How Can a Physical Therapist Help?


Physical therapists help people with diabetes participate in safe, effective exercise programs to improve their ability to move, perform daily activities, reduce their pain, and possibly lower their blood glucose levels. Physical therapy treatments also can help people with diabetes heal any associated skin problems faster than they would without treatment.

Your physical therapist will examine your record of blood glucose levels, and will check your skin for wounds. Your physical therapist will conduct a complete assessment of your strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance, and use the results of the testing to design an individualized treatment program that addresses your problems and needs. Your treatment program can help improve your:

Motion. Your physical therapist will choose specific activities and treatments to help restore normal movement. These might begin with “passive” motions that the physical therapist performs for you to gently move your joints, and progress to “active” exercises and stretches that you do yourself.

Strength. Your physical therapist will choose and teach you the correct exercises and equipment to use to steadily and safely restore your strength.

Flexibility. Your physical therapist will determine if any muscles are tight, begin to help you gently stretch them, and teach you stretches that you can do yourself.

Endurance. Regaining your endurance is important. If you are suffering from weakness due to inactivity, your physical therapist will teach you exercises to improve endurance, so you can return to your normal activities.

Balance and coordination. Regaining your sense of balance is important in order to prevent falling. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises to improve your balance ability. Coordination is also essential for daily and work activities. Your physical therapist can teach you exercises and movements that restore your coordination.

Walking ability. Your physical therapist can improve your walking ability and comfort by adjusting and refitting your shoes, or by adding shoe inserts or orthotics that support your feet and ankles. Your physical therapist can teach you to use support equipment, such as walkers and canes, to help you walk safely.

Pain levels. Physical therapy treatment is a safe way to treat chronic pain. Your physical therapist may use different types of treatments and technologies, and choose the most effective and safe exercises for you to perform to control and reduce pain. If you have diabetic nerve pain (neuropathy), your physical therapist can teach you how to protect painful areas and make them less sensitive.

Blood glucose levels. Physical activity, such as prescribed exercise, can help lower your blood glucose levels. Your physical therapist can design a safe, individualized exercise program for you to help control and lower your blood glucose levels each day.

Healing of sores. Your physical therapist can apply different types of bandages, dressings, lotions, and treatments to help sores heal faster than they would on their own. Your physical therapist also may check your footwear for proper fit and overall condition, and teach you to perform daily foot and skin checks to prevent wounds, sores, and blisters. from developing.

Home exercise. Your physical therapist will teach you strengthening, stretching, and aerobic exercises to perform on your own at home. These exercises will be specific for your needs; if you do them as prescribed by your physical therapist, you can speed your recovery.

Ability to perform daily and work activities. Your physical therapist will discuss your activity goals with you and use them to set your recovery goals. Your treatment program will help you reach your goals in the safest, fastest, and most effective way possible. Always talk with a physical therapist before you begin an exercise program that addresses your diabetes symptoms. If Surgery Is Required If a part of your body, such as your foot or lower leg, becomes too damaged by high blood glucose levels and the effects of diabetes requires amputation, your physical therapist can help you prepare for surgery and recover from it afterward. Your physical therapist can help you manage pain, heal faster, learn how to use any needed prosthetics, regain your walking ability, and get back to being physically active as soon as possible.