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Research on acupuncture for constipation

Last updated: 11 March, 2017
by Steven Clavey, Traditional Chinese Gynaecology

Acupuncture for patients with chronic functional constipation: A randomized controlled trial.

The three acupuncture treatments were as effective as mosapride in improving stool frequency and stool consistency in Chronic Functional Constipation, but the magnitude of the treatment effect is unknown due to the lack of sham acupuncture control.”

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2018 Feb 2. doi: 10.1111/nmo.13307. [Epub ahead of print]

Zheng H, Liu ZS, Zhang W, Chen M, Zhong F, Jing XH, Rong PJ, Zhu WZ, Wang FC, Liu ZB, Tang CZ, Wang SJ, Zhou MQ, Li Y, Zhu B.

BACKGROUND: Acupuncture is used to treat chronic functional constipation (CFC) in China, despite limited evidence. We aim to assess the effectiveness and safety of acupuncture in managing CFC.

METHODS: A multicenter randomized controlled trial was performed involving 684 patients with CFC; the patients were randomly allocated to receive He acupuncture (n = 172), Shu-mu acupuncture (n = 171), He-shu-mu acupuncture (n = 171), or oral administration of mosapride (n = 170). Sixteen sessions of acupuncture were given in the treatment duration of 4 weeks. The primary outcome was the change in spontaneous bowel movements (SBMs) at week 4 (at the end of treatment) compared to baseline. The secondary outcomes included stool consistency (Bristol scale), the degree of straining during defecation, and adverse events.

KEY RESULTS: The SBMs increased in all the four groups at week 4, and the magnitude of increase was equivalent in the four groups (He acupuncture, 2.7 [95% CI, 2.3-3.1]; Shu-mu acupuncture, 2.7 [95% CI, 2.3-3.0]; He-shu-mu acupuncture, 2.2 [95% CI, 1.9-2.5]; and mosapride, 2.4 [95% CI, 2.0-2.9]; P = .226). However, the change in SBMs at week 8 was significantly smaller in mosapride group (1.4 [95% CI, 1.0-1.8]) than the three acupuncture groups (2.4 [95% CI, 2.1-2.7], 2.3 [95% CI, 1.9-2.7], 2.1 [95% CI, 1.7-2.5] in He, Shu-mu, and He-shu-mu group, respectively, P = .005).

CONCLUSIONS:

The three acupuncture treatments were as effective as mosapride in improving stool frequency and stool consistency in CFC, but the magnitude of the treatment effect is unknown due to the lack of sham acupuncture control.

Electro-acupuncture better than drugs for constipation

Chinese authors have concluded that electro-acupuncture is more effective than medication for improving the symptoms of functional constipation (FC). Analysing the results of nine randomised studies, they found a small but significant increase in the frequency of spontaneous bowel movements in patients treated with EA, compared with those receiving anti-constipation medicine. Greater improvement was also observed in treatment response rates and constipation scores in EA-treated patients compared with medication-treated patients.

Comparison of electroacupuncture and medical treatment for functional constipation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acupunct Med. 2017 Jun 19. pii: acupmed-2016-011127.

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