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Acupunct Med. 2019 Feb;37(1):3-15. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2018-011666. Epub 2019 Mar 22.

Acupuncture for the treatment of lower limb diabetic peripheral neuropathy: a systematic review.

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1 Department of Podiatric Medicine, School of Science and Health, University of Western Sydney, Penrith, New South Wales, Australia.
2 NICM Health Research Institute, University of Western Sydney, Penrith, New South Wales, Australia.



To examine evidence for acupuncture interventions in the management of diabetes-related peripheral neuropathy (DPN) symptoms.


Five electronic databases were searched up to June 2017 for studies that included participants with symptoms of DPN, used an acupuncture intervention, and reported before-and-after DPN-related outcome measures. Two reviewers independently performed the data extraction. The level of homogeneity was assessed, and studies were appraised using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool, the STRICTA guidelines for acupuncture reporting and the NICMAN scale for acupuncture quality.


Ten studies with 432 participants were included: three randomised controlled trials (RCTs), two pilot RCTs, three uncontrolled clinical trials, one quasi-RCT and one prospective case series. Improvements in DPN pain symptoms were reported by all studies. Heterogeneity of outcome measures prevented a meta-analysis. Variations were found in needle retention time and point selection, as well as total number and frequency of treatments. Common acupuncture point selections were ST36 and SP6. Half of the studies used local point selection. Studies conducted outside China had better acupuncture reporting and quality according to the STRICTA checklist and NICMAN scales, respectively. Risk of bias was high or unclear in the majority of studies for all domains except attrition bias.


Acupuncture for DPN appears to improve symptoms. However, the application of acupuncture varies greatly, and the quality of included studies was generally low. Available studies have varying methodologies and different outcome measures. Further, suitably powered studies using appropriate DPN outcome measures are required.


acupuncture; diabetes; pain management; peripheral neuropathy; systematic review

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