Irritable bowel syndrome - What is the potential of Acupuncture using traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis in its management?

By John Corrigan


This study investigates the potential of acupuncture using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnosis by examining the perceived changes of six patients diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) over a course of eight acupuncture treatments.

A case study was the preferred research design to fit the holistic approach of traditional acupuncture with an exploratory AB design being incorporated within the timing of the patient's outcome measures. Both subjective and objective research tools were used at intervals pre and post treatment during the study to record changes in symptoms associated with IBS together with the patient's quality of life. The chosen outcome measures were a weekly IBS symptom-scoring sheet, a validated disease specific quality of life questionnaire for functional digestive disorders and comprehensive patient's notes. Data from both questionnaires has been summarized into tables and represented graphically for analysis and discussion within the dissertation.

A brief case history, TCM diagnosis, identification of pathological and aetiological factors together with treatment principles have been included for each of the six patients. A number of "patterns of disharmony" or TCM syndromes were recognized from each of the patient's presenting signs and symptoms. However, there were two TCM syndromes that were evident in all of the patients - Spleen Qi Xu (deficiency) and Liver Qi Stagnation.

Issues within the design and methodology together with ideas for further research have been identified and discussed.

The results of the study indicate that a course of traditional acupuncture can bring about positive outcomes in the treatment of IBS. Patients taking part in the study experienced significant positive changes over the period of the study in symptom relief, general well being and overall quality of life.
In conclusion, it would appear that there is a potential role for acupuncture using TCM diagnosis in the management of IBS and that further studies are merited.