Diabetic neuropathies are a family of nerve disorders caused by diabetes. People with diabetes can, over time, develop nerve damage throughout the body. Some people with nerve damage have no symptoms. Others may have symptoms such as pain, tingling, or numbness-loss of feeling-in the hands, arms, feet, and legs, according to NDIC.
Around 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is a common serious complication of diabetes. Symptoms range from mild for some people but can be painful, disabling and at times even fatal.
Dr. Yu-Wen Chen, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, China Medical University and lead researcher of study along with colleagues investigated the effects of exercise on neuropathic pain. The link to Hsp72 offers a clue as to how exercise can prevent or slow the development of neuropathy, a major complication of diabetes. Hsp72 or the “heat shock protein” protects cells from a variety of stresses.
For the study researchers examined the effects of exercise on neuropathy by chemically inducing diabetes in rats. The rats were divided into four groups; normal sedentary rats, normal rats with exercise, sedentary diabetic rats and diabetic rats with exercise.
Two weeks later the diabetic rats that were sedentary displayed signs of diabetic neuropathy based on observational pain behaviors such as abnormal responses to temperature and pressure, both of which are signs of neuropathic pain. On the hand, the diabetic rats that had exercise showed delayed progress of tactile and thermal hypersensitivity. Exercise significantly suppressed diabetes-induced blood glucose levels and body weight loss, although they were not restored to control levels, according to the results.
Past studies have suggested that neuropathic pain may be related to expression of certain inflammation-promoting cytokines which are small cell-signaling protein molecules that are secreted by numerous cells and are a category of signaling molecules used extensively in intercellular communication. Exercise may reduce cytokines.
In patients with chronic pain, exercise is commonly recommend, such as in the cases of arthritis, fibromyalgia, shoulder and neck pain and in diabetes. Research has demonstrated that exercise can slow the progression of pain from diabetic nerve damage, according to the American Diabetes Services.
In their conclusion researchers write “These results suggest that progressive exercise training markedly decreases diabetes-associated neuropathic pain, including thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia. In rats, this protective effect is related to the increase of Hsp72.”
Dr. Chen and co-authors add “The results may present new opportunities for developing new, nondrug approaches that can "delay or protect against the development of diabetic peripheral nerve complications.”
This study appears in the February issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia.
Last year, Dr. Chen and colleagues examined the effects of exercise on neuropathic pain induced by sciatic nerve injury in rats.
In that study some of the rats with nerve damage participated in progressive exercise of either swimming or treadmill running. The researchers used observational pain behaviors to determine the effects of exercise.
The results suggested significant reductions in neuropathic pain in rats assigned to swimming or treadmill running.
In their conclusion the researchers had written; “These results suggest that progressive exercise training decreases peripheral neuropathic pain as well as TNF-[alpha] and IL-1[beta] overproduction and increases HSP72 expression after CCI of the sciatic nerve.”