If you’re a diabetic and have progressed to peripheral neuropathy complications, chances are you’ve been prescribed medications by your endocrinologist or doctor. Anti-seizure drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, opioids, anti-depressants and topical anesthetics are usually given as medications for diabetic nerve pain. They may have offered you some relief. But you can’t endure the side effects of some of your medications.
You’d like to try alternative medicine and someone suggested acupuncture. Does acupuncture really work?
Research on Acupuncture on Diabetic Peripheral Neuritis
As early as 1997, Abuaisha et al of the Department of Medicine, Manchester Royal Infirmary conducted a study entitled, “Acupuncture for the treatment of chronic peripheral diabetic neuropathy: a long-term study.” It studied the effectiveness of acupuncture in alleviating the painful symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
46 diabetic patients suffering from painful longstanding peripheral neuropathy were involved in this study. The patients were given 6 courses of classical acupuncture over a period of 10 weeks using traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture points. 44 of the patients completed the treatment with 34 patients or 77 percent exhibiting significant improvement in their symptoms. They were followed up for 18-52 weeks and 67 percent were able to reduce their medications. However, eight or 24 percent required further acupuncture treatment. 34 or 77 percent noted significant improvement in their symptoms while only 7 patients or 21 percent had a clearing of their symptoms. One patient didn’t finish the full course. There had been no reported side effects. The study strongly suggests that acupuncture is a safe and effective long term management of painful diabetic neuropathy.
The US National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine have endorsed this therapy as alternative and complementary.
What Acupuncture is
If you haven’t any idea what it is, it has ancient beginnings in China and is part of traditional Chinese medicine. Very thin but solid sterile needles are inserted in identified areas in the skin called qi, meridians or acupuncture points. It is believed that stimulating these points corrects imbalances to “improve health and well-being.” But scientific research finds no histological or physiological correlates for qi, meridians or acupuncture points.
Researchers are not also clear on how acupuncture works but are unanimous that it can relieve pain in a variety of conditions; and reduces nausea and vomiting after surgery and chemo.
A well trained acupuncturist does the procedure. In the US, the practice of acupuncture utilizes medical traditions originating from China, Korea, Japan and other countries.
The Acupuncture Procedure for Peripheral Neuropathy Treatment
The treatment is done on both sides of the body. Acupuncture points are inserted with needles on the hands or feet or both depending upon where the pain is felt. The patient usually lies prone and needles are inserted at specific points in the lumbar or cervical areas of the spine. If neuropathy pain occurs at the hands, needles are inserted at the cervical area and at the lumbar area if pain is felt at the lower extremities. Both lumbar and cervical areas are inserted with needles if both upper and lower extremities are involved. The needle points are actually where the spinal nerves exit from the spinal column and travel to innervate the hands and feet. Points at the feet and hands are also inserted with needles. The combination of techniques reduces sensitivity of nerves and restores them to their normal functions. This actually, relieves the nerve pain of diabetes.
Very thin needles, around 5-20, are used and don’t cause much discomfort when inserted. The acupuncturist may move the needles gently or twirl it and you may feel mild aching sensation. Heat or mild electrical impulses can be applied through the needles.
The needles are removal after 10-20 minutes. There should be no discomfort. Your acupuncturist should discard the needles after removal.
Majority says they feel energized after a session. But you may need a series of treatments to feel improvement of your symptoms.
If you are considering acupuncture to relieve pain of your peripheral neuropathy inform your doctor or endocrinologist. Most important of all, you should continue your insulin or anti-diabetic medications including medications for your neuropathy.
Acupuncture can help in conjunction with nutritional supplements such as alpha lipoic acid, biotin, evening primrose oil, cinnamon and Vitamin B complex. You should continue with your diabetic diet, exercise and blood glucose monitoring. A good control of your blood glucose levels will prevent further deterioration of your diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Be sure to seek a licensed acupuncture practitioner. In the US, qualified acupuncturists are members of the American Association of Oriental Medicine. You can find one in your area.