Acupuncture Effectively Controls Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Internal Medicine World ReportMarch 2014

In a meta-analysis of 6 randomized, placebo-controlled clinical studies, researchers concluded that acupuncture is effective in controlling the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

In a meta-analysis of 6 randomized, placebo-controlled clinical studies, researchers concluded that acupuncture is effective in controlling the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.

While there is no universally accepted treatment for IBS, and no drug effectively treats all symptoms of the condition, acupuncture has become increasingly popular with patients, according to the authors, Chinese researchers Guan-Qun Chao and Shuo Zhang.

“Effective treatments for IBS are needed to relieve symptoms, improve quality of life, and reduce healthcare utilization,” they wrote. “However, acupuncture, a 3,000-year-old traditional Chinese medical practice, is receiving increasing acceptance in Western medicine for treating certain medical conditions.”

The researchers evaluated data from 6 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials published from 1966 to 2013 that investigated the efficacy of acupuncture in the management of IBS. Of the 64 total studies involving acupuncture and IBS, the authors excluded 58 because they were either review articles, not in English, observational studies, experimental studies, meta-analyses or did not study efficacy.

Studies of the effect of acupuncture on IBS have contradicted in the past, with some reporting no significant improvement in quality of life after treatment and another showing that acupuncture provided an additional benefit over the usual care of IBS.

The 6 studies in the meta-analysis included all subtypes of IBS: diarrhea-predominant, constipation-predominant, and alternating. The control treatment in four of the studies used sham acupuncture, one used medical treatment and the other was the usual care of IBS.

Based on the modified Jadad score, 5 of the studies were high quality; there was no publication bias according to the Begg’s and Egger’s tests; and two different systems of STATA 11.0 and Revman 5.0 were used for the meta-analysis. In the end, the authors came to the conclusion that “Acupuncture exhibits clinically and statistically significant control of IBS symptoms.”

According to the researchers, the meta-analysis suggests that acupuncture improves symptoms like abdominal pain and distension, sensation of incomplete defecation, times of defecation per day and state of stool.

However, the authors noted the analysis had its limitations and that the data are insufficient to recommend acupuncture as first-line treatment or to establish the long-term results.

“Although our meta-analysis showed that acupuncture was beneficial for IBS patients, we still need further research with larger samples to achieve an accurate result and to explore the functional mechanism of action of acupuncture,” Chao and Zhang concluded.

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