A pilot study undertaken in Korea suggests acupuncture can offer clinically meaningful improvements in functional constipation (constipation not due to IBS or other diseases). Thirty patients with the condition, mean age 50, were randomised to receive either real acupuncture or sham acupuncture in a university hospital setting. The sham sessions consisted of 12 shallow needle insertions at non-acupuncture points. Patients received twelve treatment sessions over four weeks.
Real acupuncture, but not sham, resulted in clinically meaningful improvements in frequency of bowel movements, and these were maintained at follow-up four weeks after completion of treatment. The researchers conclude that a full-sized randomised controlled trial with long-term follow-up should be conducted to confirm their promising efficacy and safety findings.
(Efficacy & safety of acupuncture for functional constipation: a randomised, sham-controlled pilot trial. BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 15 June 2018.)
Chinese authors of a network meta-analysis have concluded acupuncture ranks as one of the best non-pharmacological treatments for chronic functional constipation. They looked at 33 randomised trials covering over 4300 participants, which compared eight non-pharmacological treatments with placebo, sham and conventional interventions. Compared with laxatives, acupuncture had a significantly greater effect on stool frequency, with a lower incidence of adverse events.
(Non-pharmacological conservative treatments for chronic functional constipation: A systemic review & network meta-analysis. Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 20 August 2018.)