Acupuncture treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy: An overview of systematic reviews

J Clin Pharm Ther. 2021 Jun;46(3):585-598. doi: 10.1111/jcpt.13351. Epub 2021 Jan 28.


What is known and objective: To evaluate the clinical efficacy of acupuncture through a review and analysis of systematic reviews of acupuncture for the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Methods: Systematic reviews of acupuncture treatment for diabetic peripheral neuropathy were collected by searching CNKI, VIP, Wanfang database, Chinese Biomedical Literature Database (CBM), PubMed, Web of Science and the Cochrane Library. The retrieval period was from the establishment of the database to February 14, 2020. After literature selection and extraction, included reports were evaluated in terms of the quality of the methodology and of the report using criteria from the AMSTAR2 scale and the PRISMA statement.

Results and discussion: Eighty eight reviews were retrieved. The inclusion criteria were a published systematic evaluation/meta-analysis/systematic review of acupuncture treatment for diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which included subjects meeting the diagnostic criteria for diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and which compared acupuncture treatment with non-acupuncture treatment. After the inclusion criteria had been applied, 18 reviews were finally included. According to the PRISMA statement, 3 reports were relatively complete, 12 reports had certain defects, 3 reports had considerable information missing, and 18 reports had extremely low methodological quality according to the AMSTAR2 scale. Current evidence shows that acupuncture improves diabetic peripheral neuropathy and increases nerve conduction velocity. However, the methodological quality of the reviews is generally extremely low, and most of the reviews had certain defects, showing that there is still much room for improvement in terms of the methodology and quality of the research reports.

What is new and conclusion: Acupuncture appears to have an effect on DPN, effectively improving nerve conduction and clinical symptoms. Although the methodological quality of the included studies was generally very low and defects were frequent, our study highlights areas where improvement in methodology is required. There is a need for further study of the pathogenesis of DPN, and for developing a unified standard for methods of acupuncture treatment, acupoint selection, and adverse reactions reporting. Traditional Chinese medical practices such as acupuncture should adopt an evidence-based approach to provide greater confidence in their use.

Keywords: acupuncture; an overview of systematic reviews; diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / adverse effects
  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Research Design
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic