How Massage Helps People with Diabetes
In recognition of November as Diabetes Awareness Month, we explore the benefits of massage therapy for people with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, one out of every 11 people currently has diabetes. But what is more worrisome, is that one out of every four of people in the United States do not know they have diabetes.
Diabetes comes in two forms: Type I, which is not preventable and in which the body does not produce enough insulin, or Type II, which is preventable and in which the body cannot process insulin correctly.
The shift to a more sedentary lifestyle combined with consuming more processed foods high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup are cited as common causes of the rise in Type II diabetes in the U.S. The cost of lost work time and healthcare associated with diabetes is an estimated $245 billion a year. This is a serious condition that is impacting the quality of life for many Americans.
Early symptoms of diabetes include: Frequent thirst, dramatic mood swings, chronic cold feet, tender areas of the body, leg cramps, puffy feet and loss of sensitivity in the feet. These symptoms are very representative of some of the complications that people living with diabetes experience: nerve damage, foot problems and skin conditions.
Nerve damage from diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy. About half of all diabetics have some degree of nerve damage. Regulating blood glucose levels is the best way to delay diabetic neuropathy or prevent further damage. The most common form of neuropathy is called peripheral neuropathy, which affects the legs and feet (enter foot complications). Peripheral neuropathy can cause loss of feeling, so one can injure their foot and not know it. This can lead to untreated injuries or infections. Diabetes causes poor circulation in general, and one of the areas most commonly affected by this is the feet. Blood vessels can narrow and harden, leading to a reduced ability to fight infection and heal, and chronic cold feet. This is why people living with diabetes are more likely to have lower limbs amputated than others.
Massage therapy is one of the best ways for diabetics to manage peripheral neuropathy. Massage of the lower extremities improves circulation in the legs and feet. Massage helps manage muscle and foot pain, improves and balances stress levels, which helps alleviate the mood swings that can result from changes in glucose levels.
Evidently massage has been recommended as a treatment for conditions related to diabetes for more than 100 years. A recent literature review on alternative therapies for diabetes was published in the Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences. It touts the benefits of massage for people living with diabetes: Three published results of two trials and one unpublished preliminary study have examined the positive effect of massage on normalizing blood glucose. One trial also assessed the improvement in 56% of cases of diabetic neuropathy of the lower extremities by syncardial massage.
Massage has been demonstrated to reduce muscle tension in both subjective self-reports and objective electromyographic testing. Relaxation from massage has been demonstrated to be greater than that brought about from rest alone. Massage can reduce heart rate and blood pressure, two features of the relaxation response. The extreme stress-reducing benefits of massage have raised the possibility that massage may be of benefit to people with diabetes by including the relaxation response, thereby controlling the counter-regulatory stress hormones and permitting the body to use insulin more effectively.”
Massage therapy can truly help people living with diabetes manage their symptoms and live more comfortably with their disease, as a drug-free, noninvasive, and minimal-risk pain management option.