Articles of Interest

Massage Therapy for Clients with Diabetes 

In the March, 2011 issue of “Massage Therapy Today”, there are several articles dealing with Massage and Diabetes.

I will provide the highlights for you. 

The gist of the article states that Massage is a proven, effective complement to traditional diabetes management but there are measures that should be taken to ensure the sessions are both safe and beneficial for clients with diabetes.

More than two million Canadians have been diagnosed with Diabetes.  It is a complex disease that occurs when the body is unable to maintain the proper levels of blood sugar, or glucose, due to an inability to produce or properly use insulin.

Massage Therapy is beneficial to those with diabetes for three reasons: relaxation, circulation, and tissue flexibility.  Methods of reducing stress such as massage therapy can have a profound effect on preventing blood sugar surges.  There is no arguing with the fact that massage increases circulation, which, in turn, improves cells’ insulin uptake.  A history of high blood sugar thickens connective tissue.  Massage helps increase tissue mobility and elasticity, reversing the thickening effect of uncontrolled glucose levels.

There are a few important safety measures to keep in mind.  For those with Type 1 diabetes, increased circulation as a result of massage near the insulin injection sites can increase absorption rates so the therapist must be careful to avoid any recent injection sites.  Neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes, causing dulled or painful sensations in extremities so the therapist must take care and realize that the client may not be able to provide adequate feedback.  The therapist must also be mindful of the clients’ delicate and easily damageable tissue.

A person with diabetes should have their physician’s approval before receiving massage, primarily to confirm adequately controlled blood sugar.  Even for a client with well controlled blood sugar, the relaxing nature of massage can cause a drop in blood sugar so it is important for the therapist to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of hypoglycaemia and know what to do about it should these symptoms occur.

The value of massage therapy usually outweighs the risks for clients with diabetes but it is critical to have an open communication between client and therapist.

Condensed from:  Massage Therapy Today, March 2011, Volume 5, No. 2