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Plantar Foot Massage to Treat Type 2 Diabetes Mobility and Balance Symptoms

An unfortunate reality for many people affected by type 2 diabetes is foot and leg circulatory problems. Decreased circulation means weakened sensitivity and poor healing. While symptoms vary widely between each individual, some of those affected have severe diabetic neuropathy that impacts mobility and balance. This can culminate into constant tripping/falling and decreased quality of life.

Researchers Yümin, Şimşek, Sertel, Ankarali, and Yumin (2017) investigated the effects of foot plantar massage as treatment for these balance, mobility, and reach issues.

The study consisted of 38 adults who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The participants would partake in three assessments, receive a ten-minute massage, then retake assessments. The assessments went in this order:

Timed-Up and Go Test: This test is used to measure mobility. In this test, a participant is timed as he or she starts from a seated position, walks 3 meters, and returns to the seated position. The higher the score, the better the mobility and the lower the score, the poorer the mobility.

One-Leg Standing Test: This test is used to measure a person’s balance. The participant is timed while standing on one foot with no assistance. The longer a person is able to stand on one foot means the better his or her balance. For this study, the researchers had the participants run the test on each leg three times, then the mean value was recorded.

Functional Reach Test: This test is used to measure reach. The participant would stretch an arm as far as possible with measurements taken from base recordings. The reach value is then deducted from the base value.

For the massage, the researchers used a combination of Swedish and deep-friction massage, including kneading and stroking. The participants were in supine positions as the massage was applied to the left and right foot dorsum; medial, lateral regions of the foot; the toes; and the plantar region.

Researchers discovered that after receiving a ten-minute foot plantar massage, participants’ balance, reach, and mobility were significantly increased. Researchers argue that this is most likely because the soles of the feet are thought to be important to attain postural control and balance.

There are limitations to this study, however. The study only used one group for a single treatment – it is unknown if the effects last over time. The use of a control group would also provide better accuracy with the results of this study.

Regardless, significant gains were made with participants with type 2 diabetes in terms of balance, mobility, and reach. It appears that foot massage may provide a positive treatment that can be incorporated into rehabilitation programs.


Yümin, E. T., Şimşek, T. T., Sertel, M., Ankaralı, H., & Yumin, M. (2017). The effect of foot plantar massage on balance and functional reach in patients with type II diabetes. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 33(2), 115-123. doi:10.1080/09593985.2016.1271849