Diabetes is a complex disorder in the body resulting from an imbalance in the body’s ability to use or create insulin which helps us to utilize glucose, the body’s main source of energy. Insulin is necessary to convert food into energy by supporting the transfer of glucose from the bloodstream into cells of the body.
The most common and widespread symptom of diabetes is fatigue due to the high levels of glucose remaining in the blood stream, leaving the cells starved and the individual exhausted. A multitude of complications can occur for a person who has diabetes. Tissue health is jeopardized and peripheral neuropathies are common, causing pain cycles and altered sensation in the hands and feet. Another result of the increased glucose in the blood stream is the thickening of connective tissue in the body. This thickening will lead to increased stiffness in the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. These are just a few changes that can happen in the body as a result of diabetes with more serious complications that can lead to problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, blindness and amputations.
Studies and clinical cases have been completed to test the effectiveness of massage therapy to help people with diabetes. These are just some of those findings:
- Massage increases circulation of the blood and lymph, helping to facilitate the transport of oxygen and other nutrients into the body’s tissue. Extra attention to the hands and feet are especially beneficial.
- Studies by Field (1995, 1997) and Dillon (1983) revealed that in some cases massage helped to lower blood glucose levels, which in turn increased the cells ability to absorb the glucose.
- Massage can help with stress levels. Considering the fluctuating blood sugar levels and its impact on the body as well as the emotional stress of managing diabetes (balancing insulin or other medications, blood glucose monitoring, nutrition, exercise, and possible worry about complications) can create extra stress on the body and the mind. Massage can induce the relaxation response helping to control stress hormones and provide the body with a much-needed rest.
- A study by Valtonen and Lilius (1973) revealed the massage can have a positive effect on peripheral neuropathies in some individuals, helping to minimize symptoms after a series of massage treatments.
- Massage can also help to release tension in the muscles, break down thickening, which occurs in the connective tissue, and support increased mobility in the joints and soft tissues of the body.
These facts and studies are inspiring and a positive testament to the benefits of massage with diabetes. A consideration will always be placed on pressure when receiving massage, as the body’s tissues are usually compromised and blood vessels are often fragile.
So expect a gentler but skillfully applied touch and approach that can have a profound effect on your body chemistry, your physical state, and your ability to relax!
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