How Acupuncture Helps Constipation in New York City - Upper East Side
Updated: Apr 6
Is it true that acupuncture can help constipation? Yes it is! I am an acupuncturist practicing for the past 13 years. My acupuncture practice is located in the Upper East Side neighborhood and I have witnessed many cases of constipation improve over the many years that I have been in practice. Of course, the key to treating this condition successfully is to properly diagnose the patients condition and determine where the disease is occurring. My teacher would often say that to treat according to the principles of Classical Chinese medicine is to understand space, time, and direction. Very quickly, because this is a blog post, and we cannot go into too much detail, space is where the illness is located in the body. It refers to the channels that are affected. Time refers to the conditions that allowed the condition to progress and manifest itself, and lastly direction refers to how we treat the illness and which direction we take to impact the illness itself.
In reference to space, constipation is located in the channels associated with digestion that is the stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, liver, large intestine, small intestine, and the chinese medical organ triple heater. The triple heater is a vessel system which wraps the digestive system. To determine which of these channels are impaired and need to be treated, we observe the outside of the body to determine what is happening at the level of the channels deep inside the body. If a channel is impaired it may feel tight, hard, or weak with depressions along the course of the channel. Often times, channels that are impaired feel "bumpy" and the patient may experience tenderness as you pass over congested regions. These regions indicate where blood circulation is impaired. The quality of the channel also determines the technique we will use to repair the channel itself.
In Chinese medicine constipation may be defined as not having a daily bowel movement, or a person may have daily bowel movements, yet the bowel movements may feel incomplete. The stool maybe dry and there may be a lot of straining. The patient may also experience generalized abdominal discomfort with gas and bloating. Although the signs and symptoms may manifest in different ways, to treat constipation, the signs and symptoms itself are not as important as the channel differentiation because different channel impairments may result in the same signs and symptoms. For example if someone has dry stools with straining, this maybe due to impairments in the pancreas and spleen channels failing to transport water in the body, it could be caused by a lack of movement in the large intestine and stomach channels, which is absorbing too much water as the waste products sit in the digestive tract, or it could be coming from the gallbladder system which fails to dredge and open the channel pathways leading to dryness in the stool.
In addition to inspecting the channels on the arms and legs, we need to examine the abdomen and observe the temperature, hardness/softness of key areas, the entry and exit points of the abdomen, and if there are physical obstructions such as scar tissue. In cases of constipation and other digestive illness such as IBS and diarrhea, treating scar tissue will be high on the priority list, because the adhesions may impair normal movements of the digestive tract.
A middle aged woman presented in our clinic with constipation, not having a bowel movement for 3-4 days. She complained of gas and bloating and dry pebble like stool. She had constant discomfort in the abdomen, lack of appetite and poor sleep. Her digestive illness began after a severe bout of stress, which occurred in 2012. Interestingly, after the stress episode, she experienced diarrhea and loose stools which lasted for 1 year, then her digestion reverted in the opposite direction, constipation.
Assessment: Her channel examination revealed impairments of the lung, pancreas, and large intestine channels. The classical key indicators involving the pancreas are gas and bloating. The dryness in the stool is the result of the lung and pancreas channels failing to transport water. Understanding how the illness began would lead most acupuncturist to conclude there was also liver system involvement which may need treatment. We call this pattern liver overacting on the pancreas, meaning the pancreas channels are weak, while the liver channels are strong. Imbalance of these two systems result in digestive issues which occur under stress. However, since the liver system was relatively normal in comparison with the pancreas and lung system, I concluded the main channels that needed treatment were the pancreas and lung.
Results: After 1 treatment she had daily bowel movements, but they felt incomplete. After 3 treatments, she experienced less dryness in the stool, more bulk of the stool, and less gas and bloating. After 6 treatments, her bowel movements returned to normal pre-2012. She had a daily bowel movement, normal appetite, and regulated sleep.
Acupuncture is a very effective treatment for constipation. If this condition is affecting you please call our Upper East acupuncture clinic for an evaluation and treatment (917)-243-4947.