Diabetes is a disease which results from inadequate production of the hormone insulin. Insulin is vitally important because it is necessary to convert food into energy by assisting in facilitating the transfer of glucose (or as we know it “sugar”) from the bloodstream into the body’s cells. Of the 16 million people in the United States with diabetes, most have a genetic predisposition to the disease, and can be categorized into one of the following types:
Type 1 Diabetes (must take insulin) affects 10 to 15 percent of the diabetic population. These individuals must take regular injections of insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes (not dependent on insulin) affects more than 85 percent of the total number of diabetics. This type is seen more in the older population. Most individuals with Type 2 diabetes usually take oral medication, sometimes combined with an insulin injection.
People with diabetes can live a long and productive life with appropriate medical treatment and careful attention to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Massage therapy can be a useful and enjoyable aspect of a person with diabetes overall care. Just what are some benefits of massage for diabetics? Just this week, I had a diabetic client come get a massage. Her levels were over 300. Immediately following her massage, she returned home and took her levels again to see if there was any change. She was so excited to report that her levels had gone down 37 points. There are many benefits of massage therapy for individuals who live with diabetes. Most of them are similar to the benefits of massage therapy for the general population, but let’s take a look at some areas that can be emphasized advantages, which are of particular interest for diabetics.
Relaxation: I cannot emphasize enough the value of basic relaxation. Blood sugar levels that are unpredictable can put tremendous strain on the body’s systems. By calming the nervous system, massage can bring a much-needed rest and an assuring sense of well-being to the body.
Circulation: It’s been proven that massage increases the circulation of blood and lymph which helps transport oxygen and other nutrients into the body’s tissues. Massage of the hands and feet can be beneficial for diabetics because circulation is often impaired in diabetics due to the damaging effects of elevated blood sugar levels.
Myofacial Massage Effects: Massage works directly with the muscles (mio) and connective tissues (fascia). Massage techniques helps facilitate greater mobility in the body. Since diabetes causes a thickening of connective tissue because of elevated blood sugars, it is especially important for individuals to have massage therapy on a regular basis. It is normal for individuals who live with diabetes to experience stiffness in muscles, tendons, and ligaments, as well as have decreased range of motion in the joints. Hormones that cause stress also contribute to chemical changes in the connective tissue, which causes the layers of the fascia to become sticky. Range of motion and stretching during massage can help to counteract this effect and help encourage flexibility and health of the myofacial system.
Massage can give a wonderful mental boost to someone who is living with this chronic disease and also striving to balance all the factors involved in maintaining a healthy lifestyle–proper nutrition, adequate exercise, blood glucose monitoring, appropriate use of medications and stress management.