In October 2012, a new clinical trial reported reduction of irritable bowel symptoms with acupuncture treatment. It is estimated that irritable bowel syndrome affects three to 20 percent of the population, with most studies ranging from 10 and 15 percent.
The subjects included 233 individuals with irritable bowel syndrome for an average of 13 years and score of at least 100 on the IBS Symptom Severity Score. The researchers randomly assigned 116 subjects to receive 10 weekly individualized acupuncture sessions plus usual care, while the other 117 subjects continued with usual care alone. The investigators assessed the subjects for the IBS Symptom Severity Score every three months for 12 months.
The study authors found that after three months, there was a statistically significant difference between the two groups in IBS Symptom Severity Score, and revealed that acupuncture was associated with a reduced IBS Symptom Severity Score. The researchers determined that successful treatment—defined as a 50 point or greater reduction in the IBS Symptom Severity Score—was seen in 49 percent of the acupuncture group and 31 percent of the control group. Furthermore, the investigators found that this benefit largely persisted at six, nine and 12 months.
The investigators concluded, “Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome provided an additional benefit over usual care alone. The magnitude of the effect was sustained over the longer term. Acupuncture should be considered as a treatment option to be offered in primary care alongside other evidenced based treatments.”
Macpherson H, et al. BMC Gastroenterol. 2012;1:150.