Massage and Diabetes

What is Diabetes?

Chances are that you or someone you know has been affected by diabetes. It’s an increasingly common condition—one that approximately
 1.3 million people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with this year alone. While it is generally a long-term condition, diabetes can be managed through self-care, nutrition and medication.

Understanding a complex condition

The body gets its energy from food through the process of digestion. Food is broken down into glucose (or sugar), which passes into the bloodstream. Then the glucose is moved into muscle, fat, and liver cells by the hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. However, if you have diabetes, your body either does not produce enough insulin, or doesn’t respond to it properly, and this leads to high levels of sugar in the blood. Uncontrolled blood-sugar levels can cause serious complications if left untreated, including blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage.

There are two main types of diabetes:

Type I diabetes

Usually diagnosed during childhood, type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing cells.

Symptoms usually come on suddenly and treatment includes daily injections of insulin.

Type II diabetes

This type accounts for 90 – 95% of all diabetes cases and is usually diagnosed during adulthood. Major risk factors include family history, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol and being overweight and sedentary.

Since symptoms may be mild, many people don’t know they have diabetes, which is why it’s important to get tested regularly, especially after age 45. Testing can also detect pre-diabetes, where blood sugar is high, but not yet at diabetic levels. With early detection and treatment it is far easier to stop the disease from progressing, control your symptoms, and prevent complications. Treatments often include regular blood sugar monitoring and medications to control blood sugar, as well as diet and exercise.

Symptoms of Type II Diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing infections
  • Impotence in men

Is massage ok for someone with Diabetes? Yes and no.

No. Circulatory massage is not recommended for those who have advanced diabetes, kidney failure, and atherosclerosis. In this case, energy techniques are more appropriate.

Yes. Massage is acceptable, if the client has healthy, responsive tissue and circulation and the client is managing blood glucose levels properly.

It is important to note that massage can lower blood glucose levels. A client with diabetes may want to check their blood sugar levels before and after a massage session to avoid any possible complications such as hypoglycemia.

It is important to note that some people with diabetes may have issues with neuropathy and lack of sensation in parts of the extremities. They may have slow-healing wounds or ulcers in these extremities that they may not even be aware of due to the lack of sensation.

Circulatory massage moves blood and lymph fluids through the body and may put an increased demand on the kidneys. To avoid complications, light to medium pressure should be used on clients with diabetes.

As with most illnesses, living with diabetes presents challenges that can create additional stress in the lives of those living with diabetes. A gentle massage can help to stimulate the parasympathetic response, our body’s natural relaxation mechanism.

Regular massage for an individual suffering from diabetes may help to manage stress. Massage also assists the body to naturally remove toxins from the tissues and to balance hormone production. Practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises teaches the body to respond to stress in a more appropriate and balanced way, thus reducing feelings of being overwhelmed.

What can you do?

If you or someone you know has diabetes and is managing their illness appropriately, recommend massage to promote relaxation and balance within the body in a natural and healthy way.

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