The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Treating Diabetic Foot Pain Is Not As Easy As Filling a Prescription, Study Finds

Posted by on Monday, March 14th, 2016


Diabetic foot pain is one of the many conditions we treat here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Occasionally, we have patients who come in and ask for a prescription that will take the pain away. We understand the agony many people face. Some call it a “burning” or “tingling.” Others say their feet have “gone numb” or say it feels like “walking on marbles.” While a general practitioner may be quick to dole out the medication, most people come to specialists because they’re unhappy with the care they’ve previously received and are looking for more comprehensive care.

peripheral neuropathy ny
Peripheral neuropathy is not easily treated with the writing of a pill prescription, say researchers. (Image Source:

Study Finds Diabetes Drug Doesn’t Work

A report published by the Therapeutics Initiative at the University of British Columbia found that pregabalin (Lyrica) only helps one in ten people who take it for peripheral neuropathy and diabetic foot pain, despite a 17-fold increase in prescriptions doled out in the last decade. Other painkillers like gabapentin and duloxetine (Cymbalta) also have “little effect on pain, despite extensive marketing campaigns promoting them,” they concluded.

Worse yet, they found that their doctors often upped the dosages or kept patients on the drugs for a longer duration of time. However, patients should know within days whether their medications are working for them or not, says study co-author Dr. Tom Perry.

Some of these drugs have a troubled past with regulatory agencies. For instance, in 2004, Pfizer paid $430 million in fines to the U.S. government after illegally marketing gabapentin (Neurontin) for unapproved uses like migraine headaches and pain.

Many patients pay for brand name drugs like Pregabalin out-of-pocket or through private insurance, as it’s not publicly funded under prescription discount programs. On top of the financial burden it places on patients, researchers found that older adults, in particular, often end up with side effects like drowsiness or loss of balance, while gaining no clear benefit from taking these drugs.

Alternative Treatments for Diabetic Foot Neuropathy

So when drugs work on less than 50% of patients, what are they to do? Advanced therapies for diabetic neuropathy are all relatively new and lack some of the long-term, clinical, double-blind trials that are so highly respected in medical communities. However, our NYC centers are on the leading edge of new treatments and technologies. We have seen very encouraging results in our practice for therapies including:

  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy. We are encouraged by case studies which have revealed patients going from a 9.5/10 on self-reported pain scales down to 1-2 within three weeks.
  • Ultrasound. Animal studies show promising results in restoring nerve function using ultrasound therapy.
  • Pain lasers. Small studies of low-level laser treatment have demonstrated reduced pain levels of 75%.

We are also keeping an eye on the latest developments in diabetic nerve damage treatments, including combined electrochemical therapy. Though the total treatment cycle is long, we believe this therapy shows great promise, as it may lead to targeted nerve regeneration.

NYC Diabetes Foot Pain Treatment

Contact us at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine to schedule an appointment at our Manhattan or Westchester offices, where we can answer any questions you may have regarding diabetic foot pain, examine your feet, and introduce you to therapies that will greatly improve your quality of life. We seek to restore function and improve pain by examining the root cause of foot pain, rather than simply prescribing drugs that mask the symptoms. In some cases, we may recommend prescription medication as a complement to other treatments, but in general, you will receive much more comprehensive care from our team of NYC foot specialists than you would receive from other medical providers.



If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.