Muscle and Joint Complications of Diabetes

Muscle and joint pain complaints are common. However, people with diabetes may experience this more so than the general population. Diabetes is associated with several muscle and joint conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff tendon pain, frozen shoulder, and limited joint mobility.

Muscle and joint complications of diabetes - the numbers

Thirty-nine percent of people with diabetes complain of shoulder or hand pain compared to 9% of the general population. These complications, also referred to as musculoskeletal complications, are more likely to occur in people with a longer duration of diabetes, and do not depend on whether someone has type 1 or type 2 diabetes.1

If you are experiencing any of these complications, it is important to seek help. There are various treatment options that can help improve quality of life and reduce pain.

Complications affecting the hand

Hand conditions are very common in people with diabetes. In fact, one study showed that up to 50% of people with diabetes can have some type of hand abnormality.2 Severity is positively correlated with the duration of diabetes. Some of these hand conditions include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: this occurs when a nerve is compressed in the wrist, resulting in weakness, pain, and tingling in the hands. There are various treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome, including wrist splints, steroid injections, and lastly, surgery.
  • Dupuytren's contracture: this is a hand deformity caused by abnormal skin thickening of the fingers, leading fingers to curl. It is estimated that 16-42% of people with diabetes have Dupuytren's.2

Complications affecting the shoulder

Although shoulder pain is less common than hand conditions, people with diabetes may experience one of these two types of shoulder problems:

  • Rotator cuff tendinopathy: this results in shoulder pain when raising the arm, due to inflammation of the tendons. The risk increases as people age. Furthermore, people with diabetes are more likely to have surgery for rotator cuff repair than people without diabetes.3
  • Frozen shoulder: this is a condition causing pain and stiffness in the shoulder. One study showed that about 20-30% of people with diabetes have frozen shoulder, compared to 5% of people without diabetes.4

What can you do about muscle and joint complications?

The American Diabetes Association recommends asking yourself the following questions to determine whether you are experiencing muscle and/or joint pain as a result of diabetes:5

  • Do you have stiffness in your hands that affects your ability to move or use them?
  • Do your fingers get “locked” in certain positions?
  • Do you have numbness or tingling in your hands, arms, or legs?
  • Do you have stiffness or decreased motion in your shoulders?
  • Do you have muscle pain or swelling?

If you answer yes to any of the above questions, it is a good idea to have a discussion with your doctor.

Do you experience joint and/or muscle pain as a result of diabetes? If so, what treatment approach did you take?

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