How to Treat Constipation With Acupuncture and TCM
Acupuncture relieves chronic constipation and produces greater long-term patient outcomes than drugs according to scientific studies and clinical trials. Researchers from the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine find acupuncture effective for constipation relief. In fact, acupuncture combined with herbal medicine relieves constipation in the elderly and demonstrates superior patient outcomes to pharmaceutical medications. Acupuncture plus herbs produce a very low relapse rate. 
Constipation (bian bi 便秘) is difficulty in passing stools, prolonged intervals between stools, or a desire to defecate without the ability to do so partially or completely. The stools may be hard, dry and pebble like. It is a very common problem. Millions of people see their doctor seeking constipation treatment every year. People of all ages—children, adults, and older people—can suffer from slow digestion and hard bowel movements.
Symptoms of constipation can include:
Dry, hard stool
Having less than three bowel movements per week
Bowel movements are difficult and/or painful
Constipation can be a persistent and confusing challenge for some people. When someone has fewer than 3 bowel movements per week without an underlying condition or medication as the reason for the infrequency, the problem is known as chronic severe functional constipation (CSFC).
Causes for constipation
Constipation can occasionally occur due to short-term circumstances. Many people experience temporary constipation while they are on a trip and using unfamiliar bathrooms. Eating foods that are unusual for you or low in fiber, becoming dehydrated, not getting any physical activity for several days—these situations could all cause sluggish elimination. Using laxatives and other over-the-counter constipation remedies as a habit can, unfortunately, perpetuate the cycle and lead to ongoing, chronic constipation.
Look beyond just the bowels
Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can also affect regularity. IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), which is considered a functional gastrointestinal disorder, often involves periodic constipation (or diarrhea).
Chronic constipation or severe constipation can have many causes. Sometimes constipation can be caused by a bowel obstruction, or something physically blocking the intestine.
Conditions that cause damage to nerves may disrupt the signals that tell the muscles of the colon to move. These could include:
Hormonal imbalances or fluctuations can also lead to constipation. Hormone-related conditions that could contribute to constipation include:
Natural healing of constipation with acupuncture and Chinese herbs
Acupuncture may be a treatment option for people with chronic severe functional constipation (CSFC). In general, TCM constipation treatment will focus on helping to bring more moisture into the colon and clear heat, while activating the Qi (energy) of the bowel and removing physical and energetic blockages.
Professor Han Jing Xuan from Tianjin University of TCM established a protocol using the Sanjiao acupuncture method and the traditional herbal decoction Huang Di San. He investigated the effects of acupuncture and traditional herbal medicine on constipation in the elderly. It was determined that the combination of both TCM modalities is a more effective constipation in the elderly treatment protocol than cisapride, a conventional pharmaceutical medication. TCM was 100% effective, while the gastroprokinetic agent cisapride had a 94.83% efficacy rate.
Food for relieving constipation
TCM also states that long-term consumption of bitter and chilled foods damage the spleen and stomach, slows Qi and blood replenishment, and ultimately weakens peristaltic movements thereby affecting the ability to evacuate feces. Many people who suffer from constipation don’t have enough microbiota or “good bacteria” in their colon. Acupuncture and herbs can help to improve the gut biome. Dietary adjustments play a crucial role in the long term cure of constipation.
What are some of the acupressure points for constipation?
Acupressure for relieving constipation is done by massaging and stimulating the following acupressure points for gas and constipation:
Large Intestine (LI4)
The large intestine, or He Gu, union valley, is an acupressure point found on the hand situated in the web between the thumb and the index finger. It is found at the point where the bones of the index finger and thumb separate.
This acupressure point greatly affects the qi flow and helps relieve constipation, especially due to stress. Avoid using this acupressure point for constipation during pregnancy as it can induce labour.
To use these acupressure points for constipation, follow the steps mentioned below:
With the thumb or index finger of your one hand, locate the soft part of the web between the thumb and the index finger of the other hand.
Gently press this point and move in a circle for a few minutes and repeat on the other hand.
The stomach, also called Tianshu, is another acupressure point for constipation that is highly beneficial. This point is situated on either side of the belly button. It works well in treating abdominal pain and constipation and improving digestion.
Follow the below-mentioned steps to use these acupressure points for constipation:
Begin by measuring two finger widths or 2 to 3 inches to the left of your belly button.
Once the point is located, press this point for a couple of seconds and then start making circles in a clockwise direction for a minute or two.
Once done, repeat on the other side as well.
The spleen helps in the regulation of the intestine and causes stimulation of the peristalsis movement. Spleen 15 makes for a good acupressure point for constipation and piles relief.
Follow the steps below to use these SP15 acupressure points for constipation and piles.
The spleen acupressure point lies bilaterally, almost four finger widths apart on either side of the belly button.
Once the points are located, begin by putting pressure on one side, i.e., the left side, with the index finger, thumb, or knuckles, and move in a circular motion while adding pressure. Do this for a minute or two.
Once done, repeat the same on the other pressure point (right side).
The kidney is an acupressure point for constipation that can be found below the inner region of the ankle bone. This acupressure point for constipation works by inducing bowel movements to relieve constipation.
Follow the steps below to get relief by using the kidney (KI6) acupressure points for constipation:
Press the point situated beneath the inner ankle bone of one foot.
Put pressure with circular movement on this point, hold it for about one to three minutes, and do the same for the other foot.
The stomach or Zusanli, is a powerful acupressure point in the body. This acupressure point for constipation can be found below the knee caps at a distance of around 3 inches and around one finger towards the outer edge. It is a strong point for treating digestive problems like constipation, gas, diarrhoea, bloating, and pain in the abdomen.
To use this acupressure point for constipation, follow the steps given below:
Begin by placing two fingers on the stomach points and putting pressure over it in a circular motion.
Do this for a couple of seconds and repeat on the other side.
Spleen 6 is also known as Sanyinjiao. This acupressure point for constipation is found above the top region of the inside of the ankle at 3 widths. This acupressure point is excellent for treating constipation, bloating, indigestion, and gas.
Follow the steps below to use the Spleen 6 (SP6) acupressure points for constipation:
To relieve constipation, locate the SP6 acupressure point and apply pressure over it while massaging it in a clockwise movement.
While applying pressure, exhale, and while releasing, inhale. Do this for a couple of minutes.
Conception vessel (CV6)
Also known as Qihai, Ren, or Sea of Qi, it is an acupressure point for constipation situated at the umbilicus, below the belly button, at a distance of around three finger widths. This acupressure point helps relieve constipation, gas, indigestion, and bloating.
To use this acupressure point for constipation, follow the below-mentioned steps:
Locate the acupressure point below the belly button and press it with your finger.
Make clockwise movements on this point and do it for a few minutes.
Xiao Wu, Cuihong Zheng, Xiaohu Xu, Pei Ding, Fan Xiong, Man Tian, Ying Wang, Haoxu Dong, Mingmin Zhang, Wei Wang, Shabei Xu, Minjie Xie, Guangying Huang, "Electroacupuncture for Functional Constipation: A Multicenter, Randomized, Control Trial", Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2017, Article ID 1428943, 10 pages, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/1428943