Physical and Occupational Therapy Can Help Treat and Prevent Diabetes

Outpatient therapy can play a valuable role in helping people both manage their diabetes and prevent many of the complications that arise from this chronic condition.

“Early prevention and sustainable management are essential in the treatment of diabetes. Both physical therapists and occupational therapists can partner well in helping patients find ways to manage their diabetes more independently and practically, especially when other comorbidities are present,” according to therapists Jackie Gfeller, physical therapist, and Cailyn Crossland, occupational therapist.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that currently affects 34.2 million adults in the United States alone, according to the CDC. Furthermore, nearly 88 million adults –more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes.

In addition to making it difficult for individuals to regulate their blood sugar, diabetes can cause a variety of physical complications that can negatively impact a person’s quality of life.

If not properly treated, diabetes can lead individuals to experience:

  • Limited mobility in the hands and feet
  • Decreased tolerance for physical activity
  • Weakness and chronic physical pain
  • Increased chance of experiencing heart disease, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, and other complications
  • Decreased sensation in the hands and feel
  • Loss of vision
  • Impaired sleep

Gfeller notes that physical therapy can help individuals with diabetes on their quest to adopt a healthy and active lifestyle. A licensed physical therapist can work with you to create a personalized plan that helps you:

  • Improve your mobility and flexibility: A physical therapist can work with you to stretch your muscles and improve your range of motion over time so that you feel more comfortable when engaging in physical activity.
  • Help you build strength and endurance: A physical therapist will work with you to help you regain energy and improve your strength over time.
  • Treat chronic pain: A physical therapist can address and treat any pain triggers and use a variety of treatments to help you manage your pain.
  • Treat and prevent sores: A physical therapist can help you practice proper wound care and advise you on how to prevent sores from developing in the future.

Additionally, Crossland, explains that there are many factors that either support or complicate self-diabetes management. A licensed occupational therapist can help further address your individual motivation and personal strengths to successfully identify:

  • Safe and healthy cooking methods: An occupational therapist will work with you to make recommended dietary guidelines practical and provide protective techniques and compensations for peripheral sensory loss in activities that involve exposure to heat, cold, and sharp objects.
  • Sustainable daily routines: An occupational therapist can work with you to highlight exercise, meal preparation, rest, and social supports that will promote your success in sustainable self-diabetes management.
  • Individualized strategies: An occupational therapist can help you implement organizational tools and reminders, tactile modifications for low vision, or adaptive set-ups for medication and glucose monitoring in cases of limited mobility or sensation.

Maintaining an active lifestyle can help you improve your health and manage your diabetes. If you’d like more information about working with a physical or occupational therapist to develop an diabetes management program that is right for you, please contact Kitsap Physical Therapy and Sports Clinics.

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