How Massage Benefits Diabetes Care
While massage therapy is reputable for its effectiveness with pain management, injury recovery, and stress reduction, did you know that is may also benefit discomforting and dangerous symptoms associated with diabetes?
Over 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association, with over 80 million people existing in a pre-diabetic state. Diabetes is extremely common among seniors with roughly 1 out of 4 adults over the age of 65 having it, and for the large percentage suffering from Type II diabetes, it is almost completely preventable.
What Is Diabetes?
Understanding how the body breaks down food and absorbs nutrients is vital to understanding diabetes. When you eat and drink, the carbs you ingest are broken down and the glucose inside them released into the bloodstream. As this happens, your body cues the pancreas to produce insulin, a hormone which helps cells in your blood absorb glucose for energy. When the body is unable to properly metabolize glucose in the bloodstream, blood sugar levels rise (hyperglycemia) causing myriad symptoms including:
Extreme thirst or hunger
Sores that won’t heal
If the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or if the cells become insulin resistant because of chronically high concentrations of glucose in the bloodstream, diabetes results. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to nerve damage, vision loss, amputation, stroke, dental disease, heart disease, skin infections, depression, hypertension, food circulation issues, and more.
Benefits of Massage for People with Diabetes
While common treatments for diabetes include pharmacological intervention (synthetic insulin for people with Type I, and drugs like Metformin for people with Type II), a growing body of evidence is revealing how massage may aid symptoms as well. For people with diabetes, massage therapy:
Boosts Blood Circulation
The pulling, pressure, and squeezing of massage therapy facilitates an internal increase in blood flow to vulnerable tissues, helping flush out lactic acid and other built up waste byproducts. Improved blood circulation helps deliver vital nutrients and oxygen to damage and congested muscles, and for someone with diabetes, this could mean helping the cells in the blood more readily absorb glucose for energy. Enhanced insulin utilization not only helps lower blood sugar, but can reduce high blood pressure and augment other bodily functions as well.
Restores Nerve Functionality
The nerve pain (like feelings of pins and needles) and loss of sensation associated with diabetes can be debilitating. Diabetic neuropathy most often times affects the legs and feet, while severe cases may disrupt normal bodily functions associated with digestion, heart rate control, and continence. So how does massage therapy help? Techniques aligned with shiatsu massage, for example, can help restore nerve functionality through enhancing blood flow, diminishing painful sensations, and decreasing stress hormone production which may help lower blood sugar.
Breaks up Scar Tissue
People with diabetes will have to consistently monitor blood sugar levels by pricking themselves, or administer insulin injections, may experience a buildup of scar tissue around vulnerable injection sites. Massage therapy can help break up scar tissue which is causing pain or limiting mobility. Foot massage was shown in a 2017 study as well to improve balance and functional mobility, which when incorporated into an overall treatment plan, may motivate more physical activity that can help diabetes patients lower their blood sugar.
Enhances Range of Motion
As the side effects of Type II diabetes can be largely weaned through a healthy diet and lots of exercise, promoting an active lifestyle is a must. Like with other conditions including arthritis, massage therapy can help loosen stiff joints, relieve muscle tension, and improve the elasticity of muscles and connective tissues. These positive benefits can improve range of motion, enhance mobility, and allow someone with diabetes to avoid sedentary habits, and instead tackle physical fitness each day to benefit their own health.
Also Read: Diabetes Diet Tips
Improves Mood and Stress Levels
The stress and anxiety relief associated with massage therapy easily bleeds into diabetes management, as having a chronic condition can take its own mental toll. Relaxing the nervous system, alleviating muscle tension, and fostering a keener mind-body awareness for someone with diabetes can not only complement an established treatment plan but may also address the mental fears and roadblocks associated with why a person with diabetes overeats or avoids physical exercise.
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In addition to massage, experts recommend natural remedies like quitting smoking, addressing high blood pressure, topical ointments and creams, as well as wearing compression sleeves to aid circulation – check these out. The most important preventative measure someone can take to fortify their body against developing diabetes is to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Massage therapists can incorporate mindfulness practices like deep breathing and meditation into a specialized therapy tailored towards diabetes patients, knowing that the work of their hands can make a huge difference in extending the life and wellbeing of their client.
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