Constipation, also known as dyschezia or costiveness, is one of those topics few like to talk about for it can be both painful and frustrating. Constipation happens when the bowel movements become difficult or less frequent . Almost everyone gets constipation at some time during his or her life. In the United State, it is the most common digestive complaint  affecting about 2% to 20% of the population . Women, the elderly and children are more likely to obtain this annoying symptom.
Generally, the diagnosis of constipation is established if you have two or more of the following symptoms for at least 3 months: [4-6]
(1) infrequent bowel movements (typically three times or fewer per week)
(2) difficulty during defecation (straining during a bowel movement more than 25% of the time or hard stools more than 25% of the time)
(3) incomplete bowel evacuation more than 25% of the time
There are many reasons that can lead to constipation, and they are often divided into functional and structural factors. The functional factors may include inadequate water or fiber in the diet, disrupted diet, lack of activity or exercise, stress, depression and medicines. While the structural factors involve with Colon disease, ulcerative colitis, intestinal tumors, intestinal tuberculosis, intestinal obstruction, etc. Usually, constipation is induced by a disorder of bowel function rather than an organic problem .
Constipation is more of a symptom than a disease, therefore it is usually easier to prevent than to treat. By keeping a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber, taking in sufficient water or fluids, and exercising regularly, your symptoms may be well improved . And for those serious cases that do not respond to the lifestyle adjustment, a very mild stool softener or laxative is recommended. But these drugs can only temporally relieve your symptoms and may give rise to other adverse reactions for long-term use.
As a result, complementary or alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, are attractive to both patients and practitioners. Acupuncture, with its long history in China, has been used for managing gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation and gastroenteritis . Many clinic randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that acupuncture is an effective treatment for functional constipation [9-11].
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, constipation is a manifestation of the dysfunction of large intestinal conduction, which is caused by various factors including gastrointestinal heat or cold, stagnant of Qi, and deficiency of Qi or Blood. Depending on different etiology and pathogenesis, constipation can be categorized as four types: the hot constipation, the cold constipation, the Qi-stasis constipation, and the deficient constipation.
During the acupuncture treatment, different acupuncture points (acupoints) will be selected based on the above classification. The insertion of sterile needles at specific acupoints is supposed to smooth the meridians and restore the proper flow of Qi. When De-qi occurs, acupuncture can activate all physical processes in the body, especially the circulation of body fluids. Meanwhile, different acupuncture manipulations will be applied to dispel the pathologic factors of heat or cold and correct the deficiency of Qi or Blood. Taking these functions, acupuncture can effectively cure constipation.
In addition, modern researches [9-11] have found that acupuncture therapy can accelerate intestinal peristalsis, stimulate the secretion of intestinal mucus, increase the frequency of defecation and promote the discharge of faeces.
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