Apart from prescribed treatment, massage therapy can also play a crucial role in managing diabetes effectively. The following HealthHearty discusses how massage therapy may benefit diabetic patients.
Did You Know?
Therapists avoid giving a massage to people with uncontrolled diabetes. Also, people who have ulcers or wounds on the skin are deemed unfit for massage therapy.
When diagnosed with diabetes, many times, prescribed treatment alone fails to improve quality of life in diabetic patients. In such circumstances, massage therapy can be an effective way to improve health, and may contribute towards a longer and better life with diabetes.
Various studies carried out at the Touch Research Institute, located at the University of Miami School of Medicine, found that massage therapy can be helpful to decrease blood sugar in children suffering from diabetes mellitus. Research conducted at the Duke Medical University has also shown that stress-relieving techniques such as massage can contribute in decreasing blood sugar of diabetic patients. In one study, published in the medical journal ‘Diabetes Spectrum‘, a group of diabetic children were put on massage treatment for a period of 30 days. The positive effects noticed during treatment, were reduction in depression and anxiety levels. In the course of treatment lasting for a month, usage of insulin improved and mean blood sugar levels reduced noticeably. Here are the benefits of massage therapy for diabetics.
Improves Blood Circulation
Poor blood circulation is common in diabetic patients, which often leads to delayed wound healing. The excess blood sugar circulating in the bloodstream can damage the structure and function of blood vessels, resulting in decreased blood flow throughout the body.
An easy way to promote blood circulation is a massage. The steady pressure exerted on the soft tissues during a massage helps stimulate blood flow, in turn, facilitating the circulation of oxygen and nutrients to different tissues of the body. The increase in blood circulation also allows body cells to use insulin in a more effective manner, in turn, helping control blood sugar.
Improves Muscle Mobility
As aforementioned, diabetes impairs blood flow, and when it affects the muscles, it can cause cramping and stiffness, thereby considerably restricting mobility. Massage therapy that involves applying pressure on the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) helps improve flexibility as it increases blood flow to these areas of the body. Thus, with regular massage, diabetes patients may experience increase in overall mobility.
Uplifts Mood and Mental Health
Dealing with chronic ailments like diabetes is no easy task, and it can lead to a host of psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. Following a restricted diet, lifestyle changes, and keeping a check on blood sugar can also become a major source of stress for diabetic patients. One of the best ways to relieve emotional burden associated with diabetes would be to undergo a massage session. Getting a whole body massage can work wonders to bring down stress levels and promote a general sense of well-being. A massage alleviates anxiety, is stress-relieving, and instills a feeling of relaxation. All this can contribute to improved physical, mental, and social health, and subsequently allows patients to lead a fulfilling life.
A gentle massage may also help improve the symptoms of neuropathy. Neuropathy, often noticed in diabetic patients, causes pain, tingling, or burning sensation in the peripheral areas of the body such as the hands, feet, toes, and the fingers. A simple foot massage with the hands or using the (Medimassager and Foot Massager) massaging units for a massage below the knees may relieve neuropathy pain and help increase blood circulation.
In an informal study carried out in 1999-2000 at Colorado, under the supervision of Mary Kathleen Rose, a certified massage therapist, massage students gave an hour long whole body massage to diabetic patients in her clinic. In over 40 sessions, blood sugar levels before and after massage were noted. It was observed that blood sugar decreased by 20 to 40 points after a massage. In some cases, drastic changes of 100 points―decrease or increase―in blood sugar levels were observed. However, massage alone was not responsible for these dramatic changes. Factors such as insulin dose and strenuous exercise before massage may have contributed in sudden drop in blood sugar. Whereas, missing the prescribed medication or eating too much of sugary foods may have caused a sharp rise in blood sugar.
In general, after a massage, it is normal to observe a reduction of blood sugar levels by 20 to 40 points. So, the therapist must check the patient’s blood sugar levels post a massage session to ensure that there is no significant fall in blood sugar. Nervousness, excessive hunger, fast heartbeat, and trembling, are some of the common symptoms of abnormally low blood sugar levels. So, in case the therapist notices any of these symptoms after a massage, the patient should be immediately given glucose tablets, a tablespoon of honey or any other sugary snack to increase blood sugar and alleviate the symptoms of hypoglycemia.
On the whole, before you decide to include massage therapy in your treatment plan, take the consent of your healthcare provider. The massage therapy benefits of diabetes are not backed by a large number of scientific studies. So, it is imperative to consult your doctor about the treatment you intend to undertake. Also, monitor your blood sugar pre- and post-massage, and any drastic changes in sugar levels should be treated at the earliest.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.