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Constipation can be a cause of not eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables, lack of exercise, or other lifestyle related issues. Electro-acupuncture may be beneficial for many people suffering from acute constipation, especially constipation which has not responded to other treatments. According to research studies,the relief lasted more than 12 weeks in the patients who were assisted. 

What is constipation?

Constipation is defined as having a bowel movement fewer than two to three times each week. With constipation stools are often tough, dry, small in size, and difficult to eliminate. Some men and women that are constipated find it painful to have a bowel movement and frequently experience distress, bloating, and the feeling of a complete bowel. It typically takes 40 to 45 hours for wastes out of the food to make the trip through your digestive system and depart your body.


Constipation can be a cause of life style (not eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables, lack of exercise), changes of the structure of the colon or rectum, (fecal impaction, IBS, rectal prolapse, diverticulosis/diverticulitis) clinical depression & anxiety, the use of specific kinds of drugs and dietary supplements: (antacids using aluminum as an active ingredient, Pepto-Bismol, Iron supplements, Narcotics, tranquillizers, sedatives, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory Ibuprofen, Naproxin Sodium).


Habits, Emotional & Physical Stressors that can cause constiptaion:

· Suppressing the urge to defecate 

· Insufficient nourishment lack of fiber rich foods or insufficient hydration

· Chronic anxiety and acute psychological stress

· Lack of physical activity 

Acupuncture & TCM treatment of constipation

Use of acupuncture and herbs is effective to treat various gastrointestinal disorders, including but not limited to irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, mucous colitis, nervous bowel, or irritable colon. Not only can they control the symptoms, they frequently change the inherent constitution of the human body to attain long-term results. In actuality, the majority of patients remain symptom free for at least a few months following the herbs are stopped.


Constipation was treated with wonderful success using Acupuncture and herbal or Homeopathic medicines. People who have mild to moderate constipation are often treated with herbs which moisten the intestines and regulate bowel movement. People who have moderate to severe constipation are usually treated with herbs which purge the intestines and cause bowel movement. These formulas are used as needed then ceased when desired effects are achieved. Herbal formulas that contain Da Huang or Fan Xie Ye (Rhubarb or Sennae) ought to be taken with meals, as it might irritate the stomach if taken on an empty stomach. Prolonged use of formulation with Da Huang or Fan Xie Ye (Rhubarb or Sennae) isn't recommended, as it might increase the chance of habitual constipation and fluid and electrolyte imbalance.


Acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary treatment, and changes in life style are successful in treating constipation. The modalities of medications utilizing cathartic stimulant laxatives should be used sparingly, and only when needed as prolonged use can cause side effects. Once bowel movement is triggered, herbal therapy could be initiated to change the basic constitution of the human body in people who have habitual constipation. Last, diet and lifestyle adjustments are also required to ensure regular bowel movement.

Acupuncture & TCM view of constipation

In Chinese medicine the form & consistency of the stool is diagnostic about what system is out of equilibrium. Lean pencil such as stools or stools which are termed tacky are indicative of Spleen Qi Deficiency while stools that look like rabbit pellets is indicative of Liver Qi Stagnation.


Shape of the Stool: Dry stools shaped like sheep-dung are due to stagnation of heat or fatigue of body fluid. A mucous stool is a sign of excessive damp due to spleen deficiency. Loose bowels after dry stool are because of a dysfunction of the spleen and stomach, and an imbalance between dryness and dampness. Stools that are sometimes dry and sometimes loose are often due to liver qi stagnation and spleen deficiency. Liquid stools with undigested food are the result of the yang deficiency of the spleen and kidney. Diarrhea with yellowish watery stool and burning of the anus is brought on by moist heat in the stomach and intestines. Formed stools with undigested food and filthy odor are caused by food accumulation.

The Shade of the Stool: Tarry stools are the indications of hemorrhaging in the spleen and stomach. Bloody and pussy stools are a indication of dysentery.

The Smell of the Stool: Sour stinking stools are due to the accumulation of heat. A rotten egg stink is because of food accumulation.

The Sensation of Defecation: A burning sensation in the anus during defecation is because of pathogenic heat in the anus. Mild prolapse of the anus during bowel movements is the consequence of chronic diarrhea due to the sinking of qi and spleen deficiency. Tenesmus is a indication of dysentery due to qi stagnation from the intestines. Fragmentary defection is a manifestation of the liver failing to create a free requirement for qi. Diarrhea occurring soon after abdominal pain, and pain relieved after bowel movements, are indications of food accumulation. Pain not relieved after bowel movements is a indication of spleen deficiency and liver preponderance leading to " liver-wood subjugating the spleen-earth."

Studies in Acupuncture for constipation

For some people, Constipation is a continuous and puzzling struggle. If someone has no more than two bowel movements each week and there is no underlying illness or medication accountable, the issue is called chronic severe functional constipation (CSFC). A study published online Sept. 12, 2016, by Annals of Internal Medicine, indicates that electroacupuncture might be a treatment choice for individuals with CSFC. The treatment uses acupuncture needles and little amounts of electric current to stimulate exact points on the body.


First Study:

A new study from China suggests that electro-acupuncture can help treat acute constipation [1]. The treatments are only effective if there isn't any underlying medical problem, and no usage of medications which can lead to constipation. Of the 1,075 people enrolled none were having over two bowel movements a week when they joined the study.

The researchers divided the Participants into two groups -- those in one group received electro-acupuncture while those from the other received sham treatments. The acupuncture was conducted at 15 hospitals in China. Electro-acupuncture involves low-voltage currents delivered via acupuncture needles. In cases like this, the needles were inserted in 6 points at the abdomen for half an hour per treatment. Together with the sham treatment, the needles did not penetrate as deeply as they did with the actual thing and were put at non-acupuncture points.


The researchers reported that 31 percent of those patients treated with electro-acupuncture had a mean of 3 or more bowel movements per week over the course of this 8-week study, which nearly 38 percent of these reported having 3 or more bowel movements each week during 12 months of follow up. Just 12 percent of those patients in the sham acupuncture group reported the exact results throughout the 8 weeks of therapy and just 14 percent of these had equal relief throughout the 12 months of follow up. Additionally, the patients who received electro-acupuncture reported improvements in their overall well-being and quality of life. The most frequent acupuncture-related side effects were hematoma (a collection of blood, usually clotted) in the website of needling, insomnia and sharp pain, although these were rare in both groups and were considered mild and transitory.


Electro-acupuncture may be beneficial for many people suffering from acute constipation, especially constipation which has not responded to other treatments. The relief lasted more than 12 weeks in the patients who were assisted.


After 28 sessions over eight months, 31% of the men and women in the treatment group had three or more bowel movements each week, compared with 12 percent in the sham group. The effects appeared to endure an extra 12 weeks for the two groups. About 6 percent or fewer individuals in both groups experienced side effects like pain or bleeding. The results are encouraging, but more studies are needed to verify the results.



Second Study:
This study was to assess the efficacy and safety of acupuncture for chronic functional constipation [2]. Randomized controlled trials were hunted in many databases. The principal outcome was a change in the amount of weekly gut movements. The secondary outcomes included colonic transit action, effective rate, Cleveland Clinic Score, and medical quality of life score. Meta-analysis was done by using RevMan 5.1.

After rigorous screening, 15 RCTs were included, comprising 1256 participants. All of them were conducted in China and published in Chinese journals. Meta-analysis suggested that acupuncture for chronic functional constipation was probably as effective as conventional medical treatment in the change of bowel motions. For the colonic transit action, acupuncture could be the same as traditional medical treatment and might be better than sham acupuncture. For the Cleveland Clinic Score, acupuncture was improbable poor to traditional medical therapy and the profound acupuncture was better than ordinary depth acupuncture at abdominal area.


No apparent adverse event was associated with acupuncture for constipation. To conclude, acupuncture for chronic functional constipation is safe and might improve weekly bowel movements, quality of life, and related symptoms. However, the evidence has been limited by the small sample size and the methodological quality.


Suffering from chronic constipation can be painful and frustrating. Studies done in China are promising and have found acupuncture to be effective in treating gastrointestinal disorders such as constipation. A systematic review was done to look at the effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic constipation suggested that acupuncture for chronic constipation was probably as powerful as traditional medicinal treatment in the change for bowel movements. Though more research is needed, it presents one good option to try - especially since no side or negative effects were found.


1. Jia Marie Liu, “Acupuncture for Chronic Severe Functional Constipation: A Randomized, Controlled Trial.” Annals of Internal Medicine, September 13, 2016, doi:10.7326/M15-3118 

2. Zhang T1, Chon TY, Liu B, Do A, Li G, Bauer B, Wang L, Liu Z.. Am J Chin Med. 2013;41(4):717-42. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X13500493., Efficacy of acupuncture for chronic constipation: a systematic review.

3. Biomedicine A Textbook for Practitioners of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine. Dr. Bruce H. Robinson, MD pp 326-328. Published by Blue Poppy Press ©2007

4. The Practice of Chinese Medicine, Giovanni Maciocia pp 475-491 ©1994

5. Clinical Manual of Oriental Medicine 2nd Edition, Dr. John Chen ©2006

6. Professional guide to Signs & Symptoms, 2nd edition ©1997; Constipation pp 179 - 181

7. Wyith Institute TCM Basics

8. Managing Constipation in Adults: Patient Counseling and Triage  By John Horn, PharmD, FCCP

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