Balancing on Air—Peripheral Neuropathy & Falling

When it comes to maintaining balance and avoiding a fatal fall, there can be many contributing factors. In seniors, particularly diabetics, peripheral neuropathy can lead to decreased feeling in the feet. Like walking on a foot that’s “asleep,” trying to keep balance when you can’t fully feel what’s under you is very precarious.

So what is peripheral neuropathy and what can we do about it to keep our balance and avoid falling? Let’s take a look.

What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral Neuropathy is the name for decreased nerve activity occurring in the extremities, your hands and especially your feet. Damaged nerves will not properly transmit messages from the feet to your brain, therefore decreasing your sensitivity. At the same time, nerves can become overactive and begin sending the wrong signals, resulting in tingling and pain. 

Who Experiences Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy can stem from many underlying causes. Conditions such as kidney disease, alcoholism, some cancers, carpal tunnel, and more can result in nerve damage. Most cases of neuropathy occur in the diabetic population in persons with poor blood sugar level control. In the US, over 3 million cases are reported each year, the majority of these in the 55 and older population.

How Does Peripheral Neuropathy Affect Balance?

Your nerves are responsible for transmitting signals through your body to your brain so you know everything going on around you. If these signals are not happening between your feet and your head, then you may end up with balance problems.

Because sensitivity in the feet is decreased, many people will subtly change their gait to adjust for the loss of feeling. This can throw your walking off balance and lead to falls. As peripheral neuropathy progresses further, more sensation is lost leading to additional uncertainty when walking. 

Many people who experience diminished balance will avoid walking or exercising as much to avoid falling. However, lack of movement leads to loss of muscle mass causing additional weakness in the legs for future walking. All of this increases your risk of falling.

What Can I Do to Improve My Balance If I Have Peripheral Neuropathy?

While peripheral neuropathy can be treated, it cannot truly be cured. It’s important to maintain your balance by getting treatment for both the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy and the underlying cause. Additionally, it’s critical that you take steps to maintain muscle and flexibility, both of which help with a balanced gait. Exercises such as Tai Chi are perfect, low-impact activities that will work on developing better balance.

FAAWC Balance Challenge

Are you afraid of falling? Afraid your balance is getting worse? Do you have decreased sensation in your feet? You don’t have to live with that. FAAWC is hosting our annual Balance Challenge on Wednesday, September 16th, 2020 from 3 – 6 pm at our office. Please call and register for a spot as we will be observing social distancing and cleaning between participants. Call today to see how you can best avoid a fatal fall! 740.363.4373

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