Acupuncture is an alternative medicine that, over recent years, has become increasingly popular for ailments such as back pain. Prince Charles is a fan, and the NHS can even refer you, although this is limited. But can acupuncture be used to help treat and relieve constipation?
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of ancient Chinese medicine, whereby fine needles are inserted at certain points of the body, into the skin.
The theory behind acupuncture is that it is based on a belief that we all have energy or a ‘life force’, also known as ‘Qi’, that flows throughout our body in channels (or meridians).
When our Qi cannot flow freely, it causes illness and poor health, hence the fine needles are inserted at key points, or meridians, to clear any blockages and allowing our Qi to flow freely, relieving our symptoms.
How does acupuncture help constipation?
Without going into too much detail as I am not an acupuncturist, acupuncture looks at the cause of constipation within one of two broad categories – an excess type or a deficiency type.
- In an excess type, the general signs of constipation include short duration, severe signs and symptoms, and acute onset.
- In a deficiency type, this is where there is a long duration, mild signs and symptoms, and a slow onset.
Depending on the individual person and their symptoms, the fine needles will be placed in the appropriate meridians, for example, those that represent the large intestine. You normally then lay still and relax for around 20 minutes to allow the needles to do their work and release the Qi, before they are then removed.
By the way, the meridians of your body are not literal to the parts of your body – i.e. your large intestine meridian tends to be around your elbow rather you’re your stomach!
Either way, both types will benefit from acupuncture to help relieve the constipation symptoms, and there is increasing research to support the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment and relief of constipation.
Some acupuncturists may also support their treatment with Chinese herbal medicine, which is usually in a tea form, that when drunk can help to moisten the intestines and/or stimulate the bowels, subject to what is required by the individual patient.
Acupuncture can also be used to help children with constipation, and can offer gentle, effective relief.
I have tried acupuncture myself and can assure you it doesn’t hurt, and is often a relaxing experience.
How do I find an acupuncturist?
As with any health practitioner, it is always best to go the official body to make sure you find somebody who is full qualified.
With acupuncture, this is the British Acupuncture Council which has an easy search function whereby you type in your postcode to find your nearest acupuncture.
I would then call that acupuncturist and discuss your constipation or symptoms with them, and ask if they have had experience with patients who have had similar digestive complaints, before making an appointment. It’s important you feel comfortable with any practitioner so that you can be open with them about your symptoms, and that you feel confident in their ability.
You may also like to read 'Can yoga relieve constipation? 4 simple poses' for another holistic approach to relieving your constipation.