Diabetic neuropathy, a major complication of diabetes mellitus, refers to a collection of clinically diverse disorders affecting the nervous system that may present with pain. Although the number of patients suffering from severe neuropathy is increasing, no optimal treatment method has been developed yet. Acupuncture is well known for its ability to reduce various kinds of pain, and a number of studies have also reported its effect on diabetes mellitus; however, its effect and underlying mechanism against diabetic neuropathy are not yet clearly understood. In this review, ten and five studies performed in humans and animals, respectively, were analyzed. All studies reported that acupuncture significantly relieved diabetic neuropathy. ST36, BL13, BL20, SP6, and SP9 were the most widely used acupoints. Five studies used electro-acupuncture, whereas other studies used manual acupuncture. Furthermore, the effect of acupuncture was shown to be mediated through the various molecules present in the peripheral nerves and spinal cord, such as P65, GPR78, and TRPV1. Five studies reported side effects, such as swelling, numbness, and nausea, but none were reported to be serious. Based on these results, we suggest that acupuncture should be considered as a treatment option for diabetic neuropathy.
Keywords: acupuncture; diabetic neuropathy; electro-acupuncture; pain.