The Effect of Acupuncture on Diabetes-Related Nerve Damage

Acupuncture isn’t just a fringe science.


Acupuncture is an ancient form of medicine and used to eliminate pain and improve bodily functions and overall mood. Although the methodology is not widely accepted in western medicine, its roots date back thousands of years.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a medicinal practice wherein needles are inserted into the skin to touch upon certain “meridians” within the body and stimulate nerve function. Nerve stimulation can also be used to improve hormone function.

Long associated with Chinese medicine, acupuncture is not a medicinal practice that requires a lengthy degree or a college education but is typically performed by a specialist whose area of expertise is Chinese medicine as a whole.

Despite its use as a medicinal practice for numerous ailments, most western medicine acknowledges only the pain-killing effects of acupuncture, including pain caused by nerve damage.

Acupuncture and Diabetes

Although some have claimed acupuncture is a useful form of treatment to stabilize insulin production, this is largely based on anecdotal evidence rather than consistent scientific evidence. Research has, however, verified the use of acupuncture to improve pain—particularly pain incurred by diabetic neuropathy.

Nerve pain caused by diabetic neuropathy can be difficult to manage as the source of the pain is a damaged nerve rather than simple inflammation. An inflammatory response can be nullified somewhat through the use of heat or ice to bring down inflammation and swelling. Nerve damage, however, typically does not respond to such treatments and can be extremely persistent.

Finding a Provider

If diabetic neuropathy is keeping you in chronic pain, acupuncture may be able to solve some of your nerve pain. When searching for a practitioner, however, be aware that there are some governing boards in place to ensure that practitioners are qualified to complete the task. Different countries have different boards and standards, but there are several things to keep in mind when searching for an acupuncturist.

#1. Board Registration

Not all countries will have a consistent governing board requiring certification, but many will have an organization requiring registration. Although this does not protect consumers entirely, a board registration will allow you to verify that the practitioner has met all of the standards set forth by the organization.

#2. Clean Facilities

Because the practice requires the insertion of needles, cleanliness is of the utmost importance. Needles should not be shared between patients, and all rooms should contain sterile equipment.

#3. Insurance Acceptance

Some insurance companies will cover acupuncture—particularly if it is recommended or referred by a physician. Check with your insurance company and your practitioner to determine if acupuncture is covered. If not, acupuncture can become expensive and may require you to set up a payment plan.

Not a lot of treatment options exist for diabetic neuropathy, and many of the existing therapies require something of a “wait and see” approach or a long period of trial and error. If nerve pain is keeping you up at night, acupuncture may be able to provide you with some hard-fought relief.


Web MD. Accessed 7/19/17.

Health CMI. Accessed 7/19/17.

Diabetes UK. Accessed 7/19/17.