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  • Writer's picturePhilip Niño Tan-Gatue

Acupuncture for Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

Peripheral Neuropathy: Not just Diabetes

Peripheral neuropathy is most often associated with complications of Diabetes Mellitus. The phrase itself refers to nerve disease away from the brain and spinal cord. 60% of cases are due to diabetes, about 23% are of unknown origin, about 10% are due to chemotherapy, and about 2% are associated with HIV/AIDS.

In my experience, treating peripheral neuropathy due to Diabetes is a common task for acupuncturists. It involves both local points and points to treat the diabetes itself. Controlling the diabetes really helps. For peripheral neuropathy due to cancer chemotherapy, however, the solution is not as simple as simply stopping the chemotherapy.

The good news is that acupuncture can help.

The Meta-Analysis

A Meta-analysis study is kind of like when scientists take several studies and combine them together to get an overall big picture. This is done because in scientific studies, number crunchers prefer having large sample sizes in order to make sure that the techniques and results are not a fluke. One or two good results? It may be luck. One or two hundred? More likely to not be just luck.

Chien and his associates reviewed literature from 7 databases. These are the results.

We examined 386 cancer patients from 6 randomized control trials, which had high quality, based on the modified Jadad scale. Meta-analysis showed that acupuncture led to significant improvements in pain scores (-1.21, 95% confidence interval [CI] = -1.61 to -0.82, P < .00001) and nervous system symptoms based on Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy/Neurotoxicity questionnaire scores (-2.02, 95% CI = -2.21 to -1.84, P < .00001). No significant change was noted in nerve conduction velocity (1.58, 95% CI = -2.67 to 5.83, P = .47)

What this means is that the amount of pain relief was consistently good despite the fact that nerve conduction velocity was essentially the same.


In conclusion, there is indeed hope that acupuncture can help with this kind of neuropathic pain from chemotherapy. However, it would be great if we could get an even larger sample size next time.


Sources: Chien, et al. The Efficacy of Acupuncture in Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Integr Cancer Ther. 2019 Jan-Dec;18:1534735419886662. doi: 10.1177/1534735419886662.[]

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