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Diabetes and Physiotherapy

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes Mellitus (or “Diabetes”) is a chronic medical condition in which there is excessive glucose in the bloodstream due the body’s inability to produce or utilize insulin.


Type 2 Diabetes is by far the most common type, accounting for 85-90% of all diabetes, and can often be controlled and managed effectively with diet and exercise (although medication is sometimes required). The incidence of diabetes is increasing in Australia, resulting in increased costs and strain on the health system.  It is the 6th leading cause of death in Australia.

Importantly, physiotherapists are helping people to manage their diabetes on a daily basis through education, developing exercise programs, and treating coexisting musculoskeletal conditions.

 How is it Diagnosed?

Diabetes is diagnosed by testingarranged by your G.P.  The two common tests are a fasting plasma glucose test, and an oral glucosetolerance test.  These tests can also help to determine if a person has “pre-diabetes”, which can progress to Type 2 diabetes if not managed correctly.

Physiotherapy & Diabetes

Physiotherapists are in a unique position to assist in the management of diabetes, through exercise prescription and education about diabetes.

Physiotherapists are often able to spend the time required with people diagnosed with diabetes to discuss the lifestyle changes that people can make to help manage their condition.

This results in better health outcomes, and often reduces or eliminates the need for medication. Weight loss is often a key goal in helping people to manage their diabetes, and structured, progressive exercise programs have been found to increase compliance and therefore be most successful.

People with diabetes may be  suitable for an Enhanced Primary Care plan, arranged by their G.P, which allows for rebates on     physiotherapy consultations that allows for a comprehensive management plan to be developed.

Exercise physio-diabetes-exercise

Exercise is important for people with diabetes for several reasons.  It helps to control weight gain/loss, and helps insulin to work better, therefore assisting with blood glucose control.

Exercise is also known to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, as well as lowering the risk of heart disease.

The recommended guidelines for exercise encourage at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, on most days of the week (ie. 6-7 days).

Physio Professionals Hydrotherapy treatment for Type 2 Diabetes.

The exercise is advised to be a mixture of cardiovascular exercise (such as walking, swimming, bike riding), and resistance training (such as light weights, free weights, body weight exercises).

Resistance training should work all the major muscle groups, and should be performed 3 times per week to be most effective.  Although this structured form of exercise can be very beneficial, so can other activities such as dancing, water aerobics, golfing and gardening.

If starting exercise for the first time, or after an extended break, it is advisable to build up gradually to reduce the risk of injury.  You should also consult your G.P. prior to beginning an exercise program to ensure you are “fit” to do so. Group exercise sessions are also highly desirable, as they encourage commitment, motivation and can often be more fun than exercising solo!

The physiotherapists at Physio Professionals are able to help with developing an appropriate exercise program for people with Diabetes, as well as provide education to people eager to learn more about modifying their lifestyle to help manage their diabetes.


Michelle Crew : Physio at Physio Professionals