How to recover from an injury if you have diabetes

Saadia Jantjes shares advice to help you recover from an injury if you have diabetes.

Leading a healthy and active life is an essential aspect of managing diabetes. When a body injury occurs, it often presents challenges in maintaining fitness, preventing weight gain and could potentially have negative effects both physically and mentally. Recovering from an injury is tough, and even more so for someone living with diabetes.

When it comes to recovering from an injury while managing diabetes, you could be faced with thoughts and fears of gaining fat, losing muscle and how to adjust insulin doses now that you are relatively less active.

Being immobile increases the rate of muscle loss, thus making you more sensitive to insulin.

So, how do you manage an injury while still managing your diabetes?

Check your glucose levels

Often. Because most injuries require a period of rest and recovery, if you are injured and you were particularly active and fit, you will now face a period of relative inactivity.

You’ll need to check and test your glucose levels as often as you can to gain as much information as possible to understand how your body is reacting to a significant lack of exercise or movement.

Once you have collected this information, it’ll make it easier to see when and how you would need to adjust your insulin doses.

When you have recovered from your injury, the same strict management and regular testing will gradually get you back to your pre-injury fitness level without experiencing phases of hypoglycaemia.


Nutrition will become a key element in both diabetes and injury management. Now that your energy expenditure is relatively less due to being injured, you can’t expect to continue eating the same way without an effect on weight and blood glucose levels.

With a decreased energy expenditure, comes a decrease in caloric intake. Depending on the period of recovery and absolute rest, you will have to adjust your calorie intake.

A calorie and carb tracking app, like MyFitnessPal, will help you keep track of your daily consumption in relation to your activity levels.

Protein is a vital macronutrient when recovering from an injury, as are vitamins A, C and D, calcium and zinc.

Adopting a well-balanced diet of wholesome foods can meet your injury management needs as well as your diabetes needs.

Consult your dietitian if you are struggling to manage your blood glucose levels or start to experience weight gain after facing an injury.

Positive and optimistic

Staying positive and optimistic while recovering from an injury is challenging. Especially if it means forfeiting a race, competition or a goal which you had been working towards.

Keep motivated by putting as much effort into your rehabilitation and recovery as you would have if you were indeed training for that 10km race.

Have a solid support structure in your family, friends and those involved in your rehab, like your physiotherapist, biokineticist or trainer. Make sure these people are aware of your goals so that they are implemented into your recovery programme.

Alternate activities

Find alternate activities to keep your fitness levels up. Continuing to exercise while you have an injury ultimately depends on the severity of the injury as well as the location of the injury.

For example, if you have a broken wrist, you could still walk, do aqua aerobics or resistance training, or spinning. However, if you are recovering from a back operation, your activity options are significantly less and could be limited to only walking for a few minutes at a time.

Again, consult your healthcare professionals, like the operating surgeon or a physiotherapist, if you are worried that you’ll be causing more harm than good by doing some exercise.

Recovering from an injury is always a setback, both mentally and physically. Be patient. Allow your body to heal through rest and recovery, while still maintaining a positive outlook to your daily activities, and you’ll be back to your best in no time.


Saadia Kirsten Jantjes is a physiotherapist with a passion for health and wellness. With a second degree in Sport Science, exercise is one of her favourite rehabilitation tools, to not only rehab injuries but prevent injuries too. Saadia has her own private practice in Morningside, Johannesburg, while working at a Sub-Acute Clinic and furthering her studies in Pilates.

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