Lu and colleagues discussed the use of acupuncture, investigated in a randomized, controlled trial of 27
patients with IBS diagnosed by their own criteria and
assigned to receive acupuncture treatment or relaxation
Using a crossover design method, the subjects
received both modalities. In addition to demographic
information and specific IBS symptoms reported, patients
also rated their overall quality of life on entry to and
exit from the study. The study authors treated the patients
with acupuncture or relaxation sessions 3 times a week for a
period of 2 weeks.
A follow-up observation run was then
performed for 4 weeks. These investigators found that patients' quality-of-life and gastrointestinal symptom scores were improved equally in the 23 who completed both the acupuncture trial and the relaxation sessions. A statistically significant reduction in abdominal pain was observed in both groups at the end of the trial.
However, when the patients were followed for the
4-week period posttrial, only in the acupuncture group did
pain reduction persist (P < .05). Furthermore, a significant
reduction in stress perception was also observed in the
acupuncture group, but not in the relaxation group (P <
.05). It was concluded that acupuncture appears to be an
effective modality in the treatment of IBS, particularly for
pain and disease-related stress, and exceeds standard
This intriguing finding is of particular interest because of the increasing attention paid to so-called alternative treatments for IBS by patients and the medical community itself. Additional studies will be needed to confirm these results. The work of Lu and colleagues, however, is an important step in this direction.
Clearly, acupuncture as well as other alternative modalities
deserve additional study in this disease setting.
Lu B, Hu Y, Tenner S. A randomized controlled trial of
acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome. Program and
abstracts of the 65th Annual Scientific Meeting of the
American College of Gastroenterology; October 16-18, 2000,
New York, NY. Poster 268, p. 428.