There are many benefits of massage therapy for people with diabetes. Most of these would be similar to the benefits of massage for the general population, but I want to emphasize the following advantages, which are of particular interest for diabetics.
Relaxation: The value of basic relaxation cannot be overemphasized. Living with diabetes is inherently a stressful condition. Fluctuating blood sugar levels put tremendous strain on the body's systems. The practical demands of balancing intake of insulin or oral medications, blood glucose monitoring, nutrition and exercise can seem like a daunting task for many. Worry about complications of the disease, or anxiety relating to work or interpersonal relationships, can add to the picture of stress. By calming the nervous system, massage can bring a much-needed rest and an assuring sense of well-being to the body. Skillfully applied touch can have a profound effect on body chemistry, decreasing the production of stress hormones, with resulting beneficial effects to blood sugar levels.
Circulation: Massage increases the circulation of blood and lymph, facilitating the transport of oxygen and other nutrients into the body's tissues. Improved circulation allows for more efficient uptake of insulin by the cells. Circulation is often impaired in diabetics due to the damaging effects of elevated blood sugar levels on the cells of the body. Massage of the hands and feet can be particularly beneficial.
Myofascial Effects: Massage works directly with the muscles (myo) and connective tissues (fascia), helping to facilitate greater mobility in the body. This is especially important for the diabetic because elevated blood sugars cause a thickening of connective tissue, which in turn affects mobility and elasticity of the myofascial system. This can be noted in general levels of stiffness in muscles, tendons and ligaments, as well as decreased range of motion in the joints. Stress hormones also contribute to chemical changes in the connective tissue, causing a stickiness between the layers of fascia. Massage therapy can significantly counter this effect. Range of motion, stretching and regular exercise are also important to help encourage flexibility and health of the myofascial system. Author Mary Kathleen Rose massages one of her many diabetic clients.