Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a common and debilitating side effect of chemotherapy. Acupuncture is a promising non-pharmacological intervention for CIPN. However, the physiological effects of acupuncture treatment remain poorly understood. We examined the effects of acupuncture on CIPN using semi-objective quantitative sensory testing (QST).
We conducted a randomized controlled trial of real acupuncture (RA) and sham acupuncture (SA) compared to usual care (UC) in cancer survivors with moderate-to-severe CIPN. Treatment response was assessed with QST measures of tactile and vibration detection thresholds in hands and feet, thermal detection, and pain thresholds at weeks 0, 8, and 12. Constrained linear mixed model (cLMM) regression was used for statistical analysis.
63 patients completed QST testing. At week 8, vibrational detection thresholds in feet were significantly lower in RA and SA (p = 0.019 and p = 0.046) than in UC, with no difference between RA and SA (p = 0.637). Both RA and SA also showed significantly higher cool thermal detection than UC (p = 0.008 and p = 0.013, respectively), with no difference between RA and SA (p = 0.790). No differences in tactile detection, vibrational detection in hands, warm thermal detection, and thermal pain thresholds were detected among the three arms at weeks 8 and 12.
QST demonstrated different patterns in RA, SA, and UC. After eight weeks of RA, we observed significant improvements in the vibrational detection threshold in feet and cool thermal detection threshold in hands compared to UC. No significant differences were seen when compared to SA.
ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT03183037); June 9, 2017.

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