Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage in the feet, legs, or hands caused by the chronic high blood sugar levels associated with poorly controlled diabetes. About two out of three people with diabetes will eventually develop some degree of peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms vary from person to person. Some may feel numbness or tingling, while others feel pain – in some cases, extreme pain.

Until now, conventional treatments for painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy have offered only partial relief, or have come with side effects that most patients found unbearable. A recent study set out to learn whether a different treatment could do better.

Spinal Cord Stimulation For Neuropathy

Previous research has suggested that spinal cord stimulation (SCS) may help relieve neuropathy pain. But the studies were small and of limited value. This new study was larger, and was better able to measure cause and effect.

Thirty-six patients were randomly assigned to two groups. One group received the best conventional medical treatments; the other group received those same treatments plus spinal cord stimulation, in which a device sends electrical pulses to the nerves that interfere with their ability to feel pain.

Over a six-month treatment period, 59 percent of the patients who received spinal cord stimulation together with conventional treatments reported that the combined treatments were successful in reducing their neuropathy pain. Only seven percent of those who did not receive spinal cord stimulation reported similar improvements.

But the spinal-cord-stimulation procedure comes with risks: during the trial, one of the patients who received it died of a subdural hematoma. So despite its promise, additional research and an abundance of caution are called for before doctors can routinely recommend spinal cord stimulation to relieve neuropathy pain.