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Benefits of Physical Therapy for People with Diabetes

Benefits of Physical Therapy for People with Diabetes

  By: Editors at DiabetesIQ  |  Published: July 22, 2021   
Published: July 22, 2021   

Benefits of Physical Therapy for People with DiabetesBenefits of Physical Therapy for People with Diabetes
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Diabetes can affect people of all ages, and there are numerous physical problems related to the disease. Some of those problems are related to the lack of physical activity. The role of a physical therapist is to help people with diabetes improve their activity levels by adding physical activity to their lives in an effective way.


How can a physical therapist help people with diabetes?

The most important way physical therapists can help people with diabetes is by encouraging them to take part in effective and safe exercise programs. Regular exercise can help lower blood sugar levels, while minimizing your chances of getting diabetes-related complications caused by a lack of movement.

With the help of physical therapy, diabetic patients can better perform daily activities, increase their ability to move, and reduce pain. Moreover, physical therapy treatments can also help heal skin problems caused by diabetes faster than they would without treatment.

What does a physical therapist do to help to manage diabetes?

When you visit a physical therapist to get help with diabetes-related issues, the therapist will examine your blood glucose records and check your skin for any kinds of wounds. Your physical therapist will also conduct a complete assessment of your flexibility, strength, endurance, and balance. Another thing that the therapist will examine is your skin sensation, especially in the feet, in order to rule out any diabetes-related skin issues. 

Your physical therapist will use the results of the tests to design a customized treatment program to address your personal needs and problems. The main goal of the treatment program is to improve the following areas:

Strength — your physical therapist will work with you to restore your strength safely and steadily by teaching you the right exercises. 

Movement — your physical therapist will select specific treatments and activities to help you restore normal movement. If you have trouble moving, your therapist may perform passive movements for you, gently moving your joints, and then help you progress to stretches you can do yourself.

Balance and coordination — if you have problems with your sense of balance, this may lead to falls, so your physical therapist will work with you to improve your balance and restore your coordination to help you with both work-related activities and daily living.

Endurance — if you have muscle weakness due to inactivity, your physical therapist may teach you various exercises to gain endurance as well as the energy to return to your normal activities.

Flexibility — if your muscles are tight, your physical therapist can help you stretch them gently. This will help with improving flexibility, which is essential for most day-to-day activities.

Pain levels — numerous studies have shown that physical therapy is a safe way to treat chronic pain and that’s also true for pain caused by complications of diabetes. Your physical therapist may recommend different types of technologies and treatments and prescribe safe exercises for you to try in order to reduce and control pain. Reducing pain levels via physical therapy is especially important for patients, who are sensitive to diabetic nerve pain (neuropathy).

Healing of sores — if you are experiencing sores as a complication of diabetes, you can get advice from your physical therapist regarding lotions and treatments to heal faster. Your physical therapist may also teach you how to perform skin checks to prevent sores from developing and how to choose proper footwear.

Recommending surgery — in very difficult cases, if the body becomes too damaged as a result of diabetes complications, patients may require an amputation. If that is the case, your physical therapist can help you prepare for surgery and recover afterwards. Physical therapists are also invaluable for people who need to regain their walking ability and get back to being active after an amputation.


The bottom line

Engaging in physical therapy when you have diabetes is important because staying active helps regulate blood glucose levels. Physical therapists are also uniquely qualified to identify how various types of exercises and items like footwear may affect a patient's overall safety and comfort when it comes to basic activities such as walking. Therefore, because treatment plans for diabetes are highly individual, it is essential for diabetic patients to have a physical therapist on their diabetes management care team to make sure they receive the best custom treatment possible in their situation.

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