Data from a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that eight weeks of electroacupuncture increased complete spontaneous bowel movements (CSBMs) and was safe for the treatment of chronic severe functional constipation (CSFC).

A team of Chinese researchers conducted a randomized, parallel, sham-controlled trial across 15 hospitals in China to determine the efficacy of electroacupuncture for CSFC. They enrolled 1,075 patients with CSFC not due to a serious underlying pathologic cause. Study patients underwent 28 sessions of electroacupuncture at traditional acupoints or sham electroacupuncture at non-acupoints over 8 weeks. The study’s primary outcome measure was the change from baseline in mean weekly CSBMs during Weeks 1–8; follow-up lasted until Week 20.  

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The study found a greater increase from baseline in mean weekly CSBMs during Weeks 1–8 (1.76, 95% CI: 1.61–1.89) in the electroacupuncture group vs. the sham acupuncture group (0.87, 95% CI: 0.73–0.97). The change from baseline in mean weekly CSBMs during Weeks 9–20 was 1.96 (95% CI: 1.78–2.11) in the electroacupuncture group vs. 0.89 (95% CI: 0.69–0.95) in the sham acupuncture group. 

In the electroacupuncture group, 31.3% of patients had ≥3 mean weekly CSBMs during Weeks 1–8 and 37.7% of patients during Weeks 9–20 compared to 12.1% and 14.1% in the sham acupuncture group, respectively (P<0.001). Acupuncture-related adverse events during therapy were not frequent in both groups, and were reported to be mild or transient. 

More research is warranted to assess a longer treatment duration and follow-up, the study authors noted.

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