by T. Hawk MS, L. Ac

Diabetic foot pain and Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the oldest and most common forms of alternative therapy used today. It has existed for more than 2,500 years and was used by the Emperors of long ago to treat many maladies. It was also administered to the Emperor’s soldiers in the battlefield. One acupuncture point, Stomach 36, which is a on the protocol treatment for diabetes, is called Zusanli, which translates to “Three Miles Marching.”

This point, which is located on the front of the upper part of the lower leg, was administered to exhausted soldiers so that they could march on toward the battle. The needles used at that time were much more like small nails! Acupuncture is based on the use of “meridians” or lines of energy of the body. Specific points along those meridians have specific therapeutic actions. It has been scientifically demonstrated that the nervous system and neurotransmitters respond to needling sensation.

There is research that concludes that acupuncture can improve symptoms of diabetic neuropathy such as pain, numbness, tingling, burning or electric sensations of the extremities by enhancing the effect of medications for diabetes, as well as treating the condition locally. There is a synergistic or complimentary effect when using acupuncture in combination with traditional medical treatment.

The primary acupuncture points used are: Quchi (Large Intestine 11), Weiwanxianshu (Extra PointB3),
Shenshu (Urinary Bladder 23), Guanyuan (Conception Vessel 4), Zusanli (Somach 36), Hegu (Large Intestine 4) and Sanyinjiao (Spleen 6).

Additional local points on the foot and lower leg may be used, such as Liver 3, Gall Bladder 41, and Urinary Bladder 62.

Many patients experience the greatest relief after the first treatment.

Ideally, the patient would receive two treatments per week for three weeks, and one treatment a week for six weeks. Diabetes, like many other conditions, is treated using management techniques, such as pain management. Positive diabetic neuropathy symptoms such as pain and numbness may still be present, but at best, the pain and nerve dysfunction may be reduced with acupuncture.

I have had success treating neuropathic pain, and my advice to anyone seeking acupuncture is to find a reputable acupuncturist who practices “TCM” or Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are practitioners who employ the use of shallow needling or “Japanese style” acupuncture, and in my experience this technique is less effective. Lastly, the sensation you may experience with acupuncture needles is an aching feeling, or an electrical travelling sensation, or you may feel nothing at all. If you experience a sharp sensation, be sure to tell the acupuncturist so he or she can adjust the needle.