By: Birgitta Rice
One of the more common and early complications of diabetes is nerve pain or peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms are tingling, pain or numbness in the legs and feet, sometimes in arms and hands.
The nerve endings seem to be starved for nutrition and tend to deteriorate. The weakened nerves give off false sensations, often as pain or burning.
Over time, peripheral arterial disease (PAD) may develop. This contributes to “claudication” or “rest pain,” which develops when you are walking and stops when you are at rest. Unfortunately delayed wound healing, development of gangrene and amputations are also results of PAD. People with diabetes are 20 times more likely than the non-diabetic population to develop these conditions.
Though there is no cure for these conditions, the American Podiatric Medical Association has suggested some exercises that may be beneficial and feel good.
When you have been on your feet all day or maybe it is just an ordinary day when your feet hurt, these simple movements can bring some relief. You can do them by yourself. Use any or all of them.
Massage Your Feet – Rub down your feet to release tension, increase circulation and rejuvenate the skin.
Soothe Your Soles – Wash your feet for 3-4 minutes in a container filled with lukewarm water. Pat them dry and apply a cream or lotion to hydrate them.
Elevate Your Legs – Put your legs up above your heart while lying down to help reduce swelling and relax a while.
Rotate Your Ankles – Hold your foot under the back portion of the heel and turn the ankle slowly five times in both directions. This loosens the ankle joint and relaxes your feet.
Point Your Toes – While standing holding on to a chair, do toe raises, toe points and toe curls counting five times for each foot. Repeat up to 10 times. This alleviates toe cramps and strengthens calf muscles.
The benefits of some of these movements have been tested in research and found to be very beneficial. Relaxation is one of them.
The natural effect of relaxation allows the peripheral capillary blood vessels in your feet to dilate, letting more blood to flow through to those tissues, providing nutrients and oxygen. That is the reason relaxation feels so good! It may also bring about pain relief and healing.
You Can Use Your Mind to Increase Blood Flow and Foot Temperature
Researchers recently conducted a controlled study in which they taught diabetic patients how to relax and visualize warming their feet. Patients used a standardized relaxation technique with assisted temperature biofeedback to guide them. The patients all suffered from chronic foot ulcers (sores).
After 12 weeks, 14 of 16 patients who practiced the relaxation intervention completely healed their chronic ulcers, compared to seven of 16 in the control group without the relaxation. They all had excellent wound care.
The findings have been presented nationally and published in medical journals. Based on this and other clinical work, the WarmFeet® intervention was developed. It has established itself as a new treatment modality – “an educational intervention” – to be used as a complementary therapy to standard medical therapies for foot and wound care.
For more information, contact Health Education for Life, 7412 Park View Drive, St. Paul, MN 55112, or go to www.WarmFeetKit.com. Cost for the WarmFeet® Kit is $22.95 for the CD version or $17.95 for the audio cassette. Add $3 for shipping and handling. The kit includes recorded and printed instructions, the guided relaxation and a skin thermometer for assisted biofeedback.
Information and reference for health professionals, nurses, diabetes educators and CDEs:
The Diabetes Educator, Vol.33, No 3, p 442, May – June 2007 “Clinical Benefits of Training Patients to Voluntarily Increase Peripheral Blood Flow: The WarmFeet Intervention” http://tde.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/33/3/442
Birgitta I. Rice, MS, RPh, CHES, received her education and pharmacy license in Sweden. She has lived in the United States all her adult life and works now as a researcher, clinician and certified health education specialist at the University of Minnesota Epidemiology Clinical Research Center in Minneapolis, Minn.. Birgitta has had type 1 diabetes for 48 years.