain makes it hard to stay active. But exercise is a large part of the diabetes cure. If you need to get back on your feet, here is some help.

Diabetic nerve pain in their feet is the symptom diabetics mention most often. That is because nearly 70% of diabetics have some nerve damage in their feet, legs and hands.

Diabetic nerve damage usually shows up first in your feet. That has some major consequences.

More than 60% of the non-traumatic amputations doctors perform are related to diabetes. And most of those are partial foot and below the knee.

Diabetic amputations are directly linked to nerve damage, the kind that causes diabetic nerve pain.

Knowing the cause and what to do about it can help. Amputation is too high a price to pay for giving in to pain.

Where It Starts

Peripheral neuropathy is the medical term for nerve pain in toes, fingers, hands and feet. It shows up as numbness, tingling, burning, prickling, sharp pains and cramps, and loss of sensitivity to pain and temperature.

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There can also be extreme sensitivity to touch, or paresthesias. Some people can't even bear the weight of a sheet on their feet at night.

Enough people have extreme paresthesias that there is a 'bed cradle' you can buy. It will keep the covers off your feet so you can sleep without pain and still keep your feet warm.

When It Gets Worse

When diabetic nerve pain gets worse it can lead to loss of balance and coordination. Hands get carpal tunnel syndrome and begin to drop things.

Feet get hammertoes, blisters, sores and infections that won't heal because the nerves and blood flow are not there.

When infection sets in, doctors perform amputations to remove the dead tissue. It is the only way the living parts can survive.

What Your Doctor Can Do to Help Prevent Problems

Do you wonder why your doctor pricks your feet? Doctors use the monofilament test to check for peripheral neuropathy.

A short piece of stiff plastic that looks like fishing line is pricked against the skin of your toes, along the soles and the tops of your feet and ankles.

If you feel it, all is well. If not, diabetic nerve pain and damage has begun.

Sometimes a doctor will use a tuning fork to see if you can feel vibration in different parts of your feet. He also feels the pulses at your ankles and feet, and checks to see if your feet are cold.

All this helps him tell if peripheral neuropathy has begun. He'll ask if you've been seeing a podiatrist and if you inspect your feet every day. Here is good advice for how to take care of your feet.

There Are Things You Can Do Too

The best way to prevent diabetic nerve pain is to keep your blood sugar in good ranges. A hemoglobin A1C under 7 means you are doing just that. Most doctors check type 2 diabetics with this test every three months.

The next thing you can do is exercise. Legs have the largest muscles in your body. So use them by walking, biking, swimming, dancing, or any way you can think of.

Exercise brings back circulation. It also gives you weight loss, stamina, strength, lower blood sugars, and reduced nerve damage.

The problem is that your legs are attached to diabetic feet. If your feet hurt, exercising your legs gets tougher.

It is natural to avoid pain, so you will not want to walk if you have diabetic nerve pain in your feet. It may be hard to believe, but foot pain will be improved by exercise.

That's exactly why shoes are so important, and they are discussed in detail on this page about diabetic shoes.

Creams, Patches and Physical Therapy

Capsaicin creams, which you can find on the store shelves beside athlete's foot medications, have something in them that improves diabetic nerve pain naturally.

It comes from cayenne pepper. If the cream makes your hands burn when you rub your feet with it, use some rubber or plastic gloves. You'll find them in the pharmacy section too.

Don't give up if it doesn't work at first. It takes a couple of weeks of use, but it's worth it.

Lidocaine patches are applied to the skin of painful areas to numb the nerves. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflamatories like ibuprofen also help, and if you take them a few minutes before walking, you might be able to exercise longer.

Physical therapy is exercises and stretches done on the body part you need help for. It can get you back up on your feet.

And there are free internet videos for stretches and exercises for feet, ankles and legs on its physical therapy exercises page.

What You Eat Can Help Nerve Pain

There are foods that will lower your levels of diabetic nerve pain. Here are some of them. The foods on this list are known pain fighters.

Antioxidants are found in the superfood lists, and they have been shown to improve diabetic nerve pain and reverse damage. They are worth a try. The best ones have B1 and B12 in them.

Don't forget that a daily dose of vitamin D is great for aches and pains too. Where do you get it? From sunshine. How is that for free medication?

It's time to get back on your feet. And I will too. We won't let type 2 diabetes take our toes, not without a fight.

"Fall seven times, stand up eight." Japanese proverb.

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