Treating Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy With Electroacupuncture

Electroacupuncture on leg
Electroacupuncture on leg
Investigators sought to determine the safety and efficacy of electroacupuncture for painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

According to a study published in Diabetes Care, electroacupuncture treatment effectively reduces pain and improves sleep disturbance and quality of life in patients with painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

To determine the safety and efficacy of electroacupuncture for the management of painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy, researchers conducted a multicenter, assessor-blinded trial in which 126 patients with type 2 diabetes and a history of at least 6 months of painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy were randomly assigned to either an intervention or a control group.

Those in the intervention group received electroacupuncture treatment with a mixed current of 2 Hz/120 Hz at 12 acupuncture points twice per week for 8 weeks. Both groups received education on diet and lifestyle modification and were allowed to take rescue medication, but no other analgesics. There were no significant differences between groups in baseline characteristics.

Primary outcomes were pain intensity score and proportion of responders, which researchers defined as participants who achieved at least a 50% reduction of pain intensity on 8-week follow-up. For pain intensity scores, patients in the intervention group improved significantly more than those in the control group (P =.0136). Among intervention participants, 9 were responders (15.52%) compared with 3 (6.25%) in the control group (P =.2176).

In addition to pain reduction, the intervention group demonstrated significantly greater improvement on the short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire, sleep interference scores, and the EuroQol-5 Dimensions at the ninth week (P <.05). Likewise, more patients in the intervention group reported improvement in the Patient Global Impression of Change at week 9 (82.5% vs 34.1%), and there was no significant difference in the incidence of adverse events and serious adverse events (12 and 3 for both groups; P =.9999).

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Researchers noted 1 limitation to their study: as neither a placebo nor sham electroacupuncture treatment was used as an active control, placebo effect could not be evaluated.

“[T]he results of this study demonstrate that [electroacupuncture] treatment is effective for reducing pain and improving sleep disturbance and quality of life in [painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy],” wrote the researchers, adding, “[electroacupuncture] treatment was well tolerated and safe during this study.”


Shin KM, Lee S, Lee EY, et al. Electroacupuncture for painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy: a multicenter, randomized, assessor-blinded, controlled trial [published online July 30, 2018]. Diabetes Care. doi: 10.2337/dc18-1254