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Physical Therapy for Diabetes – Information, Exercises, and More

If you’re diabetic, then you’re likely no stranger to a host of uncomfortable physical symptoms, such as weakness, loss of balance, and loss of endurance.

It stinks to feel this way, and you’re searching for a miracle.

Good news. You don’t need a supernatural occurrence to get relief from your symptoms.

Physical therapy for diabetes is what you’ve been looking for. Here, we’ll break down the exact cause of your symptoms and how physical therapy can put an end to your frustrations and get you back to the life you once loved.


What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic and long-lasting condition that affects your body’s ability to turn food into energy.

Food is typically converted to sugar after consumption (also known as glucose) and sent into your bloodstream. When blood sugar increases, your body receives a signal to release insulin from your pancreas. 

If there isn’t enough insulin, or your body stops responding to insulin, sugar accumulates in your bloodstream, causing issues such as:

  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Vision loss

While there is no cure, there is hope for diabetic patients. Here’s what can be done:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise daily
  • Taking prescribed medications; and
  • Physical therapy treatments

What Causes Diabetes?

Depending on the type of diabetes, the causes will vary. Type 1 diabetes, for example, may be caused by an immune system response, whereas type 2 diabetes is predominantly related to genetics and lifestyle. Gestational diabetes is usually a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy.

Diabetes Symptoms

Each type of diabetes presents unique symptoms. However, some general symptoms include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • Sores that don’t heal

In men, some symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Reduced libido

In women, some symptoms include:

  • Yeast infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Dry, itchy skin

Type 1 Diabetes

Along with the general symptoms of diabetes, type 1 diabetes symptoms may also include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Mood changes
  • Tiredness 

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes symptoms may include:

  • Recurring infections
  • Tiredness 
  • Blurry vision

Gestational Diabetes

Women experiencing gestational diabetes don’t usually have symptoms. The condition is detected during routine glucose testing performed around weeks 24-28 of pregnancy.

Diabetes Treatment

Type 1 Diabetes

The primary treatment for type 1 diabetes is insulin. Diabetic patients must replace the hormone not being produced by the body.

Four types of insulin that are commonly used include:

  1. Rapid-acting insulin begins working within 15 minutes of administering and can last about 3 to 4 hours.
  2. Short-acting insulin takes about 30 minutes to kick in and lasts 6 to 8 hours.
  3. Intermediate-acting insulin starts working in 1 to 2 hours and lasts for 12 to 18 hours.
  4. Long-acting insulin starts working within a few hours of injection, but it lasts at least 24 hours.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes can usually be managed through diet and exercise, but when lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower blood sugar, medication may be needed.

Some medications for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors
  • Biguanides
  • DPP-4 inhibitors
  • Glucagon-like peptides
  • Meglitinides
  • SGLT2 inhibitors
  • Sulfonylureas
  • Thiazolidinediones

Gestational Diabetes

Only about 10 to 20% of women with gestational diabetes will require insulin. 

You’ll need to monitor your blood sugar several times a day and make healthy lifestyle changes, such as eliminating sugar and exercising daily.

Physical Therapy for Diabetes – Will PT Help?

Physical therapy for diabetes has proven to be an effective way to …

  • Manage symptoms
  • Remove extra glucose from the bloodstream; and
  • Increase insulin sensitivity

… and ultimately stabilize blood sugar levels and improve hemoglobin A1C readings.

A physical therapist will develop a safe and progressive plan that includes exercises you can do under supervision and at home.

Physical Therapy Exercises for Diabetes

A physical therapist will develop a safe and progressive plan that includes exercises you can do both under supervision and at home.

Some of these exercises may include:

Movement and Strength Training

To help restore normal functionality and range of motion, your physical therapist might start with passive movements and gradually increase the difficulty to include strength training. 

Strength training involves specific exercises that are designed to safely and steadily increase your strength.

Endurance Training

Monitored endurance training is an important step in regaining the energy you need to get back to your regular activities. 

You may be experiencing weakness due to a general lack of energy, this is normal for diabetic patients, but through physical therapy, you can regain your strength and endurance.

This training may begin with working on a stationary bike or treadmill and gradually increasing to more strenuous exercise.

Balance and Coordination

Your physical therapist will introduce exercises that help restore and improve your balance and coordination. This is critical to avoiding a fall.

Regaining your balance is also essential for daily life and work activities. 


A physical therapist will also determine if your muscles are too tight. They can teach you the right movement and stretches to help improve your flexibility.

At-Home Exercises

Your physical therapist will also introduce you to aerobic exercises that you can do at home. Each exercise program is uniquely prescribed based on the individual needs of the patient. 

It’s very important to your recovery to do the exercises as prescribed.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Diabetes

In Motion O.C. has helped hundreds of patients with physical therapy for diabetes — and we can help you too. 

Our patient testimonials and case studies speak for themselves and highlight why In Motion O.C. was voted #1 Physical Therapy Clinic in the entire country on Yelp.

We’re dedicated to helping every patient overcome their diabetic symptoms and restore healthy functioning. If you need physical therapy for diabetes, give us a call. 

All of our physical therapy treatments are conducted by our highly-trained physical therapists in state-of-the-art facilities.

In Motion O.C.