In a pilot study, we evaluated the clinical and mechanistic effects of two styles of acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Japanese acupuncture, for the treatment of painful diabetic neuropathy. Out of seven patients enrolled, three received Traditional Chinese acupuncture while four received Japanese style acupuncture. Treatments were delivered once a week for 10 weeks. Acupuncturists were permitted to select the needle interventions. Substantial differences in diagnostic techniques, choice of acupuncture points, and needle manipulation were observed between TCM and Japanese acupuncturists. Clinically, patients allocated to Japanese acupuncture reported decreased neuropathy-associated pain according to the daily pain severity score, while the group allocated to the TCM acupuncture reported minimal effects. Both acupuncture styles, however, lowered pain according to the McGill Short Form Pain Score. The TCM style improved nerve sensation according to quantitative sensory testing while the Japanese style had a more equivocal effect. No evident changes were observed in glucose control or heart rate variability in either group.