Neuropathy, also known as “nerve damage,” is an uncomfortable condition common in people with diabetes. People with neuropathy experience weakness, numbness and pain in their hands and feet. The symptoms of neuropathy can have a real impact on daily life, from sleeping to driving and beyond.
Here are some of our top tips for managing and living with diabetic neuropathy.
Note: This article is a collection of general, helpful tips and should not replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about any treatment techniques when dealing with neuropathy.
What to do when you can’t sleep because of neuropathy at night
For some people, neuropathic pain worsens at night. The reasons neuropathy may feel worse in the later hours include:
- Lack of distractions, putting more focus on the pain in your hands and feet;
- Change in temperature, sending confusing messages to the neuropathic nervous system; and
- Physical and emotional stress from the day.
The best way to manage neuropathic pain at night is to calm the mind, care for the body and control the temperature.
Those who are having trouble sleeping because of neuropathy should try visualizing something positive and non-stressful, like a dream vacation or an upcoming celebration, and focus on that thought rather than the pain. Meditation and music can also help to move a person’s mind from issues with their feet and hands. Additionally, they may want to add some blankets to your bed to keep your body warm. Do not use heating pads or hot water to warm numb or painful feet. People with neuropathy have trouble gauging temperature and can get burns or blisters when they use hot water in this way.
Neuropathic pain at night can also be combatted by changing behavior during the day. For example, people can take a short walk to clear their head each day (as long as their doctors clear them to put weight on their feet). Similarly, they can try alternating physical routines so no day is particularly strenuous.
Is it possible to drive with neuropathy?
With some support, many people with nerve damage are able to drive.
First, let’s understand why driving is a challenge for people with neuropathy. One of the main symptoms of neuropathy is foot numbness. When a driver can’t feel their feet, it can be difficult or impossible to drive safely. Think about it: Without functional nerves, how would you sense where the brake pedal is? How would you know how much pressure you are putting on the gas?
Luckily, there are alternative technologies that can help people with this condition to drive without using their feet to control the brakes and the gas. This is the process for most drivers:
- Purchasing and installing car hand controls;
- Working with a driver rehabilitation specialist to “relearn” how to drive with these new controls; and
- Passing a special needs licensing exam if required by your state.
These controls aren’t always cheap, so it is a good idea for people with neuropathy to look into coverage of adaptive equipment from Medicare or other insurance. These products and services are often covered for qualifying people in the United States.
Is it safe to walk with neuropathy?
Tingling, numbness and pain in the lower legs and feet are common symptoms which can make movement of any kind much more strenuous. At the same time, we are often told that exercise is one of the best ways to control diabetes. What’s a person to do?
The ADA recommends that people avoid weight-bearing exercise when experiencing numbness in the feet. While walking can be a good idea for some with less serious nerve damage, those who are walking with neuropathy should take the following precautions:
- Discuss physical movement and exercise with a doctor first;
- Walk only in areas where medical aids or emergency help are available if needed (for example, a stroll down the street or through the house is less dangerous than a hike in the woods);
- Wearing proper therapeutic shoes, even when moving around inside. One pair of diabetic shoes and three sets of therapeutic inserts purchased from an approved supplier are covered by Medicare each calendar year.
Did you know that therapeutic shoes for walking with diabetic neuropathy are covered by Medicare?
No Cost Shoes is a Medicare-approved company that offers shoe fittings and delivered-to-your-door shoes at no cost to you. Those who have nerve damage in their feet with no diabetic component or who do not have insurance can also purchase affordable shoes through our easy-to-use system. Simply visit nocostshoes.com or call us at 1-866-923-2423 to order a free catalog today.