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Acupuncture for the Treatment of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Pain

Updated on September 11, 2014

If you have started getting affected by peripheral neuropathy condition because of your prolonged diabetes, your medical practitioner or endocrinologist will prescribe you some medicines. The usual medicines prescribed to treat nerve pain are anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-seizure drugs, anti-depressants, analgesics, opioids, topical anesthetics, etc. These medicines might give you some relief but they come with their side effects as well. To do away with these side effects, you can try some alternative medicines/treatments. A lot of people often suggest using acupuncture. Does it really relieve you of nerve pain?

Acupuncture Research for Diabetic Peripheral Neuritis

Some researchers from the Department of Medicine, Manchester Royal Infirmary carried out a study on “Acupuncture for the treatment of chronic peripheral diabetic neuropathy: a long term study”. In this study, they focused on the usefulness of acupuncture in treating the painful symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

They conducted this study on 46 diabetic patients, who were suffering from painful peripheral neuropathy for quite some time. These patients, over a period of 10 weeks, underwent six courses of classic acupuncture based on traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture points. Forty four of these patients completed it and 34 of them, i.e. 77%, had quite a lot of improvement in their symptoms. There were no side effects. It was concluded from the study that acupuncture was a safe and useful long-term management of debilitating diabetic neuropathy. Acupuncture is an approved and endorsed alternative and complementary therapy both in the USA and UK.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture has its root in China. It is a part of traditional Chinese medicine. In this therapy, very thin sterile needles are inserted into the skin at specified areas called the qi points or meridians. It is a popular belief among Chinese and other acupuncture therapists that this therapy corrects imbalances of the body and makes a person healthy. However, there has been no proper scientific understanding of this therapy.

Researchers working in the medical field are still not clear on how acupuncture works but they are sure that it works well in a variety of painful conditions and also helps in reducing post surgery and chemo nausea and vomiting. A properly trained acupuncturist carries out this procedure in his or her setting. You can find a number of experts from China, Korea, Japan and other countries practicing this form of treatment in the US.

Acupuncture Treatment for Peripheral Neuropathy

The treatment has to be done on both sides of the body. Depending on the pain felt, needles are inserted at specified acupuncture points in the hands, feet or both. The patient is asked to lie down with his/her face downwards and needles are inserted at specific points of the lumbar and spine area. When the neuropathy pain affects the hands, the needles are inserted in the cervical area. If the legs are affected, then the needles are inserted in the lumber area. Actually, the needle points are where the spinal nerves exit from the spine and go towards the hands and feet. There are some needle points at the hands and feet as well. This whole process reduces the sensitivity of the nerves and brings them back to normal functioning. The ultimate effect of this treatment in many patients is the reduced pain and improved functioning of the affected body part.

The needles used for this process are very thin and do not cause much discomfort on insertion. The acupuncturist may move the needle or even bend them, causing only a mild aching sensation to you. These can also be used to apply heat or electrical impulses at specific points. Needles are inserted for a period of 15 to 20 minutes and are discarded afterwards. A lot of people feel energized in their first session itself but others may take some time to see any improvements in the symptoms.

If you decide to undertake acupuncture to relieve yourself of neuropathy pain, you must inform your doctor or endocrinologist. You must also continue with your medicinal treatments like insulin or other diabetic medicines along with any neuropathy medicines prescribed to you.

Besides, nutritional supplements like alpha lipoic acid, cinnamon, evening primrose oil, biotin, Vitamin B complex, etc. can also be of great help and should be used in combination with acupuncture and medicines. You should also make efforts to control your diet so as to manage your diabetes in a better way. You should also keep a close watch on your diabetes and keep monitoring your sugar level from time to time. When the blood glucose levels are controlled, there are less chances of further deterioration in the neuropathic condition.

Also, you must make sure to consult a licensed acupuncturist. In the US, certified acupuncture practitioners have a membership from the American Associate of Oriental Medicine.

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