New research concludes that acupuncture is an effective treatment therapy for resolving constipation. Researchers compared electro-acupuncture stimulation at key acupuncture points with a sham acupuncture control group. The single-blind, randomized study consisted of women between the ages of 30 and 54 years of age. After eight weeks of treatment, the electro-acupuncture group demonstrated significant improvement and the control group did not show improvement. The researchers also measured a significant enhancement of the parasympathetic nervous system and heart rate variability in the electro-acupuncture group. The researchers concluded that the beneficial responses induced by electro-acupuncture on the autonomic nervous system and the concomitant improvement in bowel movement regularity warrants further documentation and research.
The beneficial health effects of electro-acupuncture on humans has long been an interest of electrical engineers and biophysicists. Researchers in Taiwan from the Laboratory of Biophysics at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital and the Institute of Electronic Engineering at National Yunlin University of Science and Technology measured the biophysical effects of acupuncture on the autonomic nervous system. The results demonstrated that electro-acupuncture treatments simultaneously resolved constipation, improved cardiovascular health and enhanced activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Heart Rate Variability
The researchers discovered that acupuncture points for the treatment of constipation also improve heart rate variability (HRV). Heart rate variability is the body’s ability to regulate the time interval between heart beats and is an index of the body’s ability to maintain control of the heart beat rate and rhythm through vagus nerve activity. This is the third major study to emerge in the last year demonstrating that acupuncture improves HRV and therefore cardiovascular health. Another recent study concludes that “HRV changes significantly during auricular acupuncture…” and that “HRV total increases during auricular acupuncture….” In this study, researchers measured the results from needling the auricular acupuncture points ear Shenmen, located in the triangular fossa of the outer ear. This acupuncture point was investigated because, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, ear Shenmen calms the spirit, relaxes the mind, provides pain relief and clears the heart. An additional study found that needling acupuncture point CV17, located on the chest, also improves heart rate variability. The investigators concluded that acupuncture at CV17 “causes the modulation of cardiac autonomic function.”
Acupuncture Point Shop Talk
This most recent study for the treatment of constipation used electro-acupuncture at acupuncture points ST36 (Zusanli), ST37 (Shangjuxu), ST25 (Tianshu), ST28 (Shuidao), CV4 (Guanyuan) and CV6 (Qihai). ST36 is located on the lower leg and is a He Sea, Sea of Nourishment, Earth and Lower He Sea of the Stomach acupuncture point. ST36, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), orders the Spleen and Stomach, Regulates the Qi and Blood and strengthens weak and deficient conditions. ST36 is commonly used for the treatment of indications such as gastric pain, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, mastitis, breast abscesses, enteritis, gastritis, edema, asthma, anemia, emaciation, weakness, apoplexy, shock, hemiplegia, neurasthenia and mania.
ST37, located on the lower leg, is the Lower He Sea of the Large Intestine and a Sea of Blood acupuncture point. ST37 regulates the intestines and stomach, clears and cools damp heat and also eliminates accumulations and stagnation. ST37 is useful for the treatment of abdominal pain, distention, diarrhea, dysentery, enteritis, paralysis due to stroke and beriberi. ST28, located on the lower abdomen, is named Shuidao. This is translated as waterway. ST28 cools damp heat and benefits the Urination Bladder. ST28 is useful for the treatment of lower abdominal distention, urinary retention, cystitis, edema, ascites, hernia, orchitis and heat constriction of the sanjiao (triple burner).
CV4 is located on the midline, level with ST28, 3 cun below the umbilicus. CV4 is the Front Mu Point of the Small Intestine. According to Chinese Medicine principles, CV4 nourishes and stabilizes the Kidney, regulates Qi, moves and builds the Qi, restores Yang and is an intersection of the Conception Vessel with the three leg Yin channels. CV4 is used for the treatment of abdominal pain, diarrhea, irregular menstruation, dysmenorrhea, leukorrhea, nocturnal emissions, hernia and enuresis (bed wetting).
CV6 is located 1.5 cun below the navel on the midline of the abdomen. CV6 is named Qihai, the Sea of Qi. This acupuncture point and CV4 are located at Dantian, translated as Cinnabar Field. Dantian is an area of the body that stores energy and helps in the healing of disease. Dantian cultivation is often practiced with Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Kum Nye, Tui-Na massage, meditation and breathing exercises. In Chinese Medicine, Dantian is considered the body’s medicine bag of health. CV6 regulates Qi, strengthens deficient Kidneys, harmonizes the Blood, regulates the Chong and Ren channels and dispels dampness. CV6 is clinically appropriate for the treatment of abdominal pain, irregular menstruation, dysmenorrhea, leukorrhea, uterine bleeding, urinary disorders, spermatorrhea, nocturnal emissions and impotence.
Chen, Chien-Yue, Ming-Da Ke, Cheng-Deng Kuo, Chien-Hsun Huang, Ya-Hsin Hsueh, and Jing-Rhong Chen. “The Influence of Electro-Acupuncture Stimulation to Female Constipation Patients.” The American journal of Chinese medicine 41, no. 02 (2013): 301-313.
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 817378, 7 pages. doi:10.1155/2012/817378. Sino-European Transcontinental Basic and Clinical High-Tech Acupuncture Studies—Part 1: Auricular Acupuncture Increases Heart Rate Variability in Anesthetized Rats. Xin-Yan Gao, Kun Liu, Bing Zhu and Gerhard Litscher.
Kurono Y, Minagawa M, Ishigami T, Yamada A, Kakamu T, Hayano J. Auton Neurosci. Acupuncture to Danzhong but not to Zhongting increases the cardiac vagal component of heart rate variability. 2011 Apr 26;161(1-2):116-20. Epub 2011 Jan 7.