How Physical Therapy Can Help with Diabetes

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How Physical Therapy Can Help with Diabetes

Every November we, along with communities across the country, raise awareness about diabetes and how it impacts Americans every day. Fortunately, there are ways that physical therapy can help those with the disease manage their symptoms. 

Who is impacted?

30.3 million Americans have diabetes. This is 9.4 percent of the population that is dealing with the various side effects! Fortunately, there are ways that physical therapy can help with pain management.  

How are they impacted?

Those with diabetes can have the following conditions:

  • Kidney Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Nerve Damage
  • Foot Problems
  • Skin Conditions
  • Eye Problems

How can physical therapy tackle some of the issues associated with diabetes?


Some of these patients may have avoided exercise due to fear that they would hurt themselves. Not exercising can exacerbate these pain issues. Physical therapy aids in showing them how to work the cardiovascular system safely. It’s important to begin this exercise regimen in a secure environment that can be replicated at home. Exercise has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, which a physical therapist (PT) will be able to help monitor and explain after a session.


Having stiff muscles can lead to or exacerbate an injury. A PT will show patients how to stretch their problem areas in a safe way to increase potential movement.


Often, diabetes can cause nerve pain. It is a pain that can make you lose feeling in your feet. It’s called diabetic neuropathy. This can make movement and any form of exercise a challenge. A PT can help with pain management by fitting the patient for diabetic inserts or specific shoes to help combat the pain. They are trained in ways to help patients’ nerve sensitivity lessen.

Skin Conditions

Diabetes can result in skin problems such as ulcers, bacterial infections, fungal infections and itching. Physical therapy can help these patients by showing them ways they can get their joints moving in a way that isn’t as painful. They can show you movements to deal with painful skin ulcers so they can continue completing activities of daily living. 

Pain Management

Overall, diabetes can be frustrating and painful for many. PTs understand this and are trained in ways to help confront the pain head-on. They help patients understand how diabetes impacts movement and how to strengthen their body in order to protect themselves from further discomfort. 

Physical therapy is a terrific option for those who are wanting help dealing with the side effects of diabetes. Learn more about ways to help those with diabetes by visiting NARA.