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Acupuncture for constipation

On this page

  1. Overview
  2. Symptoms
  3. Causes
  4. Treatment

1. Overview

Constipation is infrequent or hard to pass stools. The stools are often hard and dry. It can affect men and women of all ages.

2. Symptoms

People often have other symptoms including stomach pain, lower abdominal pain, bloating and feeling as if you haven't gone completely. Bowel movements per week are reduced to just a couple of times. A normal bowel movement frequency should be 1-2 times a day.

People can sometimes develop complications from constipation including haemorrhoids or anal fissures.

3. Causes

There are many causes of constipation, including:

  • Not eating enough fibre
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not moving enough
  • Not exercising
  • Ignoring the urge to go to the toilet
  • Diet changes

4. Treatment for constipation

The easiest way to treat constipation is to make changes to your diet. Cut out gluten (bread and pasta) and eat more fibre from vegetables and less meat. Eat more nuts and seeds and drink more water.

In traditional Chinese medicine, constipation can be caused by poor diet, emotional upset and a weak digestive system.

Acupuncture treatment for 30 minutes can relieve constipation and improve your quality of life. Some patients can even experience a spontaneous bowel movements after treatment. In research using sham acupuncture for chronic constipation, people who received stimulation on actual acupuncture points showed an improved frequency of bowel movements in those suffering from constipation.

For those suffering from chronic severe functional constipation, Chinese herbal medicine (an alternative medicine) can be used, which are a stronger form of treatment than acupuncture, which can take several weeks of treatment.

Controlled trials and meta analysis published with the annals of internal medicine evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture for constipation, have shown that 12 weeks of treatment versus sham treatments (control group) improved chronic constipation.


Lee H. (2018). Efficacy and safety of acupuncture for functional constipation: a randomised, sham-controlled pilot trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 18(1):186. doi: 10.1186/s12906-018-2243-4.
Yin, J. (2010). Gastrointestinal motility disorders and acupuncture. Autonomic Neuroscience. Volume 157, Issues 1–2. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2010.03.007.
Wang, Y. The duration of acupuncture effects and its associated factors in chronic severe functional constipation: secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2019 Oct 9;12:1756284819881859. doi: 10.1177/1756284819881859.