Over the last few decades, society’s shift towards a more sedentary lifestyle, coupled with the mass consumption of processed foods high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup and an aging population, has led to a rise in type 2 diabetes. Troublingly, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in Canada has nearly doubled since 2000. It is currently estimated that 3.4 million Canadians suffer from the disease, just less than one in every ten people. Within ten years, that number is projected to have grown to 5 million.
Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases in which the body cannot properly produce or process insulin, the hormone which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Type 1 diabetes sufferers are able to produce little or no insulin at all, while Type 2 sufferers do produce insulin, but their cells have become resistant to it. Type 1 diabetes must be managed with insulin injections and other medications to avoid high blood sugar levels, which can lead to kidney disease, lower limb and foot problems, nerve damage, and even heart attacks or strokes. Type 2 diabetes can often be managed through diet and lifestyle change, but this is not always the case and sometimes medication is needed.
So how can massage therapy help those living with diabetes? Read on to find out.
A number of massage therapy techniques can be used to treat patients with diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy, a common nerve damage condition among diabetics that results in loss of feeling in the legs and feet, can be managed with circulatory therapeutic massage, which involves rhythmic compression and decompression of the lower limbs in order to stimulate bloodflow.
Techniques such as deep tissue and Swedish massage can help reduce discomfort in diabetes sufferers, and students in therapeutic massage courses also learn techniques that fortify the body’s fluid systems, such as lymphatic drainage and cranialsacral therapy.
The increase in circulation that results from massage therapy enables oxygen and nutrients to reach cells more efficiently, which is believed to improve insulin absorption for diabetics. In addition, increased blood sugar levels can sometimes result in thickened connective tissue. Massage therapy can increase tissue elasticity, helping to increase a patient’s overall mobility.
Students pursuing a massage therapy diploma understand the therapeutic benefits of relaxation massage for diabetics. The burden of living with the disease can take a huge physical and psychological toll, and the relief provided by massage can make a big difference. The increase in endorphins and reduction in cortisol many patients experience can also play a part in helping to stabilize blood glucose levels.
While massage therapy has proven to be beneficial for diabetes sufferers, professionals with massage therapy certification know to take a number of precautions. Massage has been shown to lower blood sugar levels which, when combined with diabetic medications, could trigger a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) episode. Accordingly, massage therapists are aware of the warning signs of hypoglycemia in patients, such as faintness, excessive sweating, or increases in heart rate.
RMTs are also mindful of a diabetic patient’s medication schedule, so as not to impact the medication’s effect on blood sugar levels. Therapists may also advise clients to check their blood sugar levels before and after sessions, and let them know that they are able to eat or drink during sessions if they need to.
Interested in learning more about the benefits of massage therapy? Visit OVCMT for more information on our courses.