Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Shocking: Electrical Charges May Relieve Leg Pain in Diabetics

WebMD Health News

March 23, 2000 (Washington) -- The painful burning and tingling sensation that many diabetics feel in their legs may be alleviated by a mild electrical shock, but this experimental treatment is being critcized as ineffective by some physicians.

This type of symptom, which results from nerve damage or neuropathy, is a common complication of diabetes, particularly among people who do not have good control over their blood sugar levels. Physicians today treat diabetic neuropathy with a number of drugs that are not approved for the relief of these symptoms, including antidepressants and medications used to stop convulsions, as well as with drugs that are designed to relieve pain.

Some researchers believe that an electrical charge applied to the skin, a process called transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS), can relieve diabetic pain. TENS is commonly used to treat other muscle or nerve injuries. A new study published in the March issue of the journal Diabetes Care examined the effect of combining TENS with acupuncture needles to which a mild electrical charge had been applied. Each of the 50 people in the study had 10 needles inserted in their legs and feet and received 30-minute charges every week for three weeks. To compare the effect, the researchers also applied needle insertion without the electrical charge for three weeks. All patients were required to have their diabetes under steady control, although the investigators did not monitor the patients for this. Patients were permitted to take typical pain medications as needed.

The study was undertaken by Mohammed A. Hazma, MD, Paul E. White, PhD, MD, and their colleagues in the department of anesthesiology and pain management at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. White is the chairman of the department.

Compared with how they felt at the start of the study, the patients reported levels of pain, physical activity, and quality of sleep that were all improved by the end of the study period for the active needles but not for the period of the needle treatment without the electrical charge. Patients also reported a 49% reduction in daily use of pain medication, compared with a 14% reduction during the nonelectrified needle treatment period. Some patients continued having weekly treatments after the study concluded and indicated that they were "willing to pay extra money" for their treatments. None reported side effects.

1 | 2 | 3

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner