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Acupuncture good for Diabetes Patients?

Question: Is Acupuncture good for patients with Diabetes?

Answer: Alternative therapies continue to be in the mainstream of diabetes therapy. You see patients bringing bottles of herb supplements apparently marketed as a treatment for diabetes and related illnesses like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. But one form of treatment that has gained wide acceptance both in the East where it originated and in the West where it is now widely practiced is acupuncture. And almost always in my practice do I come across a patient asking me about acupuncture and diabetes.

It is said that the effect of acupuncture is its ability to improve blood flow. By balancing the energy levels, one’s circulation can be improved and therefore has thepotential to prevent debilitating complications of diabetes, mainly those related to poor circulation like foot amputation and the crippling nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy. Several anecdotal reports and few small-scale studies have proven acupuncture to help ease pain and prevent diabetic foot ulcers but only if applied early in the disease process. The problem is the absence of acceptable and properly done studies where proven results are duplicated. A research funding by the National Institutes of Health in the United States is being done in quest for an answer.

As medical practitioners, it is best to advise patients not to discontinue their medications or the proven therapies we provide them and to use acupuncture only in conjunction with their diabetes medications. Do I discourage my patients from seeking acupuncture as a treatment modality for their diabetes and complications? I don’t… as long as I know the person performing the procedure is trained in the field and that he practices the safety standards set by the National Institutes of Health.

One, therefore, has to make sure that a new set of needles is always used in every procedure and that an alcohol swab should be used to clean the area where the needles are to be inserted. Likewise, I always advise patients not to accept a diagnosis of any kind from the practitioner performing the procedure as they are not licensed to do so.

Although this ancient Chinese remedy has the potential to help diabetics prevent complications, no long term studies have yet been done to prove acupuncture to work beyond placebo effect. It is therefore best that patients should inform their physicians about their desire to have an acupuncture done.

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