If you’ve had diabetes for a while, you might be accustomed to a familiar feeling in your feet and legs. Maybe it’s numbness or tingling, or a burning sensation, or prickly shocks. Perhaps it’s cramping or pain. As many as 1 in 3 diabetes sufferers over the age of 50 experiences some level of diabetic neuropathy pain due to long-term damage to their peripheral nerves. Although nerves are not as resilient as other tissues in terms of self-repair, there are steps you can take to halt the damage and even restore some function.
The simplest strategy? Keep your sugar in check. The extra glucose in the bloodstream causes nerve damage in the first place, so carefully and rigorously keeping your sugar levels within a normal range will keep the damage from getting worse and reduce painful symptoms.
Regular exercise, even if it’s just going for walks, is a great way to keep your blood flowing to damaged nerves. This not only prevents future deterioration, but may actually help repair some of the existing damage. It also builds strength and endurance, which in turn boosts your pain tolerance and resistance.
Some people find massage and heat to be helpful when symptoms occur, especially if muscle cramping is involved. A nice warm bath (test the water with a thermometer or your elbow first to make sure it isn’t too hot) will increase blood flow and sooth aching muscles, and it can be very relaxing, too.
Of course, over-the-counter painkillers can help in certain circumstances, too, but check with your doctor before taking them. They aren’t always as effective for nerve pain as they are for other types of inflammation, and can come with side effects.
Eat a healthy diet with plenty of essential vitamins. Certain supplements, especially those containing Vitamins B12 and D, may be considered for their nerve-nourishing properties. Again, ask your doctor if you need help putting together a diet plan or if you should be taking supplements.
For more diabetic neuropathy management tips, keep reading our blog or check out our patient education library. If you’re concerned about the health of your feet or are experiencing significant numbness or pain in your feet related to diabetes, contact Family Foot and Ankle Center right away to set up an appointment. We have six convenient offices throughout Greater Cincinnati and can be reached at either (513) 728-4800 or (859) 282-1572.