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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 181-186

Treatment of visceral pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome using acupuncture: Mechanism of action

New Zealand College of Chinese Medicine, Auckland, New Zealand

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Vahideh Toossi
New Zealand College of Chinese Medicine, Level 2, 321 Great South Road, Greenlane, Auckland
New Zealand
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/wjtcm.wjtcm_24_19

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a relatively common condition characterized by abdominal pain, among other symptoms, that significantly impacts the quality of life of IBS patients. Therapeutic treatment of IBS results in limited success, and the focus is placed on relieving patients of some of the symptoms, visceral pain in particular. Acupuncture is commonly used as a treatment modality of choice. However, the debate on whether acupuncture can be effectively used for this purpose is ongoing. In this work, we critically review the available literature to establish a potential mechanism of action in treating visceral pain in IBS using acupuncture. The sources used are Google Scholar, EBSCO, Cochrane Library and PubMed as well as Chinese database sources. The keywords used in the literature search are “acupuncture,” “IBS,” “Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” and “visceral pain.” We find that the literature strongly indicates that acupuncture, by stimulating points located on the dermatomes proximal to the spinal level of the area where the sympathetic outflow of the particular gut area affected by the pain is, can interfere with the efferent signal that transports information about the noxious stimuli and interrupt the “connectivity” between the gut and brain, and as a final result, reduce or stop IBS pain. Our findings justify that clinical trials are conducted to test the utility of acupuncture in treating abdominal visceral pain in IBS.

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