Aims To examine the role of acupuncture in the treatment of diabetic painful neuropathy (DPN) using a single-blind, placebo-controlled RCT and to collect data that would be required in a future definitive study of the efficacy of acupuncture in DPN.
Methods 45 patients were allocated to receive a 10-week course either of real (53%) or sham (47%) acupuncture. Five standardised acupuncture points on the lower limb of each leg were used in the study: LR3, KI3, SP6, SP10 and ST36. Outcome measures included the Leeds Assessment of Neuropathic Symptoms and Signs (LANSS) scale, lower limb pain (Visual Analogue Scale, VAS); Sleep Problem Scale (SPS); Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile (MYMOP); 36-item Short Form 36 Health Survey and resting blood pressure (BP).
Results Over the 10-week treatment period, small improvements were seen in VAS −15 (−26 to −3.5), MYMOP −0.89 (−1.4 to −0.3), SPS −2.5 (−4.2 to −0.82) and resting diastolic BP −5.2 (−10.4 to −0.14) in the true acupuncture group. In contrast, there was little change in those receiving sham acupuncture. A moderate treatment effect in favour of active acupuncture was detected in MYMOP scores −0.66 (−0.96 to −0.35) but non-significant effect sizes in LANSS Pain Scale −0.37 (−2.2 to 1.4), resting diastolic BP −0.50 (−3.0 to 1.99) and the SPS −0.51 (−2.2 to 1.16).
Conclusions We have demonstrated the practicality and feasibility of acupuncture as an additional treatment for people with DPN. The treatment was well tolerated with no appreciable side effects. Larger randomised trials are needed to confirm the clinical and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of DPN.
Trial registration number ISRCTN number: 39740785.
- PAIN RESEARCH
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