Also known as peripheral neuropathy, nerve damage can be caused by many factors, from trauma and injury to underlying medical conditions like type 2 diabetes. In fact, 2022 research by Pfannkuche et al. indicates a high peripheral neuropathy prevalence (40.3%) among diabetic patients, making it one of the most common diabetes complications. This type of nerve damage typically manifests in discomfort, weakness, numbness, or loss of sensation in the feet and legs. Meanwhile, peripheral neuropathy caused by an accident is focused in the specific part of the body that was hurt or injured.
Regardless of its cause or symptoms, nerve damage can be a risk factor for chronic pain, fall injuries, and mobility challenges — all of which can significantly affect one’s health and overall quality of life. Fortunately, beyond clinical or surgical treatment, it is possible to prevent or delay the progression of this condition through the following practices.
1. Maintain a healthy diet
Nutrients are essential to proper body function and have a protective effect on the nervous system. This means that the nutritional content of your foods and drinks can contribute to the worsening nerve damage.Consider about 10-15% of neuropathy among older adults can be linked to vitamin B deficiency. You can prioritize B group vitamins (B12, B6, B4, and B1) in your diet to promote nerve repair and relieve pain and inflammation. Foods rich in vitamin B include fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
Besides nutrient intake, those with diabetic neuropathy can also avoid worsening the damage by maintaining their blood sugar at the levels their physician recommends. This involves limiting the consumption of sweets, sugary beverages. and foods rich in carbohydrates and instead opting for plant based foods, lean meat and whole grains.
2. Pay attention to ergonomics
Among the types of nerve damage is autonomic neuropathy, which affects the autonomic nervous system responsible for involuntary body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion. After monitoring seven different trunk postures, a 2022 study in the journal Frontiers of Psychology found that an incorrect sitting position can affect the autonomic nerves and be a risk factor for chronic pain and stress.
While the recommended neutral trunk position can be achieved through exercises like yoga, you can also train and correct your posture through ergonomics. Rather than sitting incorrectly in front of the desk for long hours, consider alternating between sitting and using standing desk converters that facilitate proper spine alignment to relieve pressure and prevent nerve damage. The Stand Steady model, for one, has an adjustable lift to make it easy for you to switch between sitting and standing positions. Meanwhile, the Ergotron Workfit S is an affordable and perfect option for those with dual monitor setups and thus need additional workspace.
Ergonomics is not just about your trunk! Crossing your legs is a common sitting posture but it is considered poor ergonomics. When you sit cross-legged pressure on the nerves and blood vessels increases in your legs. This may lead to numbness and tingling – sensations that are already too familiar. Over time compression of nerves and blood vessels behind your knees (or ankles) can lead to, you guessed it, nerve damage. This means you are unnecessarily compounding the nerve damage when avoidance of it is within your control. It is recommended we sit with both feet flat on the floor.
3. Strengthen fine motor control
Dysfunction or loss of fine motor skills is also a common symptom of nerve damage that hinders one’s ability to produce and coordinate small yet precise movements, such as tying shoelaces or buttoning up a shirt. Thus, you can try the hand and feet exercises detailed in our previous post to improve dexterity and fine motor control. There are finger extension and abduction exercises that increase the hand’s range of motion, as well as foot scrunches and heel raises that relieve pain and muscle soreness. As you follow these step-by-step guides, remember to start slowly and do them in reps without overexerting yourself.
4. Wear specially designed shoes
Keeping yourself comfortable through your choice of footwear is also crucial in managing and alleviating the symptoms of nerve damage. In this light, research published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research in 2020 identified footwear design and features that reduce foot plantar pressure and help you walk more comfortably and evenly. These include rocker bottom shoes which have a thicker sole and a rounded heel, and custom-made insoles that offload high-risk foot regions. Shoe manufacturers like Orthofeet and Dr. Comfort offer models with supportive and orthotic insoles that promote proper weight bearing and pressure distribution.
While it’s hard to reverse the effects of neuropathy, these practices remind you that there are effective ways to manage the condition and prevent it, or at least slow it, from progressing. If you need additional support in dealing with nerve pain and damage, especially in everyday life, the Calgary Neuropathy Association offers helpful resources ranging from education and information on neuropathy, to discussions and peer support.
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