Acupuncture is one of the many techniques that traditional Korean medicine borrowed from its Chinese counterpart. It has been used to treat different kinds of digestive diseases.
The results of the Daejeon University (Daejeon) pilot trial are promising. Acupuncture treatment was able to remedy the symptoms of constipation during the treatment period and for weeks after the treatment.
In addition to being effective, the method is also safe, especially when compared to pharmaceuticals. Constipation is normally managed by lifestyle changes.
Laxatives are only used for short amounts of time if non-drug treatments fail to amend the problem. Otherwise, excessive use of pharmaceuticals can cause negative side effects such as injuring the colon, making constipation worse and causing melanosis coli.
Earlier trials have covered acupuncture and electroacupuncture as alternative means of alleviating constipation. A systematic review by Xing-Yue Yang of the Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2013 suggested that acupuncture could match conventional treatments when it comes to treating chronic functional constipation.
The Daejeon researchers followed up on Yang's research by implementing a randomized pilot trial that sought to amend limitations of previous research. (Related: Relief for trigeminal neuralgia using acupuncture.)
In the pilot clinical trial, 30 participants with functional constipation were divided between real acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups. Members of each group underwent a total of 12 treatment sessions over the course of four weeks.
Participants in the real acupuncture group were treated on eight standard acupuncture points. Each member also got four individualized acupuncture points based on Sa-am acupuncture, the traditional Korean medicine approach to acupuncture.
The sham acupuncture group, on the other hand, got minimal treatment with shallow acupuncture insertion on 12 non-acupuncture points. These points are harmless and have no effect.
Participants maintained their usual intake of food. However, regular laxatives were discontinued, although rescue medication in the form of magnesium hydroxide laxative was also provided in case of an emergency.
The participants completed a daily diary that described the shape and frequency of their defecation, any symptoms, and any use of medicine. Upon completing the intervention, researchers followed up on the participants during the second and fourth weeks following the trial.
The Daejeon researchers reported that the frequency of defecation slightly went down in the real acupuncture group while going up in the sham group. Likewise, the spontaneous complete bowel movement improved for the acupuncture group and became worse for the sham group.
The real acupuncture group also got better scores on the British stool scale and constipation assessment scale than the sham group.
The researchers noted that the slight changes are considered to be clinical successes. An improvement in the British stool scale score indicated successful treatment while a similar minor shift in the constipation assessment score means the constipation case no longer needs medical treatment.
Therefore, they concluded that Korean acupuncture was an effective means of treating the symptoms of functional constipation. This is a potentially major development, especially for Koreans, who are prone to using excessive amounts of laxatives when afflicted with constipation.
Furthermore, they were able to confirm that the treatment method was safe. Only a few participants suffered adverse events during the course of the trial, and none of the attacks were connected to the treatment.
Read more stories about drug-free alternative treatments at AlternativeMedicine.news.