East Bay Massage: Diabetes and Massage

It is estimated that 18 million Americans have diabetes, or roughly 6% of the population. Diabetes rates have increased 600% over the last forty years (and no, I didn’t make a type-o). The rise of obesity in addition to the increase propensity for sedentary lifestyles are at least one big part of the reason for the rise of Diabetes. While Diabetes can be categorized into Type 1 and Type 2, this article handles only Type 2 Diabetes and how massage can help.

What happens when you have Type 2 Diabetes? This disorder involves the way in which the pancreas and the insulin it produces function within the body. Typically, a diet high in carbohydrates and fats wears out the pancreas over time, and causes its insulin-producing cells to become less efficient. Sometimes, these cells may be functioning within normal limits but are overwhelmed by high glucose levels. For others, the cells that would normally receive insulin have fewer receptors, making insulin absorption inefficient. First symptoms include abnormally increased urination, thirstiness, excessive hunger, and weight loss. This last symptom may be surprising, but the reason for it is logical– Diabetes is a metabolic disorder, so when the body is not metabolizing food normally, cells become overwhelmed, cease functioning properly, and are as a result, ironically starved for nutrients.

The good news is that Type 2 Diabetes can be controlled with diet and exercise, though sometimes insulin injections are needed to keep the disease under control. Massage can be an important part of an diabetic’s overall healthcare regime, but can also play a vital part in managing some complications often resulting from Type 2 Diabetes.

One common complication is cardiovascular disease due to diet– for diabetics, plaque that would be restricted to the heart in other patients is distributed systemically throughout the body. Pause for a moment and consider what that really means:

Edema in the extremities (think swelling ankles and feet) occurs often due to sluggish circulation caused by occlusion of all the body’s vessels. Poor circulation is at the root of other very serious complications for diabetics– ulcers, gangrene, and amputations are unfortunately not uncommon when Diabetes is not kept under control. When blood flow is impaired, vital nutrients and white blood cells are not able to reach injured tissues. In this way, a small scrape on a diabetic’s foot can become a life threatening condition. Kidney disease due to occlusion of renal vessels, impaired vision due to thickening of the eye’s capillaries, and neuropathy, or nerve damage due to excess sugar in the blood, are also all common complications when Diabetes goes unmanaged.

With the diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes on the rise as fast as it is, what can massage do to help?

It should first be noted that the best course of action is to avoid Type 2 Diabetes in the first place through a healthy diet and regular, moderate exercise. Still only 12% of all diabetics actually control the disease effectively enough to prevent the above-mentioned complications.

Massage improves circulation in everyone– a person with decreased circulation benefits from manually moving the body’s fluids around the systems. However, it must be noted that a person with advanced complications of Diabetes should avoid massage if they have kidney failure or atherosclerosis (heart blockages). Asking the body to increase the volume of fluids it can process when it is already over-taxed is contraindicated. However, massage can help to relieve fluid tension and may assist the body in repairing nerve damage. A massage therapist is also in a unique position to notice wounds on the feet which a diabetic client may not realize are there. Lastly, any time a diabetic client receives massage, they should test their glucose levels before and after the massage. Massage naturally lowers blood sugar levels by promoting circulation and relaxation. A low-blood sugar incident (‘crashing’) is a significant risk for any diabetic, so it is important to understand how massage fits in with their diet plan for the day.

Diabetics can benefit two-fold by massage. It can be an enjoyable part of a healthy lifestyle, and it can help to manage complications down the road. I personally believe that massage also puts us in touch with our selves by integrating the mind and body in a way nothing else can. People managing chronic diseases are often under physical and emotional stress and may have strong emotions tied to it. Massage is good for the body, and good for the soul, too.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!






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