Welcome back to our Treat Your Feet series for diabetes foot health. Last week we explored proper footwear to Cover and protect your feet; the week before, we investigated procedures for keeping them Clean and dry. For this installment, we’re promoting movement to help you and your blood Circulate to the farthest reaches of your extremities.
Although nerves are a central force in diabetic neuropathy, causing feelings of discomfort or pain or exposing feet to danger by reducing overall sensation, blood flow also plays a part. For some patients with diabetes, their arteries may not permit enough blood to nourish all parts of the body, especially the lower legs and feet. This can affect tissue health or healing, may cause feet to swell or become dry, and in extreme cases can lead to damage that may require amputation. Read on for ways to maximize blood circulation, which should be a vital cornerstone of diabetes management.
Better circulation can start with small actions, as simple as a few extended sessions each day of wiggling your toes. Aim for occasional activity on a consistent basis; essentially, look for reasons to get up and walk around throughout the day. While sitting, prop up your feet in an elevated position, and avoid crossing your legs. Try working out the ankles (up and down, in and out, or in circles) if you’ve been resting for a while. Ill-fitting or tight footwear on your feet or ankles can inhibit blood flow, so review the rules for proper socks and shoes. For smokers, know that this habit narrows arteries even further — which is even more reason to quit now.
For patients who are able to exercise, moving around is a terrific way to keep your blood moving around as well. Try an activity that is gentle on feet, such as walking, swimming, or cycling. (However, refrain from exercise any time that your feet have open sores.) For any individual looking to exercise, be sure to follow common-sense guidelines — like doing proper warmups and cool-downs— and consult your doctor for advice about how much and what level of exercise is best for you.
For some patients, moving a little can open a doorway to moving a lot: small gains begin to make a positive effect on health and agility, which leads to larger gains, and the cycle continues. However, other patients may need additional help to gain back their ability and begin to move with confidence. Your doctor, foot specialist, or clinician may have advice about other strategies or treatments that can promote more sure-footed diabetes management. For example, physical and occupational therapists at Residential Home Health are trained to use Solaris light therapy, a treatment option that uses infrared light to penetrate deeply into the foot and promote healing at the cellular level. Residential patients undergoing regular in-home Solaris treatments report better sensation, increased circulation, improved healing, and reduced inflammation. These effects can also improve foot function and range of motion, which in turn may benefit therapy task performance and also decrease fall risk.
Next time, it’s the final installment of Treat Your Feet: adding a thorough Check to that better balance.