Doctors' Choice Physical Medicine

Exercise? But Doc, It Hurts When I Exercise!

If you struggle with neuropathy, complications from diabetes, post-chemo nerve pain, or any other painful medical condition, like chronic neck or back pain it can be really easy to just sit around and do nothing.  In fact, I know some people real good at it, most of them like to complain about their pain too.

But now, everyone knows that exercise is good for you.  Yep, for all chronic painful conditions movement helps.  Exercise will also help to lose weight or keep your weight under control.

Whole Body Vibration Exercise Poses

Using bicycles and similar low-impact equipment can be very beneficial.  It strengthens your bones… but the most effective low impact exercise is Whole Body Vibration.  You just hold a pose on the vibrating platform like you see in the picture to the right.  At our office we have a high end pivotal and vertical platform that we imported from the Netherlands.  Our patients love them.  I recently saw that the Schuylkill Country Club had a lower end model in their exercise room.

But there are other ways to get low impact exercise.  Walking improves your cardiovascular health.  Exercise has even been shown to fight depression.

And if you happen to have diabetes, you know how important exercise is in managing your glucose levels.

But what do you do when your neuropathy or some other painful condition just makes it hurt to work out?

If you struggle with neuropathy, complications from diabetes, post-chemo nerve pain, or any other painful medical condition, it can be really easy to just sit around and do nothing.

Because it just hurts too much to be active.

PEMF Cellular Exercise for Hand Pain

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are exercises you can do that won’t tax your painful joints or cause you more pain than you already have.  The vibrating platforms are one of my favorite low impact exercise.  But if that is too much we have Pulsed Electromagnetic Therapy (PEMF).  PEMF is a form of cellular exercise that we use at our office for neuropathy and other painful conditions.  We have seen neuropathy and chronic pain improve greatly with these forms of exercise… but every low impact exercise will help some.

Here are a few other exercises to consider that are easy on the body and only require gentle movements:


Yoga will keep you limber and stretches the muscles in slow, easy, fluid movements.  You can do it as slowly as you like.  You don’t have to qualify as a Cirque Du Soleil acrobat to get the benefits of a good yoga practice.  Just do the postures to the best of your ability.  If it has been a while since you’ve exercised, don’t expect to be limber overnight. Give yourself time.

Yoga stretches the muscles and increases muscle strength simply by using the body’s own weight.  No extra equipment, no extra weight on painful joints or swollen feet. Just what you already carry.  That’s tailor made for people suffering from nerve pain.  Yoga classes are given at the Yuengling Mansion on Monday’s at 6:00 PM.  After the holidays there will be seated yoga classes starting.  Additionally, starting in January, on Thursdays there will be classes at Luther Ridge.  To register you can contact Susan Long at 570-628-3513.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a very slow moving martial art. Each and every movement is done slowly and through a complete cycle, works every muscle group in the body.  Even though it is not a strenuous exercise program, the health benefits for your bones and muscles are undeniable.

Once again, Tai Chi uses the body’s own weight to strengthen the muscles.  Your sore joints and swollen tissue aren’t subjected to increased weight.  And because the movements are slow and fluid, no added pain from sore muscles to complicate the symptoms of neuropathy that you already suffer from.   Tai Chi classes will be staring in April.  Contact Susan Long at 570-624-3018 for more information.


If your joints are so painful that walking is not a good option for exercise, try swimming.  Your movements are easier in water and you will put little weight or pressure on your feet.  Make sure that the water is warm, not cold.  Prolonged exposure to cold water will have a detrimental effect on your circulation and make a bad situation worse.

Swimming is also a wonderful way to strengthen your cardiovascular system and do so without taxing your limited strength.  If you suffer from pain in your legs and feet, the buoyancy of the water takes some of the pressure off your extremities.  Just being in the water can provide some relief from the pain in your nerves.

There are Aqua Aerobics classes at the I.U. 29 in Marlin on Tuesdays and Thursdays 6:00 to 7:30 PM for $3.00 a class.  This is sponsored by Pottsville Recreation.  Loretta Wonchalk is the instructor.  Call 570-682-3410 for more information.


Stretching exercises are a great way to increase muscle strength without causing your tender nerves more pain.  You can even stretch while lying in bed.

This is a good stretching program that will give you a good total body stretch without ever getting on your feet.  Do each of these small stretches 6 or 8 times:

None of these stretches requires a broad range of motion but will increase the circulation in your arms and legs and work your joints.

Remember, you don’t have to over exert yourself to stretch your muscles and improve your circulation.  When you deal with debilitating pain, just doing those two things can lead to great improvement in your overall health condition.

Start small, take it easy and do the exercise you choose at your own pace.  Be gentle with yourself.  The more you do even the smallest exercise, the better you are going to feel.  And that’s the best way to ensure a good outcome from any neuropathy treatment.