Objective: To review different types of electrotherapy for the treatment of painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Methods: A structured search of the electronic database MEDLINE was performed from the time of its initiation to July 2009. Articles in English and German were selected.
Results: The efficacy of different types of electrotherapy for painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy has been evaluated in 15 studies; the effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation are consistent. The beneficial effects of prolonged use have been reported in three large studies and one small study. The effects of frequency-modulated electromagnetic neural stimulation were assessed in one large study, and a significant reduction in pain was reported. Treatment with pulsed and static electromagnetic fields has been investigated in two small and three large studies, and analgesic benefits have been reported. In one large study focusing on pulsed electromagnetic fields, no beneficial effect on pain was registered. Only small studies were found concerning other types of electrotherapy, such as pulsed-dose electrical stimulation, high-frequency external muscle stimulation or high-tone external muscle stimulation. The conclusions drawn in these articles are diverse. Shortcomings and problems, including a poor study design, were observed in some.
Conclusion: Further randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies comprising larger sample sizes, a longer duration of treatment, and longer follow-up assessments are required.