If you’re an avid reader of our blog you’ll know that last week we took a look at diabetes, the different kinds and what causes it. As usual in the two part series this blog will focus on how seeing a physical therapist can help if you have diabetes.
What a lot of people don’t know is that physical activity, along with diet and medication, is the cornerstone of treatment for diabetes. Physical activity alone is a cornerstone for prevention of diabetes, but if you already have diabetes it is essential that you control your glucose, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and maintain a healthy weight. In addition regular physical activity can also reduce the need for medication, so it’s important to make sure you are active.
That being said I guess I should get into the specifics about how much physical activity is recommended. The American Diabetes Association says that 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days per week is ideal – and that both cardio and strength workouts are helpful.
How Can Physical Therapy Help?
Well – in short – physical therapy will help you improve your blood sugar levels, manage your weight, and reduce your risk of heart disease. Based on your health status, your PT will recommend exercises that are tailored to your needs:
– “Moderate intensity” cardio (or aerobic) exercise, where your heart and breathing rate increase. During these exercises you are likely to sweat, but can easily carry on a conversation.
– “Vigorous” aerobic exercise, where you breathing will be rapid, you will sweat a lot, and you will only be able to speak in short phrases. In addition your heart rate will increase substantially.
With the majority of cases your PT will recommend that you are ‘working out’ at least 3 days a week, and that you have no more than 2 days off in a row.
If you have type 2 diabetes, your PT will likely prescribe weight training, unless of course you have another medical condition that makes using weights unsafe. Normally the goal with weight training is 3 days a week; and it should be your PT that determines weight and number of repetitions per exercise.
There are also a number of other concerns that your PT will look into, but I don’t want to get too technical with this post – do is you have specific questions be sure to speak to your PT right away.
Always see a PT to help you with physical activity if you have:
– Numbness or tingling in your feet
– Pain in your joints or muscles
– Pain or limping with walking
– Calluses or sores on your feet
– Used an assistive device such as a cane or crutches
When You Have Complications
I feel like I should also touch on this, as it is very important to know what to do when complications occur.
If your diabetes isn’t being managed well, it can lead to problems in blood vessels and nerves – most often in your legs. Low blood flow to the legs can cause pain when walking or lead to skin breakdown (ulcers, sores) on your legs or feet. Diabetes can affect the nerves, which can result in tingling in the feet, and that could lead to complete numbness. What happens when numbness occurs is that your skin (and/or joints) cannot feel pain the normal way. These problems could lead to difficulty with daily activities, limit your ability to exercise, and also harm your overall health. If these problems occur, your PT can:
– Help decrease your cramping pain during walking
– Evaluate and care for skin ulcers and sores that are slow to heal
– Use special tests to check sensation
– Improve your walking ability with special shoes or orthotics
– Show you how to protect your feet if they have lost sensation
So – that concludes my two part series on diabetes! I hope that you have learned a lot and that you better understand how physical therapy can help if you – or someone you know – suffers from diabetes. As always I am open to any questions you may have so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below, give us a call, or fill out the contact form we have on our site.