Massage & Diabetes

Massage has been shown to have a number of positive effects for diabetes patients. But, before we dive into these benefits, it is important to understand how the disease works and its effects upon the body. The two most common types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1: This form of the disease is often referred to as “juvenile” diabetes and is the most severe. It is most commonly diagnosed in children and teenagers, but can develop at any age. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, rendering the patient unable to produce the necessary insulin to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood. Treatment for patients with type 1 diabetes must include insulin injections. This autoimmune disease can lead to kidney, nerve and heart damage, blindness, coma and even death.

Type 2: This form of diabetes is often referred to as “adult onset” diabetes and is the most common form of the disease. However, as with type 1, it can occur at any age. Type 2 develops as a result of two causes, insulin-resistance and the body’s inability to produce enough insulin. We know that the former develops due to obesity, sedentary lifestyle and genetics. However, researchers have not yet determined why some people’s bodies are to able to produce adequate insulin. Treatment includes alterations to diet and exercise, oral medications and in some cases, insulin injections. If not managed, type 2 diabetes can lead to cataracts, kidney disease, nerve damage and heart, brain and blood vessel complications.

Massage cannot replace traditional medical treatment for diabetes, but studies have shown that massage is an important complimentary treatment with a host of benefits.

  • One controlled study found that “massage at an insulin injection site can significantly increase serum insulin action, thereby decreasing blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes.” Other uncontrolled studies suggest “that massage may help normalize blood glucose and symptoms of diabetic neuropathy” Ezzo, Donner, Nickols, Cox, 2001, 223). Massage therapy can also relieve pain and dysfunction at injection site through friction and scar removal techniques.
  • Two clinical studies in type 2 diabetes patients reported improvement in diabetic peripheral neuropathy in patients’ feet when Thai and manual foot plantar massage was utilized.
  • Massage has been shown to improve balance and mobility. This helps the patient to avoid a sedentary lifestyle, which could worsen the disease.
  • The relaxation benefits from massage therapy calms the nervous system and aids in reducing depression caused by the toll of a chronic disease.

Ezzo, J., Donner, T., Nickols, D., Cox, M. (2001, Oct 14). Is Massage Useful in the Management of Diabetes? A Systematic Review. 

Shryer, D. (2017, August 22). Navigating the Path to Wellness With Massage Therapy.

If you suffer from a form of diabetes and would like to discuss a treatment plan with our experienced therapists, please contact us today.