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Physiotherapy for peripheral neuropathy

What is peripheral neuropathy?

Your doctor will have explained to you that you have a condition that has a medical name known as a ‘peripheral neuropathy’. There are lots of conditions with different names that are all types of peripheral neuropathies.

A peripheral neuropathy is a condition where the nerves that carry messages up and down your body do not work properly. The messages are sometimes slowed down and in some cases can be blocked. This can affect how you move your arms, legs, hands and feet (motor nerves) and also what you can feel through your skin (sensory nerves).

Physiotherapy can help you manage some of the symptoms that you might have due to your condition and be as active as you can be.

Foot care

If your sensory nerves are affected it could mean you could hurt your feet and did not notice. This might include things like getting a blister after wearing new shoes or stepping on a stone.

It is really important that you check your feet every day and if you notice any sore areas, you should tell your parents and carers so they can tell your doctor. You may need an adult to help you check your feet. If you ignored or do not notice a sore area on your foot, even if it does not hurt, it may get worse quickly.

You need to take extra care when cutting your toenails not to hurt the skin and to help avoid getting an in-growing toenail. Cut your nail straight across and then use a nail file to gently smooth the edges.

Stretches

When the nerves cannot get messages to the muscles they become weaker. When some muscles are weaker than others they can become tight.

It is usually the muscles that move your feet up and the small muscles in the soles of your feet that become weak first. This means it can be difficult not to trip over your toes when you walk. The calf muscle in your leg can get tight which makes it harder for you to stand with your feet flat on the floor.

Stretches can help your joints and muscles stay flexible. Stretches need to be done every day to make a difference. You may not notice a change after the first time you do stretches but they will make a difference to helping keep you active.

You may be given splints or insoles by a specialist called an Orthotist. These can help with walking and keeping your foot in a good position.

Person stood with hands flat on a wall with one leg behind them, straight, and the other in front bent at the knee

Balance

Young people with peripheral neuropathies often find balancing difficult because nerves have an important job in telling your brain how to stay balanced.

Balance and ‘proprioception’ exercises can help with this. Exercises cannot repair the nerves and muscles that are not working properly but can train other muscles to help.

Your physiotherapist will be able to give you the exercises that are right for you or suggest some sports that you might like to try.

Keeping active

Keeping fit and active helps you stay healthy, as well being fun. There are lots of different activities and sports that can try. Your physiotherapist can help with this too.

Exercises and foot care do not have to take a lot of time and should become part of your daily routine, a bit like cleaning your teeth. If it is hard to remember at first, maybe you could get creative and make your own diary and tick off when you have done all of your exercises. 

For more information on neuromuscular conditions, please visit the Muscular Dystrophy UK website.

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Neuromuscular team on 0114 305 3088 or email sheffield.muscle@nhs.net

  • Physiotherapists: Kay White, Sarah D’Urso, and Neil Hinde.
  • Neuromuscular Care Advisor: Sian Ball
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Disclaimer

Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

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S10 2TH

United Kingdom

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