Pain in Your Feet? Try These Proven Techniques for Soothing Them

This article was originally published in Diabetes Health in February, 2008.

| Dec 25, 2008

One of the more common and early complications of diabetes is nerve pain or peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms are tingling, pain or numbness in the legs and feet, sometimes in arms and hands.

The nerve endings seem to be starved for nutrition and tend to deteriorate. The weakened nerves give off false sensations, often as pain or burning.

Over time, peripheral arterial disease (PAD) may develop. This contributes to "claudication" or "rest pain," which develops when you are walking and stops when you are at rest. Unfortunately delayed wound healing, development of gangrene and amputations are also results of PAD. People with diabetes are 20 times more likely than the non-diabetic population to develop these conditions.

Though there is no cure for these conditions, the American Podiatric Medical Association has suggested some exercises that may be beneficial and feel good.

When you have been on your feet all day or maybe it is just an ordinary day when your feet hurt, these simple movements can bring some relief. You can do them by yourself. Use any or all of them.

Massage Your Feet - Rub down your feet to release tension, increase circulation and rejuvenate the skin.

Soothe Your Soles - Wash your feet for 3-4 minutes in a container filled with lukewarm water. Pat them dry and apply a cream or lotion to hydrate them.

Elevate Your Legs - Put your legs up above your heart while lying down to help reduce swelling and relax a while.

Rotate Your Ankles - Hold your foot under the back portion of the heel and turn the ankle slowly five times in both directions. This loosens the ankle joint and relaxes your feet.

Point Your Toes - While standing holding on to a chair, do toe raises, toe points and toe curls counting five times for each foot. Repeat up to 10 times. This alleviates toe cramps and strengthens calf muscles.

The benefits of some of these movements have been tested in research and found to be very beneficial. Relaxation is one of them.

The natural effect of relaxation allows the peripheral capillary blood vessels in your feet to dilate, letting more blood to flow through to those tissues, providing nutrients and oxygen. That is the reason relaxation feels so good! It may also bring about pain relief and healing.

You Can Use Your Mind to Increase Blood Flow and Foot Temperature

Researchers recently conducted a controlled study in which they taught diabetic patients how to relax and visualize warming their feet. Patients used a standardized relaxation technique with assisted temperature biofeedback to guide them. The patients all suffered from chronic foot ulcers (sores).

After 12 weeks, 14 of 16 patients who practiced the relaxation intervention completely healed their chronic ulcers, compared to seven of 16 in the control group without the relaxation. They all had excellent wound care.

The findings have been presented nationally and published in medical journals. Based on this and other clinical work, the WarmFeet® intervention was developed. It has established itself as a new treatment modality - "an educational intervention" - to be used as a complementary therapy to standard medical therapies for foot and wound care.

For more information, contact Health Education for Life, 7412 Park View Drive, St. Paul, MN 55112, or go to Cost for the WarmFeet® Kit is $22.95 for the CD version or $17.95 for the audio cassette. Add $3 for shipping and handling. The kit includes recorded and printed instructions, the guided relaxation and a skin thermometer for assisted biofeedback.

Information and reference for health professionals, nurses, diabetes educators and CDEs:

The Diabetes Educator, Vol.33, No 3, p 442, May - June 2007 "Clinical Benefits of Training Patients to Voluntarily Increase Peripheral Blood Flow: The WarmFeet Intervention"

Birgitta I. Rice, MS, RPh, CHES, received her education and pharmacy license in Sweden. She has lived in the United States all her adult life and works now as a researcher, clinician and certified health education specialist at the University of Minnesota Epidemiology Clinical Research Center in Minneapolis, Minn.. Birgitta has had type 1 diabetes for 48 years.

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Categories: Diabetes, Diabetes, Foot Care, Nerve Care (Neuropathy), Type 1 Issues

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Posted by TJPJE777 on 31 January 2008

The one thing that I have noticed about foot pain in that it only started after I was diagnosed with Type II. I was put on metformin and then the pain started and continued to get worse. I asked my endo if it was the result of the medication, and she said that there was no evidence that this was a side effect. I thought that it was a coincidence that the pain only started with the introduction of the metformin. Later I found out from others including my father that he too had the very same problems after he started on the medication.

I have tried almost every form of medication (lotions, creams, pills) all very expensive but none worked to reverse the problem until... I tried vitamin B1...thiamine.. I had read that the metfromin reduce the thiamine in the system. To my amazement it worked... and my father also tried it and it worked for him as well... we use about 150m x 2/day... one in the morning and one in the evening... I still have some pain but not to the extent to where I could not sleep at night. Now I can sleep and endure some pain in only my toes instead of legs,feet and toes... Benfotiamine is the product... it was not very expensive but I am sure as soon as they find out that it works for diabetic pain it will shoot up in price... go figure.


Posted by Ladybird on 31 January 2008

Alpha Lipoic acid is something else that works well for this condition. I had a "foot drop" (my foot started to drag and I was limping for about three months after having had severe muscle spasms for a year etc) all of a sudden and tried this after reading about it in Dr Julian Whitaker's "Health and Healing" news letter. It was like a miracle, to me, being able to walk perfectly normally again. I took 600 mg daily and am still taking it daily for this last year.

In Germany it's a prescribed med for diabetic neuropathy and further trials are still going on it. I was on Neurontin for a year but found that, though, it did help my muscle spasms in my feet, the numbness was still spreading up one ankle till I started the Alpha Lipoic Acid. I did stop the Neurontin, once I started the latter.

Posted by TJPJE777 on 31 January 2008

Interesting because I also read about R-Alpha Lipoic Acid from Dr. Bernstein and was taking about 1600mg/day for about 3 months and did not seem to see any change but he did also mention that it was being used in Germany through an IV Drip in a hospital.

In his trials with many patients he found that it would work about 50% of the time. But whatever will work for you that is great!! We are all unique as to what will and will not work... We all need to keep each other informed so we can deal with diabetes.


Posted by Ladybird on 31 January 2008

Well, I actually went onto 1200mg/day for 6 weeks after the initial use of 600mg/day but didn't want to mention that, since I feel strongly that all of us should read about something and understand it themselves, and only then use it. I read about the higher dose on the net, reading about a Mayo Clinic study on this with the high dosage and decided after reading enough about it that it WAS/IS very safe for me to go on such a high dosage.

As you say, we are all unique and not everything works for all of us unfortunately.

I would also like to mention Evening Primrose Oil for this, also recommended by Dr. J. Whitaker in the same article in reference to diabetic neuropathy. I take 500mg/day with the Lipoic Acid but Dr Whitaker suggests 500-1500mg/day.

Since I've been so lucky with the Lipoic Acid, I like to share this info with other diabetics, am sorry, it didn't work for you.

Good luck!

Posted by Ladybird on 31 January 2008

Would like to add that sometimes "vitamins" may
take longer to help in some people. Although, I started to walk well in less than 3 months after the high dosage, the complete numbness took longer than that to disappear completely. Having been on it for more than a year, I'm finding the little "twitches" in my feet are also disappearing over the months. The little numbness in one small toe is still there but hardly compared to before.

The main thing, I feel is that I'm walking without the drag and being able to pick up my foot again. You may like to think of trying just 600mg/day, not go on the high dosage, for some months. It may help you over time.

Posted by mistydragon on 31 January 2008

I have constant pain and so read with interest. The first thing that jumped out at me was nerves starved for nutrition. I am aware of some nutritional problems with diabetes, i.e.the B vitamins, and try hard to get enough of what I need. What nutrition are the nerves lacking? Do I need to step up my B's? Amino acids? I have noticed when I eat things not so good for me, like the occasional hot dog (life is short), my feet seem to hurt more. Are there things I should avoid to get less pain? The pain really depresses me at times, because it is a 24/7 thing. I am never free of it. I tried the toe points and curls, and right away it was eased. I will do them all, thanks so much! But I would still like to know what I can do nutritionally!

Posted by Anonymous on 1 February 2008

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 3 years ago. My feet begin to bother me before I was diagnosed with diabetes. Even though I told my previous PCM about my foot pain he never tested me for diabetes as the pain in my feet worsened. My new PCM who diagnosed my diabetes sent me to a neurolgist who confirmed the DPN in my feet.

Since then have tried neurontin with no success. I am currently taking Lyrica but all it does is only take the edge off the pain. I definitely plan to try the Benfotiamine, Alpha Lipoic acid and maybe the Evening Primrose oil. I endure tremendous pain when walking so will try anything that may help. Thanks for info.

Ron Jones
San Antonio, Tx

Posted by Barbarah on 15 February 2008

It is good to hear about others using B,evening primrose oil caps and alpha lipoic acid with success-I also take D-1000 unitS daily. But the best for me is walking-every day-my feet feel like real feet after only 10 min. and better as the time goes on. I have had type 11 diabetes for 20 plus and in my 70's.

Posted by Anonymous on 12 May 2008

I am using Alpha lipoic acid for three weeks. I have tried a lot of other RX plus nutritional products....IT IS STOPPING THE NUMNESS AND TINGLING AND PAIN,,,,i CANNOT BE HAPPIER....Take 600 mg daily--The symptoms go away slowly....I thought at first I was having a placebo effect but--no--IT IS WORKING...I am going to gice this information to every patient I teach---I am an educator who OF COUSE had to find my own help--

Posted by Cassy7 on 14 July 2008

Has anyone here ever tried those gelly toe stretcher things? HealthyToes makes them, I think there's also one called Yoga Feet. I've heard stretching the toes can help strengthen feet and even improve balance and posture. But is any of that true?

Posted by Ladybird on 26 December 2008

For anonymous specially!!

Am so glad you tried the lipoic acid/600 mg & are on it now AND it's working. There's nothing so bad when we have numb feet the whole day. Continue it and you will feel better all the time. My little toe is better also over these last months now, that's where it was the most severe. We should remember these things may work a bit slowly - although, my foot drop vanished in 3 months- than the regular drugs which like Neurontin, sometimes don't work at all for all of us.
Happy new year to all the readers of this wonderful newsletter as well the editorial staff, thank you to you all!!

Posted by Anonymous on 14 January 2009

im bummed out about my pain. going to up the nerontin and pray.

Posted by CPRK4 on 10 February 2009

I am 70 years old (retired minister)and I've been a diabetic for 29 years, 20 of those years, I've been a type 1. In the past 7 years I started having severe Diabetic Nerve Pain (neuropathy)on both feet (more so on my left foot on the ankle area), I tride everything every Dr would would prescribe, only very minor relief, the last thing I used was Neuragen At $35.00 for 0.17 oz. very little help A year ago I started using Spring Valley TEA TREE OIL 2 FL oz. at $6.95, also called Melaleuca Alternifolia 100% pure Austrailian oil, BINGO no more severe pain only very mild, when I start feeling the mild pain I just use a Q-tip and rub 2-3 drops on the area and with in 5 minutes, no more pain. For me, it's very inexpensive, it smells wonderful and IT WORKS, give it a try, I hope it hepls you too.

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Posted by Anonymous on 28 April 2009

There is HOPE for those who suffer with 24/7 pain from nerve pain, numbness, tingling. Ask to consult with a qualified surgeon that performs nerve release surgery. If you have entrapment neuropathy, you will want to explore this option, at the very least. Anatomically speaking, our limbs have similarities ie: arms-legs and hands-feet. Carpral tunnel syndrome is a widely discussed condition, whereas some physicians shy away from Tarsal tunnel which is in the foot/ankle region. The results are immediate for many patients and this simple procedure can be done in a surgery center. Pain will decrease in 90% of cases. I have done research on this, spoken with many surgeons (Orthopedics, Podiatrists, Plastics, Neurosurgeons) and several patients on successful outcomes. In short, the ONLY time I have heard the word "regret" used, is when one says they "regret not doing this simple surgery sooner..."

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