In the hunt for gentler therapies to help individuals better manage their diabetes, the traditional Chinese medicine practice of acupuncture is showing promise.
New research from Edith Cowan University in Australia has found that acupuncture can be a potential therapy for managing diabetes in its early stages by improving glycemic control in prediabetic individuals.
The researchers based their findings on analysis of over a dozen previous studies that explored acupuncture as a therapy to manage prediabetes in over 3,600 individuals. They suggested that acupuncture therapy may significantly improve markers for the metabolic condition.
“Based on our research findings, a combination of exercise, diet and quitting smoking with acupuncture is highly recommended because it has more positive outcomes than conventional treatment,” said Min Zhang, a PhD candidate at Edith Cowan University and lead author of the paper.
Moreover, the researchers found that acupuncture therapy did not have any adverse health effects among those who participated in the studies.
Zhang told Happiest Health that acupuncture can also be used to manage chronic pain and insomnia, while assisting in treating chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, neurasthenia and stroke.
The ancient Chinese traditional medicine technique that involves the insertion of thin needles under the skin to activate specific sensory neurons, is also recognised by the World Health Organisation as an effective therapy in treating over 100 conditions.
The Australian researchers found that acupuncture sessions led to a statistically significant decrease in prevalence of prediabetes, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), fasting plasma glucose, and two-hour plasma glucose levels in the study participants.
Individuals underwent a three-week-long acupuncture therapy, administered by qualified professionals. The researchers replaced needles with low-level laser lights, combining the benefits of acupuncture with light therapy.
“For now, this treatment still needs the assistance of trained professionals. In the future, it’s possible for participants to grasp this technique since the operation of small portable devices for light acupuncture is simple, safe and non-invasive,” added Zhang.
Given that there are no treatments for diabetes, managing and reversing the condition at the early stages is the only option. Doing so will ensure that the blood glucose levels of an individual stay in the healthy range for longer, and thereby preventing further health complications.
The researchers further added that more studies, including those from different regions, would help in better understanding acupuncture as a therapy for more efficiently managing diabetes. Zhang stressed that the sooner someone started treatment after being diagnosed as prediabetic, the better.
Signs that one can take for being at higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes include – being overweight; older than 45 years of age; having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes; being physically inactive; having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby weighing over 4 kg (9 pounds).
As for acupuncture as a technique for managing diabetes, while research shows that it might be effective, more studies are required. For practicing the technique, experts emphasise on the use of sterilised needles, apart from it not being a particularly harmful technique making it safe to try out.