Department of Exercise Sciences

Exercise intervention on diabetic peripheral neuropathy

Here at the Department of Exercise Sciences our Biomechanics Laboratory conducts numerous research projects, an example of which can be found on this page.

Biomechanics Laboratory Project

The effect of a lower-extremity neuromuscular exercise intervention on diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Jason Gurney.

Diabetic neuropathy affects a large percentage of those with diabetes. Those who have this complication may lose sensation under parts of their feet, which can be very dangerous, a person with severe neuropathy could step on a nail and not realise it. This sensory loss is critical for key body functions such as reflex responses and balance.

Another complication of neuropathy is the loss of lower leg muscle strength and function. Again, this can be dangerous since we rely on the precise control of these muscles for balance and walking.

These complications, along with others, can lead to dangerous increases in pressures under the foot, both during walking and while wearing shoes. These increases in pressure are the main cause of foot ulcers, and if left untreated, these ulcers can become infected and may end in part or full amputation of the lower leg.
At the Biomechanics laboratory, our research team has been investigating diabetic foot complications since 2003. As part of my Doctoral research, I am interested in discovering more about how we can treat neuropathy more effectively. Specifically, I want to investigate the effect of a specific exercise intervention on the progression of diabetic neuropathy.

Exercise has been shown to improve muscle and nerve function in those with diabetes. However, due to the complications of neuropathy some forms of exercise can be dangerous. The exercise programme in this study therefore consists of low-impact, lower-leg specific exercises. These involve balance exercises and lower-leg strength training, for around 20 minutes, two times per week.

Biomechanical assessments are conducted at various times during the programme so we can find out if the training has been effective. Assessments include muscle strength, sensory threshold, balance, blood glucose, quality of life, dynamic foot structure and pressures under the foot during walking.