If you consistently feel a numbness, weakness or tingling in your hands or feet, you may be one of the 20 million people in the U.S. who suffer from the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy – damage to the nerves near your spinal cord or brain. While peripheral neuropathy can be caused by a variety of different conditions – including autoimmune disease, alcoholism, vitamin deficiency and injury – the most common cause is diabetes.
Diabetic neuropathy results from an excessive amount of blood sugar which damages nerve fibers throughout the body. Roughly 60-70 percent of diabetics have mild to severe damage to motor, sensory and autonomic nerves. For those suffering from the pain and discomfort of diabitec neuropathy, massage therapy can be a convenient and effective treatment to help improve quality of life.
The Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy can be difficult to diagnose due to the large number of causes and conditions associated with it. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, symptoms of nerve damage are dependent upon the number of and types of nerves affected:
Symptoms of motor nerve damage include:
- Painful cramps
- Uncontrolled twitching
Symptoms of sensory nerve damage include:
- Loss of sense of touch
- Loss of reflexes
- Sensations of pain
- Sensitivity to touch
Symptoms of autonomic nerve damage include:
- Excessive sweating
- Intolerance to heat
Damage to multiple types of nerves – polyneuropathy – can result in a combination of different symptoms, compounding the sensations of pain and discomfort. If you’re experiencing constant or severe symptoms associated with neuropathy, you should consult with a physician to discuss treatment options and medical care.
The most serious risks of diabetic neuropathy arise from complications due to a lack of strength and sensation. Falls are more likely to occur, and the risk of injury and infection increase. At least half of all people with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer in their lifetime as a result of peripheral neuropathy. Consequently, foot ulcers are responsible for more than 80% of lower limb amputation.
Does Foot Massage Therapy Help with Diabetic Neuropathy?
While medications and lifestyle changes can treat and manage diabetic neuropathy, massage therapy is also known to provide helpful benefits when used as part of integrative medicine. These general benefits include:
- Reducing stress and increasing relaxation to aid in sleep
- Reducing muscle soreness and tension to help alleviate pain
- Stimulating blood flow to improving circulation
- Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
Research has shown that massage, when used to manage symptoms of diabetes, can significantly increase serum insulin action, which decreases blood glucose levels for type 1 diabetes. Additionally, foot massage can normalize blood glucose and be used as a complementary treatment for symptoms of diabetic neuropathy:
- A 2015 study found that Thai foot massage provided significant improvement in range of motion and foot sensation for patients with type 2 diabetes.
- A 2017 study found that foot massage led to an increase in balance and mobility for patients with type 2 diabetes.
- A 2020 study found that foot massage reduced the pain associated with peripheral neuropathy and improved quality of sleep for patients.
Best Foot Massage Techniques for Peripheral Neuropathy
There are several popular massage therapy methods used to help treat the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy:
- Swedish massage – The most common type of massage, Swedish massage is a combination of five basic strokes that concentrate on muscles and connective tissues.
- Reflexology – By stimulating a system of pressure points on the feet, reflexology works to ease stress and promote relaxation.
- Deep tissue massage – Through the use of slow, intense strokes, deep tissue massage applies direct pressure into muscles and connective tissue.
- Thai massage – This active form of massage works part of the body through a sequence of pressure and movement similar to yogic stretching.
- Shiatsu – A pressure point technique that uses pulses or rhythmic pressure to relieve stress and tension along specific points on the body.
Can Foot Massagers Help My Neuropathy Symptoms?
If you’re looking for easy access to massage therapy at home, then massage chairs or stand-alone foot massagers can help relieve pain and improve circulation. Premium massage chairs feature targeted treatments for leg massage which include:
- Calf rollers alongside each leg rest to imitate a masseuse’s hands, kneading and compressing the muscles for maximum tension relief.
- Two-way foot rollers under the footrest to target pressure points on the soles of the feet.
- Heat therapy delivered by heating elements along the leg- and footrests to soothe aching muscles and stimulate blood flow.
- Reflexology treatment from a series of rollers inside the footrest that mimic relaxing thumb-and-forefinger techniques.
- Sole massage with shiatsu-style techniques that directly address the plantar arch, heel pad and ball of the foot.
Popular massage chair models that provide targeted foot-and-calf massage include:
- Kyota Kaizen M680 3D featuring kneading rollers, heating elements and side-of-calf airbags.
- Kyota Yutaka M898 4D featuring calf kneading and oscillation, sole reflexology and body scanning technology.
- Infinity Imperial 3D/4D featuring sole reflexology, calf kneading and a footrest extension.
- Sharper Image Revival featuring foot roller reflexology and body scanning technology.
Targeted massagers such as massage guns and foot massagers can also increase circulation and pain relief for legs and feet while being more portable and space-saving.
Are There Any Side Effects of Foot Massage for Diabetics?
There are some conditions to be careful of when receiving a massage. Massage can cause complications if you experience:
- Bleeding disorders or take blood thinners
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Have ulcers, infections or burns on the massage area
Massage can also induce low blood sugar in patients who take insulin. It’s wise to have an emergency sugar source on hand when getting a massage. Also, avoid directly massaging or applying pressure to:
- Your insulin injection site, as it may influence how the body absorbs the medicine
- Ulcers or healed ulcer sites as direct contact could cause further injury
- Attached devices like continuous glucose monitors (CGMs)
Be sure to always discuss new treatment options with your physician or primary caregiver, especially if you’re experiencing severe pain or discomfort. It’s also recommended to research the specific types of massage or massage products that will work best for your symptoms, body type and sensitivity level.
Bring Massage Therapy Home
If you’re looking for a foot massager for diabetic neuropathy, the certified specialists at Massage Chair Store are happy to help. Book a free consultation to discuss your options and find your ideal massage therapy product.