Physical Therapy for Diabetes

Physical Therapy is beneficial for all types of patients.  One group of people that are commonly overlooked for physical therapy treatment is diabetics.  Peripheral arterial disease, neuropathy, poor circulation and other manifestations of diabetes are very responsive to skill physical therapy treatment.  People with these afflictions can make significant gains with therapy, decreasing leg pain while increasing walking distances, gait, mobility, and overall independence.

Maximizing Sensation Output

Skilled physical therapy can help and individual maximize sensation input.  Sensation of the feet can be enhanced by physical therapy treatments!  Skilled therapy may not be able to normalize sensation, but it can increase the available levels of sensation to a patient’s maximum potential.  A patient will be treated with different types of treatment, such as electric stimulation, cold laser therapy, soft tissue massage, and manual lymph drainage.  TBTW also uses a specialized type of therapy with a machine called Total Body Vibration.  This machine has a platform with which a patient can stand, sit, put partial weight, or even place their feet on it.  The machine vibrates from 30 to 90 Hz.  The great thing about this machine is that treatments only take 30 to 90 seconds!  It is clinically proven to increase blood flow and circulation.  This machine allows an increase in circulation with minimal to no patient effort.  It is even beneficial for wheelchair bound or patients who are non-weight bearing!

Gait Training

Having a lack of sensation from diabetes can lead to several difficulties with walking.  This can lead to a further decrease in function, loss of balance, an increased risk of falls, and pain in other areas of the body.  Skilled physical therapy can restore the proper walking mechanics, decrease the strain on feet/legs and improve foot function.  Treatment for diabetes can also include balance training and fall prevention techniques to help the patient stay safer.

Increase Circulation

In order to prevent further loss of sensation, ulceration and increase muscuolo-skeletal function, therapy works on increasing the circulation in the feet.  This is done through different processes, including the Total Body Vibration machine, soft tissue massage, and cold laser therapy.

Preventing Further Complications

Exercise has been shown to help stabilize blood glucose levels, which can be important in diabetic patients.  Physical therapy can also help with patients who have a non-weight bearing status due to ulcers/sores.  This type of status can decrease a patient’s mobility and functional status.  Therapy can help to maintain functional status of a patient and prevent a further decline in function while the wounds are healing.

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There are also many physical benefits of physical therapy exercise for those suffering with diabetes: 

  • Improving glucose levels
  • Reduce body fat
  • Improve the cardiovascular system
  • Increase bodily function and overall strength
  • Improve balance & decrease fall risk
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Promote stress reduction
  • Improve carbohydrate metabolism
  • Improve well-being/overall control of diabetes


For more information on how physical therapy can help your diabetes, contact us at Total Body Therapy & Wellness!


Blogger: Dr. Sara S. Morrison, PT, DPT, CDT, FCE, CFT, Cert DN, Cert FMT