Spa, sauna and massage therapy

To enjoy the benefits of a spa or sauna, your diabetes must be well controlled.

Spa and sauna

For several reasons, saunas and Finnish-style spas (alternating hot and cold) are often contra-indicated for people with diabetes, especially those being treated with insulin.

The high heat in saunas and spas can:

  • Cause excessive sweating, which can lead to dehydration, producing a decrease in blood volume and, consequently, higher blood glucose (sugar) levels.
  • Increase certain hormones that oppose the action of insulin, such as growth hormone and glucagon, which have a hyperglycemic effect (raising blood sugar).
  • Dilate the blood vessels, increase the speed of insulin absorption and cause unusual variations in blood glucose levels.
  • Dry out the skin and cause skin conditions or wounds.


In addition, diabetes predisposes sufferers to cardiac complications, a contra-indication of sauna use. Also, public spaces like swimming pools, showers and saunas increase the risk of contamination by fungal or other types of infections that can aggravate conditions like neuropathy (a complication of diabetes that affects the nerves).

Massage

A person with diabetes can have a massage from time to time. The latest data indicate that massage can help relieve the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy and normalize blood glucose (sugar) levels by increasing insulin sensitivity.

It is important to inform the massage therapist about your diabetes and other health problems or skin conditions. If you have any circulatory problems, vascular disorders or uncontrolled blood sugar, massage may not be recommended.

It is important to remain vigilant, because a massage can:

  • Cause blood vessels to dilate and increase the absorption of insulin.
  • Lower blood sugar in an unusual way, primarily when an injection site is massaged (increasing the action of insulin).
  • Induce a state of relaxation which, if you are a normally stressed person, could unexpectedly lower your blood sugar.


You can also visit the web site of the Fédération québécoise des massothérapeutes, which mentions that people with diabetes are potential clients for massage therapists.

 

Research and text: Diabetes Québec Team of Health Care Professionals.

May 2014

Adapted from: Tremblay, L., Nurse M.Ed., (Spring 2010), “Sauna,” Plein Soleil, Diabetes Québec, p. 6.

Other reference:

Fédération québécoise des massothérapeutes (2013): “Le massage et le diabète : soulager l’inconfort” [Online]  Found at pharmablogue.com/le-massage-et-le-diabete-soulager-linconfort (Blog post consulted on May 23, 2014).