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Massages, Pedicures, And Acupuncture For Diabetics: Good? Bad? Or Use With Caution?

Posted by Omeza Team on
Massages, Pedicures, And Acupuncture For Diabetics:  Good? Bad? Or Use With Caution?

A holistic approach to one’s lifestyle often seeks to achieve a balance between the physical, mental, and spiritual components that make up our essence. How we attempt to achieve such balance may be part of a conscious effort of the individual. For some people, such balance has never been a consideration or even dismissed as a waste of time. Pity this later group, but they are among us!

Healthy eating is an obvious attempt to improve the quality of one’s life, as is regular exercise, and getting adequate sleep, among other commonly endorsed components of a healthy lifestyle. Massage, pedicures, and acupuncture are therapies often included by many as part of their regular routine, and the benefits of each may go beyond pampering. That being stated, all require some physical intervention that could also pose potential risks for those whose health may be compromised by a condition such as diabetes.

Let us look at these three popular and widely accepted practices and the risk-reward potential for those with diabetes.

Massage: Use with caution

A therapeutic, sports massage or other type of massage not only feels great, but the benefits can include enhanced circulation and metabolic activity to areas where massage has been focused. Pain relief and enhanced recovery from minor soft tissue injuries may also result. Diabetics can certainly receive such benefits, but what are the potential risks? Many diabetics with heart and circulatory complications require blood thinners, such as aspirin, coumadin or clopidogrel (Plavix). Aggressive massage could lead to minor hemorrhage and bruising of the skin, blood clots or some deeper tissue injury.

Diabetics with additional issues such as osteoporosis are at higher risk for sustaining fractures. Those suffering from peripheral neuropathy that results in decreased sensation, could mask injury during massage due to an inability of the individual to feel painful stimulus.

Additionally, injury to the skin could occur during massage, such as minor burns or creation of wounds. Use of a massage oil should reduce such risk and reputable massage therapists will take precaution to ensure a clean environment is always adhered to.


  • Use reputable practitioners who have health intake forms and clean facilities.
  • Request gentle massage.

Pedicures: Use with caution

Diabetics should be followed regularly by a Podiatrist. A common misperception is that Podiatrists perform “pedicures.”  This is not the case, although a Podiatrist will often trim (debride) nails and calluses that pose a potential source of infection or more serious injury. Prior to performing such care, podiatrists examine the circulation, nerve function, inspect the skin and perform an orthopedic exam

A nail salon or spa offers services that often include soaking of the feet and trimming of nails. For diabetics, these services can create the potential for problems.

First, diabetics should never soak their feet, due to risk of infection as organisms can enter the skin through small cracks or other disruptions. Certain bacteria and fungus thrive in water or moist environments. Even though soaking tubs in spas are usually drained and sanitized between clients, this does not mean the complete elimination of organisms. Water borne organisms can live in the pipes or line that fills the soaking tub with water so despite best measures, a sterile environment is not guaranteed.

The instruments used by nail technicians in a salon or spa may also not be adequately sterilized. Nail nippers, files or other instruments can contain microscopic organisms, blood or debris if not cleaned adequately prior to sterilizing. If you are diabetic and wish to receive nail and callus care at a spa or salon, it is recommended that you do not soak your feet while there (request gentle massage with skin protectant such as Omeza®) and bring your own, sterilized nail instruments.  You will not offend anyone, and you certainly won’t be the first person to do so! It is being proactive on your part and can prevent an infection. And yes, I have treated diabetic patients who have had serious infections that occurred after having pedicures at a salon!


  • Don’t soak your feet.
  • Request a gentle massage.
  • Bring your own, sterilized instruments.

Acupuncture: Use with caution

Acupuncture requires a therapist insert needles into a person’s body to “balance their energy.”  It has gained acceptance in the West since the 1970’s and many include this modality as part of their lifestyle. The primary benefit of acupuncture is in the management of pain. Although the World Health Organization has listed multiple conditions where acupuncture may show benefit, they also note that there is not enough evidence for many of the conditions it may be used for. A placebo effect has been offered as a reason for its benefit, but overall, it has been difficult to establish proof of the efficacy due to a lack of studies that can utilize proper scientific controls.

It is generally regarded as a safe modality with minimal risks. The biggest potential risk for a diabetic undergoing acupuncture therapy is infection from an unsterilized needle. Bleeding, bruising or soreness at the site of needle insertion can also occur and if a patient is on blood thinners, this risk increases.


  • Use reputable practitioners who have health intake forms and clean facilities.

Living with diabetes does not mean depriving oneself of some of life’s pleasures, such as a day at the spa or a massage. Knowing the potential hazards prior to indulging is important and can prevent significant problems. Maintaining a balance and holistic approach to life is important for everyone’s well-being and respecting how diabetes can impact this balance should always be a consideration. Be smart, be safe and keep enjoying the good things life has to offer!

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