Articles, Client Education Series

Foot massage

Client Education Series 3: Diabetic Neuropathy and Massage

April Heath


What massage is safe and what is unsafe for clients with diabetic neuropathy?

What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur if you have diabetes. High blood sugar (glucose) can injure nerves throughout the body. Diabetic neuropathy most often damages nerves in the legs and feet.

Depending on the affected nerves, diabetic neuropathy symptoms include pain and numbness in the legs, feet and hands. It can also cause problems with the digestive system, urinary tract, blood vessels and heart. Some people have mild symptoms. But for others, diabetic neuropathy can be quite painful and disabling.

Diabetic neuropathy is a serious diabetes complication that may affect as many as 50% of people with diabetes.

Diabetic polyneuropathy (DPN) affects multiple peripheral sensory and motor nerves that branch out from the spinal cord into the arms, hands, legs and feet. Typically, the longest nerves — those that extend from the spine to the feet — are affected the most (Johns Hopkins).

Muscle weakness associated with diabetic neuropathy may motivate  patients to lessen their physical activity, which only leads to more muscle weakness.

Safety Precautions in Massage Therapy:

Once a client presents with diabetic neuropathy, it’s important to adjust the techniques used in massage. For example, deep tissue and hot stone massages are strictly contraindicated. If a person is incapable of accurate sensory perception, then they’re at risk of injury, so light to moderate pressure is appropriate.

Recommended Massage Approaches:

Massage modalities and techniques that are generally safe and beneficial for clients with diabetic neuropathy include Swedish massage, gentle stretching, and manual lymphatic drainage.

Honest communication and information sharing between massage therapists and healthcare professionals prioritize client safety and well-being.

New to this series and missed the last one? Click here for Cancer and Massage

Can’t wait for the next Client Education? Click here for Sore Muscles and Deep Tissue

Be well,


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