The results of a large study undertaken in China suggest that using acupuncture for constipation is as effective as drug therapy. A total of 684 patients with chronic functional constipation, were randomly allocated to receive one of three acupuncture protocols or the drug mosapride, for four weeks. Sixteen acupuncture treatments were given over the four weeks, with electrical stimulation on the needles.
After four weeks, the number of spontaneous bowel movements had increased significantly and fairly equally across all four groups. At eight week follow up however, the change had become significantly smaller in the drug group compared with all three acupuncture groups.
(Acupuncture for patients with chronic functional constipation: A randomized controlled trial. Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 2 February 2018.)
A systematic review conducted by researchers in the US and China, suggests acupuncture for gastro-oesophageal reflux disease is a safe and effective treatment option. A total of 12 studies involving 1235 patients were included in the analysis. Patients given acupuncture combined with standard western medication, demonstrated superior overall symptom improvement compared with those receiving standard medication alone. When it came to patients who had only received either acupuncture alone or medication alone, overall symptom improvements was similar for both groups, but recurrence rates were lower in the acupuncture group. The authors add that descriptive analyses suggest acupuncture also improves patients’ quality of life, but that further studies are needed.
(Acupuncture for the treatment of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acupuncture in Medicine, 2017.)
A large British trial studying the use of acupuncture for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), has shown it offers significant benefits for patients. A total of 233 patients were drawn from five GP practices. Their mean age was 44, 81% were women, and they had suffered from IBS for on average 13 years. Half were assigned to receive ten weekly acupuncture sessions plus their usual care, whilst the other half received usual care alone. Acupuncture was given by experienced practitioners according to an individual traditional Chinese medical diagnosis.
At the three month point, the two treatment groups exhibited a statistically significant difference in favour of acupuncture. Using a validated scoring system based on the severity of the key symptoms of IBS, the acupuncture group exhibited a 49% treatment success rate, set against 31% in the control group. This largely persisted at six, nine and twelve months.
(Acupuncture for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Primary Care Based Pragmatic Randomised Controlled Trial. BMC Gastroenterology, October 2012.)
A small randomised, controlled study to assess the effect of individualised moxibustion and acupuncture for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), has concluded that it shows promise as a treatment. Twenty-nine IBS patients were randomised to receive either real treatment, or sham treatment as a control.
After four weeks of treatment twice-weekly, the acupuncture group experienced significant improvements in average daily abdominal pain, intestinal gas, bloating and stool consistency, whereas the control group showed minimal improvement.
(Symptom Management for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Pilot Randomised Controlled Trial of Acupuncture/Moxibustion. Gastroenterol Nurs. 2009 July-August.)
Robin’s note: The term “moxibustion” refers to the burning of a Chinese herb called moxa, on or near to specific acupuncture points to warm them.