Ask The Trainer #34 – Overcoming Nerve Damage


Hi Chad,

In February I was diagnosed with drop foot. I’m a hard-core dedicated weightlifter. That’s my passion. I’m 6 months out and still struggling to walk normally. I still have quite a bit of paralysis and numbness in my foot and leg. Because nerves take more time to heal than a broken bone or a pulled muscle, my recovery moves at the rate of sludge and no one can tell me how long it will take to completely heal or if it ever will be 100%.

I’m still hitting the gym 5 times a week and go to physical therapy twice a week. My question is, from your experience, how do you keep from obsessing over your injury and move forward with living life. It’s all I think about all day.  I’m constantly thinking “When is it going to get better?” “How much longer is it going to take?” “Am I going to be stuck like this forever?”

Brandy Jo Mitchell


Hi, Brandy,

I’m very sorry to hear about your diagnosis! Drop foot is a highly distressing form of peripheral neuropathy that inhibits the muscles of the foot from being able to lift the front part. Nerve injuries are very frustrating to contend with.

I know this from firsthand experience back when I sustained a serious injury to the ulnar nerve in my right arm. I lost feeling and function in my fingers, hand, and arm. My hand became so weak and dysfunctional I would actually drop spoons, forks, and knives when I was trying to eat.

I was also unable to perform any type of pushing or extending movements with my arm because the pain in the medial region of my elbow was so severe.

The neurologist I went to didn’t offer me much comfort either. He told me the damage to my ulnar nerve was permanent and would likely never heal. He said the nerve would eventually just deteriorate, resulting in permanent loss of function in my hand and arm.

Receiving this dismal prognosis was definitely a tough pill to swallow! I was exactly where you are now. All I could think about was my injury. I wondered if this was going to be the final blow that would take me out of bodybuilding for good.

This was an extremely depressing time for me, as I found myself in that same hopeless, dark place I’ve been many times before when I dealt with other critical health issues of my past.

Ultimately, I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t supposed to overcome the arrhythmia, severe asthma, scoliosis, or the knee deformities either.

Instead, I refocused my energy by becoming relentless in searching for new ways to contend with these issues and ultimately prevail against them.

Chad ShawAs frustrating and hopeless as your circumstances may seem right now, I would urge you to NOT focus on what this injury is preventing you from doing.

Rather, try to think of additional actions you might be able to take that could possibly improve your circumstances. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. The body has a fascinating ability to heal itself. However, sometimes it requires some extra help via other resources.

For example, I once had a random person approach me at the gym who begin talking about how he had sustained a severe back injury that wouldn’t heal until he tried acupuncture.

I knew what acupuncture was, but I understood very little about it, especially how it actually worked. This was an option I had never considered, but I was desperate! I picked up a phone book and found the nearest acupuncture clinic. Then, I called to set up an appointment to have my arm worked on. I began going in for treatments 2-3 times per week.

My arm would always hurt more after each treatment, but I found that a few days later, my arm actually felt a little better. This gave me hope, so I continued with the treatments. After nearly 3 months, I started performing pushing movements in the gym again. Sure, I had to go light, but it felt so much better than nothing at all!

At the 6 month mark, I was fully back into heavy training again. The numbness and tingling had subsided in my arm, and the level of pain was reduced substantially! After that, I didn’t go in for acupuncture on a weekly basis anymore. Instead, I’d only go once every month or two, when it felt like the nerve was flaring up.

Eventually, the impossible did happen! Contrary to what the doctors told me, my ulnar nerve DID make a full recovery!

In addition to acupuncture, I also took a few supplements I felt might be beneficial to nerve health.

For example, B vitamins play an important role in maintaining normal nerve conductivity. I took a full spectrum B complex, along with the fat-soluble form of thiamin called benfotiamine. It’s also an excellent source of neuropathy treatment, as it can play a significant role in nerve cell health and nerve pain relief.

I’ve since learned about coenzyme supplement called Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD). Research shows it may enhance nerve cell signaling, so this could also be worth a look.

The last supplement I’m going to mention is fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils are vital for the body’s normal growth and development. They’ve also been widely researched for their health benefits.

In fact, a new study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggests that omega-3 fatty acids could play a significant role in speeding recovery from nerve injury.

Keep in mind. the body cannot manufacture omega-3 fatty acids. You must consume them in foods like oily fish.

This world is full of compounds, botanicals, and alternative methods of resolving various health issues. My advice is if something you try doesn’t work, keep try other options until you obtain satisfactory results. Be relentless and NEVER give up!

Most of all, try your best to be patient during this time of healing. Exercise the other parts of your body you’re able to without major limitations. Even with these limits, you can appease your desire to engage in some productive form of exercise.

Remember, exercise increases blood flow. And improved blood flow means faster healing! Not to mention, exercising helps increase endorphins and dopamine levels, which will do wonders for your state of mental health and help you enjoy life!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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