Physical Therapy For Diabetes Patients: Two Ways It Can Really Help

You may think of physical therapy as helping fix a specific injury, like a ligament tear in knee or back pain resulting from an auto accident. But physical therapy can help patients with a wide range of ailments, including diabetes.

Diabetes diagnoses are made when a person has trouble making insulin. Insulin, which is made in the pancreas, helps your body process sugar. An excess of blood sugar can lead to obesity, nerve problems and problems with circulation.

So how can a physical therapist help? There are two main reasons why you might want to work with a physical therapist to aid your management of this chronic disease.

Increasing Circulation

When blood sugar levels get too high and stay too high, nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy results. Medical professionals don't understand exactly why diabetes causes nerve damage, but they believe that the elevated blood sugar levels damage small blood vessels that supply the nerves, especially in the feet and hands. This damage means that nerves don't get the nutrients that they need, and they begin to cause symptoms like tingling, numbness and pain.

Pain means that diabetes patients are less likely to stay active, but it's a Catch-22: Staying active helps you manage diabetes symptoms. A physical therapist can help you by providing exercises designed to increase circulation to the feet, legs, hands and arms.

Planning Activity Levels

A physical therapist can be key in helping you create an exercise and activity plan that is reasonable for your age and physical condition. 

According to the American Diabetes Association, there are two main ways that exercise can help you manage your diabetes.

  1. Activity increases your insulin sensitivity. This means that your body is better able to use whatever insulin is produced; most diabetics, especially those with Type II diabetes, still make limited amounts of insulin.
  2. Muscle contractions caused by exercise can help increase the proper use of glucose in the body.

But simply saying you should exercise if you have diabetes doesn't help a lot of sufferers make real changes to their routines. Without support and accountability, it's much harder for diabetics to maintain good activity levels. Research shows that physical therapy and regular exercise helps increase strength in patients with diabetes. The supervision and ongoing assistance helps people stick with a program and make it a lifestyle priority.

A physical therapist, like those at Coastal Orthopaedic, can help you customize a workout plan and adjust it as needed so you can get the exercise you need.