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The role of physical activity and psychological coping strategies in the management of painful diabetic neuropathy - A systematic review of the literature

Davies, Ben; Cramp, Fiona (Alice); Gauntlett-Gilbert, Jeremy; Wynick, David; McCabe, Candy


Ben Davies

Fiona Cramp
Professor in Long Term Conditions

Jeremy Gauntlett-Gilbert

David Wynick

Candy McCabe
Professor of Clinical Research and Practice


© 2015 Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Background: Diabetes is rising in prevalence; painful diabetic neuropathy (PDN) is one complication of diabetes. PDN is primarily managed with medication but analgesic failure is common and people remain in pain and distress. It is unclear whether pain management strategies are appropriate for PDN. Objectives: To establish the effectiveness of physical activity and psychological coping strategies for PDN. Design: Systematic literature review. Data sources: Ten online databases. Eligibility criteria (participants and interventions): Controlled trials reporting specific results for PDN, investigating, (a) physical activity or (b) psychological coping strategies and measuring pain as an outcome. The search was restricted to published research with no restriction on language or date of publication. Study appraisal methods: Methodological quality and risk of bias assessed with Cochrane collaboration and NICE checklist for randomised controlled trials. Results: Of 1306 titles identified, four studies met the inclusion criteria. Two trials investigated physical activity and two investigated psychological coping interventions. Studies showed pain measures improved or did not worsen compared to controls, but methodological quality was moderate and results need cautious interpretation. Limitations: The studies were of small sample size and used a diverse range of outcome measures. There is high risk of bias from lack of blinding and attrition at follow up. Conclusions and implications of key findings: The research literature in this area is sparse and inconsistent, despite the pressing clinical challenge of PDN. Firm conclusions cannot be drawn from the studies included. Further high quality research is required to match treatment provision to patient requirements.


McCabe, C. S., Cramp, F., Davies, B., Cramp, F. (., Gauntlett-Gilbert, J., Wynick, D., & McCabe, C. (2015). The role of physical activity and psychological coping strategies in the management of painful diabetic neuropathy - A systematic review of the literature. Physiotherapy, 101(4), 319-326.

Journal Article Type Review
Publication Date Dec 1, 2015
Journal Physiotherapy (United Kingdom)
Electronic ISSN 1873-1465
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 101
Issue 4
Pages 319-326
Keywords diabetes, pain, physical activity, psychological coping, systematic literature review
Public URL
Publisher URL


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