Constipation can be a persistent and confusing challenge for some people. When someone has fewer than 3 bowel movements per week without an underlying condition or medication as the reason for the infrequency, the problem is known as chronic severe functional constipation (CSFC).
Constipation is a common complication for elderly patients and may cause acute and chronic stress. 60% of the elderly suffer from some degree of constipation where often poor peristaltic movement slows the stool, lengthening retention time and hardens stools due to excess absorption of water. Straining or pushing during bowel movements may cause changes in coronary and cerebral vascular flow in elderly patients. This could result in the development of more threatening conditions including arrhythmias, angina, high blood pressure, acute myocardial infarction, cerebral vascular damage, or death. Long-term treatment with medications may result in stomachaches, diarrhea and electrolyte imbalances. Safe and effective treatment and management of constipation would have significant value.
Chinese Medicine approaches the patient as a whole. Four methods of diagnosis are looking, listening, questioning, and feeling the pulse. Collecting data from asking the patients questions is essential, including: stools issue (sensation, consistence, interval time, color, odor, and amount); occurrence; onset time, such as after childbirth, postpartum, menopause, or old age; the course of symptoms; how they alleviate the problem; and which accompanying symptoms such as abdominal distension, loss of appetite, fatigue, depression, insomnia, etc.
Scientific Studies support acupuncture as an effective treatment for constipation
Researchers from the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine find acupuncture effective for constipation relief. In fact, acupuncture combined with herbal medicine relieves constipation in the elderly and demonstrates superior patient outcomes to pharmaceutical medications. Acupuncture plus herbs produce a very low relapse rate.
Chronic constipation often involves infrequent and hard stools, straining during bowel movements, and incomplete evacuation. Stomach cramping, pain, and abdominal bloating or distention may be secondary symptoms.
The study involved 72 voluntary patients from the gastrointestinal department at Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The patients were randomly divided into two groups of 36 patients each: true acupuncture treatment group, sham control group. The average age of participants was 44 years. There were 9 males and 27 females in the treatment group. There were 11 males and 25 females in the control group.
The researchers note that acupuncture effectively treats the root causes of constipation and that acupuncture patients have lower relapse rates than patients having taken mosapride, a medication used to facilitate bowel movements. Although the drug is effective, research indicates a relatively high relapse rate (54.2%) when you stop taking it. Acupuncture has no significant adverse effects when compared to mosapride which may cause abdominal pain, loose stools, insomnia, dizziness, and headaches.
The active sham control group had a 67.65% total effective rate compared with the 82.56% total effective rate of the true acupuncture group. Notably, the sham points were located and needled 1 cm laterally to the true acupuncture point locations. This active sham control method may have contributed to clinical successes in the sham group. Nonetheless, the true acupuncture group significantly outperformed the sham control group. True acupuncture had better frequency of bowel movement scores, difficulty of bowel movement scores, and a higher total effective rate.
One 30 minute session was conducted per day. A full treatment cycle consisted of 5 consecutive days. The entire treatment course comprised 4 treatment cycles – 20 acupuncture treatments total. Patients were scored before and after the treatments To evaluate the efficacy.
Acupuncture may be a treatment option for people with chronic severe functional constipation (CSFC) in another study published online Sept. 12, 2016, by Annals of Internal Medicine. The therapy uses acupuncture needles and tiny amounts of electrical current to stimulate precise points on the body. The re-searchers randomly assigned half of the about 1,000 people with CSFC who participated in the study to electroacupuncture sessions and the other half to fake (sham) acupuncture sessions. As a result, 31% of the people in the treatment group had three or more bowel movements per week, compared with 12% in the sham group after 28 sessions over eight weeks. The effects appeared to last an additional 12 weeks for both groups.
Professor Han Jing Xuan from Tianjin University of TCM established a protocol using the Sanjiao acupuncture method and the traditional herbal decoction Huang Di San. He investigated the effects of acupuncture and traditional herbal medicine on constipation in the elderly. It was determined that the combination of both TCM modalities is a more effective constipation in the elderly treatment protocol than cisapride, a conventional pharmaceutical medication. TCM was 100% effective, while the gastroprokinetic agent cisapride had a 94.83% efficacy rate.
In TCM, chronic constipation in the elderly is often due to a weak liver and kidneys, poor qi and bood circulation, and subsequent malnourishment of the large intestine. TCM also states that long-term consumption of bitter and chilled foods damage the spleen and stomach, slows qi and blood replenishment, and ultimately weakens peristaltic movements thereby affecting the ability to evacuate feces. Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for patients who suffer from functional constipation.