Acupuncture for the treatment of chronic painful peripheral diabetic neuropathy: a long-term study

Abuaisha BB, Costanzi JB, Boulton AJ.

Department of Medicine, Manchester Royal Infirmary, University of Manchester, UK.

Forty-six diabetic patients with chronic painful peripheral neuropathy were treated with acupuncture analgesia to determine its efficacy and long-term effectiveness. Twenty-nine (63%) patients were already on standard medical treatment for painful neuropathy. Patients initially received up to six courses of classical acupuncture analgesia over a period of 10 weeks, using traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture points. Forty-four patients completed the study with 34 (77%) showing significant improvement in their primary and/or secondary symptoms (P < 0.01). These patients were followed up for a period of 18-52 weeks with 67% were able to stop or reduce their medications significantly. During the follow-up period only eight (24%) patients required further acupuncture treatment. Although 34 (77%) patients noted significant improvement in their symptoms, only seven (21%) noted that their symptoms cleared completely. All the patients but one finished the full course of acupuncture treatment without reported or observed side effects. There were no significant changes either in the peripheral neurological examination scores, VPT or in HbA1c during the course of treatment. These data suggest that acupuncture is a safe and effective therapy for the long-term management of painful diabetic neuropathy, although its mechanism of action remains speculative.

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