Benefits of Physical Therapy – Prevention and Treatment of Diabetes

Heart from square grains

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that prevents proper utilization of sugar in the body. If it is not diagnosed, treated and managed efficiently, the consequences can be life-threatening.

The pancreas is an organ which produces insulin, a hormone that drives sugar into the cells in the human body. This allows the body to metabolize sugar in an efficient manner. When sugar crosses the cell barrier, it provides energy to the body.

In the diabetic child or adult, one of two things can happen. The body may be unable to produce adequate amounts of insulin. On the other hand, ‘insulin sensitivity’ may decrease. This means that glucose is unable to enter cells, resulting in high sugar levels in the blood.

Individuals with diabetes need to take active measures to control blood sugar levels and exercise plays an important role in the treatment process.

Types of Diabetes

  1. Type 1: formerly called Juvenile Diabetes. Insulin has to be administered.
  2. Type 2: formerly adult onset but is seen now in children. Pills are often recommended. At times, insulin may also be used in the treatment process.
  3. Gestational Diabetes (pregnancy induced diabetes)

Common Symptoms of Diabetes include:

  • Thirst
  • Hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Infections

Complications of Diabetes

When diabetes is left untreated, damage to the blood vessels and tissues can affect major target organs over a period of time. Adverse effects can be seen in the following organs:

  • Kidneys
  • Heart
  • Lower limbs
  • Skin
  • Eyes

Supervised Exercise – The Secret to Control of Blood Sugar

Physical therapy helps prevent, treat and rehabilitate injuries. Here are a few benefits of physical therapy for patients with diabetes:

  • Evaluation of the diabetic before starting an exercise program.
  • Education/instruction of the diabetic on do’s and don’ts.
  • Injury prevention awareness.
  • Rehabilitation after an injury.

Several techniques can be used by the physical therapist to promote healing and recovery of the affected limb. The sooner the therapist can assess the injury and initiate treatment, the better the outcome. Treatment techniques include:

  • Ultrasound to heal connective tissue (tendons and ligaments).
  • Skilled manual therapy including stretching and massage.
  • Resistance training to build muscle strength.
  • Cold compress for acute injuries and heat to relax muscular spasms.
  • Low-intensity laser therapy for muscle and connective tissue injuries.
  • Functional electrical stimulation is used to restore strength in the muscles.
  • The use of tape to support the muscles.

Exercise – The Sweet Medicine

Treatment and Control of Diabetes
Long term treatment requires a combination of traditional medical practices and lifestyle modifications.

Injectable insulin (for Type 1 Diabetes) and oral medications with or without insulin (for Type 2 Diabetes) provide a foundation for treatment. In addition to medication, a healthy diet, exercise and foot care help prevent injury and improve the quality of life.

A physical therapist will conduct a detailed evaluation of the muscles, bones and joints. This baseline will help the therapist advise you on what and how much you should do to prevent exercise-related injuries, improve fitness and achieve a healthy body weight.

If you or someone you know has diabetes, ask your physician if physical therapy is right for you (and it most likely is). In many states, Direct Access Laws allow you to visit a physical therapist without a referral. For more information, call our office or schedule your appointment here, and we will provide you with simple and affordable options to work with us.