If you experience numbness, weakness, or tingling in your hands or feet regularly, you may be one of the 422 million people worldwide suffering from peripheral neuropathy, caused by nerve damage near your spinal cord or brain.
While peripheral neuropathy can be caused by several conditions, including autoimmune disease, alcoholism, vitamin deficiency, and injury, diabetes is the most common cause.
Diabetic neuropathy results from an excessive amount of blood sugar which damages nerve fibers throughout the body. Motor, sensory, and autonomic nerve damage affect roughly 60-70 percent of diabetics.
Massage therapy can be a convenient and effective treatment option for those suffering from the pain and discomfort of diabetic neuropathy.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy can be difficult to diagnose due to a large number of possible causes and conditions. The number and type of nerves affected determine the symptoms of nerve damage, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Among the symptoms of motor nerve damage are:
- Painful Cramps
- Uncontrollable twitch
Among the symptoms of sensory nerve damage are:
- Sense of touch loss
- Reflex deterioration
- Pain sensations
- Touch sensitivity
Among the symptoms of autonomic nerve damage are:
- Sweating excessively
- Heat intolerance
Polyneuropathy, or damage to multiple types of nerves, can cause a slew of symptoms, exacerbating the sensations of pain and discomfort. If you are experiencing persistent or severe neuropathy symptoms, you should see a doctor to discuss treatment options and medical care.
The most serious complications of diabetic neuropathy arise from a lack of strength and sensation. Falls become more likely, and the risk of injury and infection rises. As a result of peripheral neuropathy, at least half of all diabetics will develop a foot ulcer during their lifetime. As a result, foot ulcers account for more than 80% of lower limb amputations.
How Effective Is Diabetic Neuropathy Massage?
While medications and lifestyle changes can help treat and manage diabetic neuropathy, massage therapy has also been shown to be beneficial when used in conjunction with integrative medicine. These general advantages include:
- Increasing relaxation and decreasing stress to aid sleep
- reducing muscle soreness and tension to aid in pain relief
- Improving circulation by stimulating blood flow
- Lowering blood pressure and heart rate
Massage has been shown in studies to significantly increase serum insulin action, which lowers blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes. Additionally, foot massage can help to normalize blood glucose levels and can be used as a supplement to diabetic neuropathy treatment as shown by the following studies:
- A 2015 study discovered that Thai foot massage significantly improved range of motion and foot sensation in type 2 diabetes patients.
- A 2017 study discovered that foot massage improved balance and mobility in type 2 diabetes patients.
- A 2020 study discovered that foot massage reduced pain associated with peripheral neuropathy and improved patients’ sleep quality.
Best Peripheral Neuropathy Foot Massage Techniques
There are several popular massage therapy methods for treating peripheral neuropathy symptoms:
- Massage in the Swedish style – Swedish massage is the most common type of massage and consists of five basic strokes that target muscles and connective tissues.
- Reflexology – Reflexology works to relieve stress and promote relaxation by stimulating a system of pressure points on the feet.
- Deep Tissue Massage – Deep tissue massage applies direct pressure to muscles and connective tissue using slow, intense strokes.
- Thai Massage – This active form of massage uses a pressure and movement sequence similar to yogic stretching to target specific areas of the body.
- Shiatsu – Stress and tension can be alleviated by using pulses or rhythmic pressure in Shiatsu, a form of pressure point therapy.
Can Foot Massagers Help with Neuropathy?
Massage chairs or stand-alone foot massagers can help relieve pain and improve circulation if you want easy access to massage therapy at home. Premium massage chairs include targeted leg massage treatments such as:
- Calf rollers are placed alongside each leg rest to mimic the hands of a masseuse, kneading and compressing the muscles for maximum tension relief.
- Under the footrest, two-way foot rollers target pressure points on the soles of the feet.
- Heating elements along the leg- and footrests provide heat therapy to ease sore muscles and increase blood flow.
- A series of rollers inside the footrest mimic relaxing thumb-and-forefinger techniques for reflexology treatment.
- Shiatsu-style sole massage that focuses on the plantar arch, heel pad, and ball of the foot.
Are There Any Negative Effects of Diabetic Foot Massage?
When getting a massage, there are a few things to keep in mind. Massage can cause complications if you have:
- Bleeding problems or are taking blood thinners
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Have you got ulcers, infections, or burns on your massage area?
Additionally, avoid massaging or applying pressure to:
- Your insulin injection site, as may affect how the medicine is absorbed by the body.
- Direct contact with ulcers or ulcer sites that have healed may cause further injury.
- Continuous glucose monitors, for example, are attached devices (CGMs)
Always discuss new treatment options with physicians, especially if you’re in a lot of pain or discomfort.
It’s also a good idea to do some research on the specific types of massage or massage products that will work best for your symptoms, body type, and level of sensitivity.
Bring Massage Therapy into Your Home
V-Revive’s certified specialists are happy to assist you in your search for a foot massager for diabetic neuropathy. Schedule a free consultation to see all the options and find the best massage therapy product for you.