How To Move Without Pain

The Diabetes and Joint Pain Connection

by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP

This article takes 6 minutes to read

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Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from either the body’s inability to produce enough insulin or resistance to the effects of insulin. While most people are aware of the common complications associated with diabetes, such as kidney disease, vision problems, and cardiovascular disease, many may not realize that diabetes can also cause joint pain.

There are two main types of diabetes type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes, is when your body doesn’t produce any insulin at all, while type 2 diabetes is occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or cannot use it properly.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, people who have diabetes are twice as likely to develop arthritis and debilitating joint pain if the condition is unmanaged. The main cause of joint pain in people with diabetes is high blood sugar levels which cause inflammation in the joints and connective tissues around them.

The link between diabetes and joint pain is not well understood, but researchers believe that several factors may contribute to the connection. Firstly, diabetes can cause inflammation throughout the body, leading to joint pain and stiffness. Chronic inflammation can cause the breakdown of cartilage, which is the cushioning tissue between joints, leading to joint damage and pain.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, infection, or irritation. It is a protective mechanism that can help fight off infection and heal wounds, but chronic inflammation can be harmful. Chronic inflammation has been linked with many health problems including diabetes and joint pain relationship.

Secondly, high blood sugar levels can damage nerves and blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the joints. This can lead to reduced blood flow to the joints, causing pain and discomfort. Additionally, nerve damage can cause a condition called diabetic neuropathy, which can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in the feet and hands. Diabetic neuropathy can also affect the joints, leading to pain and stiffness.

Thirdly, people with diabetes are at increased risk of developing osteoarthritis, a condition characterized by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. This can lead to joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Obesity, which is a common risk factor for both diabetes and osteoarthritis, can also contribute to joint pain.


Managing diabetes and joint pain requires a multidisciplinary approach that involves a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and self-care. Keeping blood sugar levels under control is the key to preventing complications associated with diabetes, including joint pain. This can be achieved through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and medications prescribed by a healthcare provider.

Additionally, physical therapy can help improve joint mobility, reduce pain, and prevent further damage. Exercises that strengthen the muscles around the joints can also help reduce the load on the joints, reducing pain and stiffness. Low-impact activities, such as swimming, cycling, and yoga, can also help improve joint health and mobility.

While the connection between diabetes and joint pain is not well understood, researchers believe that several factors contribute to the link. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, controlling blood sugar levels, and seeking medical treatment for joint pain can help manage the condition and prevent further complications. Anyone experiencing joint pain or stiffness should speak to their healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan.

*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result.  This information is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional.  No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.

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