Treatment of Type2 Diabetes

Stimulating the Spine to Treat Neuropathy

Treatment options for people who experience painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy are limited, especially since medication options tend to be unreliable. Dutch researchers may have found a new option to try, however. According to a Diabetes Care report, they found that electrically stimulating the spinal cord could help ease the pain of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

The researchers used a spinal cord stimulation (SCS) system that is surgically placed on the spinal cord. This unit sends pulses to surrounding nerves to block pain signals from reaching the brain. In the clinical study, 36 patients with painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy were split into two groups – one group was given the best medical treatment currently available and the other was given this treatment and also fitted with a SCS system.

Over the 6-month period, 77% of the SCS-treated group reported significantly reduced levels of pain. The SCS treatment also appeared to make other treatments more effective, as 59% of those in the SCS group said they experienced reduced pain with the best available treatment option. In contrast, only 7% of the control group said they experienced significantly reduced pain with the best available treatment option.

The researchers warned that the study did have some significant limitations, however. For one thing, while the treatment was effective, it can also be dangerous; researchers noted that one patient passed away due to a subdural hematoma — bleeding in the surrounding membrane of the brain. Also, the patients selected didn’t reflect the general population suffering from painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy; they were selected because they had very high levels of pain and/or experienced failure at other treatments. More study would be needed to determine whether this treatment would be safe and effective for a larger population of those who suffer from painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

This isn’t the first instance where electrical current has been found to treat the pain of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. A company called Neuromatrix markets wearable devices that provide electrical stimulation to block some of the pain of the condition.

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Travis served as a staff writer for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation in 2015. Previously, he was a staff writer for Insight, a high school newspaper, as well as a copywriter for The Emersonian, Emerson's yearbook.

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