Because diabetes involves the need for the maintenance of healthy blood glucose levels (i.e. sugar to be converted into energy in your cells), when you have diabetes you have to follow a somewhat strict plan for living. This plan includes the use of medication where applicable (usually insulin in some form), with a balanced diet and adequate exercise. If you're diabetic you will also need to refrain from smoking tobacco, and will need to be aware of possible hormonal imbalances (i.e. thyroid hormones and estrogen) as well.
So where does massage therapy come in? Well, because of the variety of benefits that massage therapy offers, if you have diabetes you can see a number of positive reactions from treatment. A session only once a week can offer some of these excellent benefits:
1. Stress. Massage helps to lower your stress levels, which can affect hormonal imbalances and in turn affect your blood sugar levels. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can put a further strain on your mental capacities, furthering the frustrating stress-blood-sugar-cycle. Thus massage can help you to lower stress and thereby help you to manage your diabetes. In addition, lowering of stress levels can have profound effects on your heart health, which can also be compromised with diabetes.
2. Circulation. Since high blood sugar levels can cause hardening of your arteries, you can gain a lot from increased circulation in addition to improving your heart health. And because your feet are furthest from your heart, it is in your lower legs that massage therapy is most beneficial, especially in regards to wound healing and improving sensation. This is a very positive result of massage, since foot issues can disable you and make life very difficult. Furthermore, increased circulation can help your cells in regards to insulin uptake, an added benefit with diabetes.
3. Connective tissue. Elevated blood sugar levels tend to cause a thickening of the connective tissues in your body, i.e. those tissues that connect your muscles to your joints and skin. This thickening makes it very difficult to move around with ease. Thus with diabetes, you may experience some pain and reduced mobility, something that massage therapy can help to counteract.
Overall, massage therapy can help immensely if you suffer from diabetes. Although you will still need to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine, massage can help to balance your blood sugar levels and keep you physically fit.
By Richard Lobbenberg, BSc BHSc DAc
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