People often associate physical therapy with injuries and surgery. However, these programs can also help treat other conditions, including peripheral neuropathy pain.
Peripheral neuropathy occurs when you have damaged nerves outside of your brain and spinal cord. This part of your nervous system helps carry signals from your body to your brain. So, if damage occurs, it can trigger a variety of issues in the extremities, including dysfunction, numbness, weakness, and pain.
Vladimir Fiks, MD, creates personalized treatment strategies for peripheral neuropathy at Advanced Pain Management Center in Portland, Oregon. In many cases, this involves a combination of therapies that work together to provide relief.
If you have peripheral neuropathy, here’s how physical therapy could help.
How physical therapy works
People often think of physical therapy as general exercise. However, there’s a lot more than meets the eye with this specialized area of therapy. In fact, physical therapy programs can include a variety of hands-on techniques, exercises, and movements. For example, physical therapy can include:
- Strength training
- Heat or cold therapy
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
As a result, a physical therapist can design a personalized approach to address numerous symptoms, from pain and discomfort to stiffness and mobility issues. Plus, since it doesn’t require medication, it’s usually a safe addition to other forms of treatment — and it’s safe for short or long-term use.
Physical therapy for peripheral neuropathy
Physical therapy programs can look very different from person to person, since your therapist creates a program based on your unique needs. However, specific areas of focus for peripheral neuropathy often include four key areas:
1. Aerobic exercises
These types of activities target your muscles, breathing, and heart rate. For instance, this could include swimming, bicycling, or taking a brisk walk.
2. Flexibility training
As you might suspect, these types of exercises center around stretching, which helps keep joints and connective tissues flexible.
3. Strength exercises
People often focus on cardiovascular activities, but strength training is equally important. These exercises help build and maintain muscle strength to help protect your joints from injury, reduce your risk for falls, and improve your balance.
Strength training exercises often include activities like squats and pushups, weightlifting, or movements with resistance bands.
4. Balance exercises
Finally, it’s important not to overlook balance exercises when you live with peripheral neuropathy. These activities help improve strength, coordination, and mobility. Balance exercises might include tai chi, yoga, or even standing on one leg.
Your qualified physical therapist can guide you through your program and provide instructions on how to safely perform each exercise — and how often — in order to gain the best therapeutic benefits.
Seven benefits of physical therapy for peripheral neuropathy
Living with peripheral neuropathy can cause significant issues, from chronic pain and weakness to depression and a poor overall quality of life. However, studies show that physical therapy can help do the following:
- Ease pain
- Support the recovery of damaged nerves
- Increase blood flow and circulation
- Increase muscle strength
- Improve balance and reduce fall risks
- Enhance range of motion and improve posture
- And, perhaps most beneficial of all, physical therapy can improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Do you have peripheral neuropathy? Schedule a consultation with Vladimir Fiks, MD, at Advanced Pain Management Center to learn more about your treatment options today.