Exercise combats pain in a few different ways. It helps keep blood sugar levels in check, which may slow nerve damage. "Exercise also increases blood flow to the arms and legs," Sackheim says. Plus, it boosts your mood and provides stress relief, so you're better able to deal with the discomfort.
One study from the University of Kansas Medical Center found that people with diabetic neuropathy who exercised regularly found that their pain didn't get in the way of daily activities such as work, sleep, and relationships.
So what are you waiting for? Lace up those sneakers! If it hurts to walk or jog, try swimming or the stationary bike.
Use a Capsaicin Cream
Hot peppers may leave your mouth on fire, but their active ingredient -- capsaicin -- might relieve some of the burning and pain of nerve damage. A study published in the journal Pain showed that wearing an 8% capsaicin patch reduced pain levels by 30% after 2 weeks.
Only your doctor can give you a higher-dose patch. But research shows that lower-dose, over-the-counter cream -- about 0.1% capsaicin -- may also help. It could reduce pain intensity by 11% more than a placebo cream.
Give Your Feet Some TLC
Nerve damage in your feet can cause them to lose sensation. "So you may not realize that you scratched or cut your foot until much later," Sackheim says. As a result, you may develop a more serious problem, like an ulcer or infection. To avoid this, Sackheim says you should clean and examine your feet at the end of each day. "Also make sure that you wear comfortable shoes." Pairs that are too tight can pinch your feet and lead to injury.
Learn Relaxation Techniques
"Diabetic neuropathy is associated with anxiety and depression," Vinik says. Both of these conditions can make the pain worse. If you experience them, talk to your doctor. He may suggest medication as well as the following:
- Biofeedback: In this practice, a machine monitors your heart rate, temperature, and brain waves. This helps you learn how to control your body's response to pain or other symptoms.
- Relaxation techniques, such as visualizing, breathing exercise, meditation, massage, and yoga