BALANCE TECHNIQUES THAT HELP NEUROPATHY
- Improve the way your feet work.
- Increase core strength.
- Focus the eyes to make up for balance deficit.
- Improve nervous system health.
Improve the way your feet work:
Recommendations for those with neuropathy:
- Do foot exercises: There are many, many different kinds of foot exercises. After taking proper precautions, including speaking with your physician to get his approval, do foot exercises every day with the goal to improve foot joint mobility and increase foot and leg muscle health through stretch and strengthening exercise.
- Release tension from the nearby joints (the hips and the knees). When our feet suffer, the other leg joints tighten up in response to both the pain and inflammation but also from the inactivity that often results as well.
- Reduce pain, inflammation and stiffness: Releasing tension is also an effective technique for reducing pain and inflammation. Always appropriate, from Building Better Balance: "Stretch the muscles that your pain has tightened."
- Learn to walk properly: Heel touches first, push off with the back foot. Practicing this in a seated or standing position is wonderful way to improve the flexibility of all the leg joints and is highly recommended for those with neuropathy.
- Stretch the back of the legs: This is important for anyone who walks or sits a lot and is especially pertinent for those with neuropathy. Hamstring and calf tightness is responsible for many ills including leg cramps, poor balance and an increase in fall risk.
Each morning do 3 things: massage your feet, circle your ankles and flex and point your feet. You can do this sitting on the edge of the bed or in a chair nearby. You can even do much of it lying down. Look below for a link to a wonderful quick and easy foot massage video.
A detailed description on how to learn to walk properly is available in the second DVD of the Building Better Balance series: Legs & Feet: Walking Made Easier.
Increase core strength:
Abdominals are extremely easy to perform. Simply pull your belly in. While waiting in line, while waiting for lunch to be served. when sitting watching TV. I recommend that each day you do at least 3 sets of 8 repetitions of simply pulling your middle in and then releasing.
Although this is wonderful general advice, it has special pertinence for those with foot neuropathy. Our joints are strongly affected by how much weight is placed upon them. The stronger our core, the less weight compresses down upon the joints of the feet, reducing symptoms of pain and inflammation. Less stress on the joints also means better circulation and improved nervous system health.
If you have problems with your feet and you are overweight, take 10 pounds off and you will be amazed at the reduction in your symptoms!
Focus your eyes to increase stability:
- The inner ear informs the brain about where the head is in space.
- The eyes give the brain information about the dimensions of the real world.
- The peripheral nervous system sends messages to the brain regarding where the limbs are in space (proprioception).
When we have a deficit in one of them, we can make up for it by improving use of the others. If it is difficult to feel where your feet are, proprioception is reduced and balance is worse as a result. In these circumstances it makes great sense to improve the use of your eyes so that eye focus will more greatly assist with balance. Exercises for improving peripheral vision are helpful. Eye muscle exercise helps.
improves balance significantly.
Improve nervous system health:
Exercise can make a huge difference. Working with simple hand/foot coordination using rhythm is a great way to improve nervous system health. Instructions for that are included in Exercises for Neuropathy of the Feet. Here are some other tips:
- The hands and feet are so similar that we can use one to teach the other. Wiggling your fingers helps teach the nervous system how to wiggle the toes.
- One side of your body can instruct the other side. Do the exercise on your right side and it tells the brain what to expect on the left. If one foot is more affected than the other: do the exercise on the best foot first.
- Try to make your sides function equally, or at least have that goal in mind even if equal function is not possible. Focus on your ideal and gently but consistently move slowly in the direction of your goal.
- Use imagery to improve function. Imagery is an extremely powerful tool for training the nervous system. Competitive sports use this skill extensively to train athletes to perform at their best. We too can imagine how we want to move, in specific or general ways. The more serious the focus the more benefit we can receive. We can imagine how we want to perform in any activity. Imagine how you want to stand up from your chair moving smoothly and easily. Imagine how you want to get into or out of a car. Before standing up out of bed in the morning, imagine doing it with grace and ease.
There are so many things we can do to reduce the effects of neuropathy of the feet while at the same time improving our balance. Read more about which exercises are best. And here is that great, short foot massage developed by Self Massage for Athletes. You can see these and many other exercises wonderful for improving balance demonstrated in the Building Better Balance series of DVDs. Learn more by clicking on the buttons below.