You probably know someone with diabetes because it affects millions of people around the world. In fact, 25% of people over 65 have diabetes. Sadly, 7 million people go undiagnosed with diabetes. Most people know that medication can help diabetes, but a less known fact is how physical therapy can help manage it. Here are a few things PTs can do to help manage and improve a diabetic condition.
Physical Therapists can be an invaluable tool in helping manage diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. Physical problems related to diabetes include weakness, loss of endurance, obesity, and balance problems.
Do you have diabetes risk factors, which include being overweight or obese, having a family history of type 2 diabetes, having a history of gestational diabetes, or being of a certain race/ethnicity (African American, Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islander, or Native American)? If so, you should be screened for diabetes sooner than age 45.
Physical activity and exercise are effective ways to lower high blood sugar levels.
30 minutes of daily physical exercise reduces your risk of diabetes by 40%
We help people with diabetes improve or avoid related complications.
Complications of all types of diabetes can include:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Retinopathy (eye disease) causes vision problems and blindness
- Kidney disease
- Neuropathy (nervous system disease). This can result in foot and hand pain, inner-ear nerve damage, and balance problems
- Peripheral vascular disease (a blood circulation disorder)
- Reduced muscle strength (frailty) and physical function
- Skin problems, including sores, ulcers, and infections
- Cell death (necrosis), most often in toes and feet
- Premature death
How can a physical therapist help? We will examine your record of blood glucose levels and check your skin for wounds. They also will conduct a complete assessment of your:
- Skin sensation (especially in the feet)
They will use the results of these tests to design a personalized treatment program that addresses your problems and needs.
A healthy diet and good resistance exercise program have been known to reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes. How? Resistance exercise causes muscles to respond to insulin many times more than when at rest. This increased ability for the body to use insulin allows sugars to be absorbed instead of staying in the bloodstream.
Your treatment program can also help improve your:
Movement: Specific activities and treatments to help restore normal movement. These might begin with passive movements to gently move your joints. Then you progress to active exercises and stretches that you can do yourself.
Strength: Learn the right exercises to steadily and safely restore your strength.
Flexibility: Identify if any of your muscles are tight and help you gently stretch them. Learn what to do to improve your flexibility.
Endurance: Regaining your endurance is important. Excuses will be a thing of the past as our program of exercises will be very manageable. Get the energy to return to your normal activities.
Balance and coordination: Balance is important to prevent falling. Coordination is essential for daily living and work-related activities. Improving your balance and restoring your coordination will benefit you for the rest of your life.
Walking ability: Walking is a great skill for the mind, body, and spirit. What is holding you back? We will identify problem areas and teach you ways to overcome your obstacles.
Pain levels: Chronic pain. A combination of treatments, technologies, and safe effective exercises can help to control and reduce pain. Learn how to protect painful areas to make them less sensitive to diabetic nerve pain (neuropathy).
Blood glucose levels: Physical activity can help lower your blood sugar levels. We will design a safe, personalized exercise program to help you control and lower your blood sugar.
Healing of sores: We can apply bandages, dressings, lotions, and treatments to help sores heal faster. We also may check your footwear for proper fit and overall condition. Learn how to perform daily foot and skin checks to prevent blisters and sores from developing.
Home exercise: Strengthen and stretch your muscles. When ready, aerobic exercises will be introduced to perform on your own at home. These exercises can speed your recovery.
For all diabetics, neuropathy can be a common condition, which happens because there is a breakdown of nerves and blood vessels. The breakdown of these structures leads to a loss of sensation in the feet, therefore inactivity and a decreased awareness of injuries that occur to the upper and lower extremities. We will provide education and assessment of the neuropathy to modify activity and make daily adjustments to prevent or reverse the progression of the condition.
We will discuss your activity goals with you and use them to set your recovery goals. Your treatment program will help you reach your goals in the safest, fastest, and most effective way possible.
If you or someone you know has diabetes or is pre-diabetic, referrals are not needed to get an evaluation for help. Share the knowledge with your diabetic friends.