'Sock and Glove' Neuropathy

The personal account in today's post comes from PositiveLifeNSW (see link below)and is a blog report of one man's experiences with neuropathy. Very recognisable and containing advice about using yoga (amongst other techniques) to help with neuropathy symptoms. Some people can gain great benefit from yoga and stretching techniques and exercises and it should certainly appear on your list of possibilities but you really need to already have a basic level of fitness to do it without too much discomfort. If your movement is already severely restricted, then you need advice as to which gentler exercises will help restore suppleness to your joints and muscles.

That niggling neuropathy!
by Greg Page

Also known as 'sock and glove', neuropathy is something many HIV+ people live with. While there might not be a cure, Greg Page has some little tricks of his own to help that nagging discomfort magically disappear.

One of the major downsides to being HIV+ (alongside having to become best friends with your doctor’s receptionist) is that neuropathy is almost as common as getting cold sores after a dance party.

In its correct medical description, peripheral neuropathy (PN for short) is all about the nervous system, which controls thinking, movement, sensations and feelings, so there’s not a lot that it misses. The most common form of PN also has the rather clinical term of distal symmetric polyneuropathy (DSP). Medical specialists affectionately like to call it 'sock and glove', since it’s the hands and feet which more often than not are affected.

While there still appears to be no conclusive evidence as to the causes of neuropathy as you and I probably experience it, it’s most likely due to the HIV virus itself or the meds we take to impede its progress. It’s even possible it’s a combination of both.

'Dead feet'

When I was first diagnosed as positive eight years ago, neuropathy was one of the first signs to me that there was something going on in my body – and I wasn’t happy about it. Regular occurrences of tingly or dead feet seemed to suggest I needed to get the blood flowing more around my body, as well as shift those toxins from my meds about – and out, if possible.

When I was diagnosed in 2007 with Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), an AIDS-defining illness, I was quickly put on a new combination therapy. Thankfully my HIV specialist also understood that while the pills could fix the problem, there would also be some serious side effects, one of which was severe neuropathy. He suggested that yoga would be useful for me, as all that stretching of the body, combined with the various inversions, would assist the blood in flowing around the body. It would thus be less likely to accumulate toxins at certain points.

I took my doctor up on his suggestion and five years later am still a weekly practitioner of yoga. I find that all the stretching and the headstands and handstands truly make a difference. In the last two or three years I am pleased to report that I am neuropathy-free.


While I’m not suggesting that yoga is a miracle cure for this condition, I would from my own experience encourage other HIV+ people who suffer from neuropathy to investigate yoga and even basic stretching.

Tellingly, most of the medical advice around neuropathy declares that there are no approved medical treatments to cure it. More often than not they recommend pain relievers, anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants or even a visit to a podiatrist to get advice on the best types of shoes and socks to wear. Buried away in most of these websites and information journals is the fact that alternative therapies such as yoga, as well as acupuncture, Reiki and massage are very useful in not only reducing the discomfort but in many cases actually alleviating the problem. Hey, just look at me, for example!

As one of the numerous 'fluctuating' symptoms of HIV, as it is often referred to in medical journals, neuropathy is sometimes considered not a 'real' symptom, considering it comes and goes when it sees fit. The best way to combat it, based on medical opinion and without having to resort to drugs, is to take the matter into your own hands. Literally. Start stretching, start doing those salutes to the sun and start massaging the affected areas on a regular basis.

Under the mirrorball

Based on my own experience, I can only tell you that I no longer suffer any instances of neuropathy. The only time my feet go to sleep now is after I’ve come home from a marathon on the dance floor wearing my big boots and my feet remind me that when I start twirling under the mirrorball, I’m not the 26-year-old I still like to think of myself as.

If you're like me and still like a bit of 'hands in the air like you just don’t care', remember not to just sway from side to side, but see if you can incorporate a little of those stretches into your disco technique too. Not only might it catch the attention of potential paramours on the dance floor, but it could help reduce any instances of neuropathy. What have you got to lose – apart from the discomfort? Namaste, as they say at the end of a yoga session!


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