A 2004 German study recently came to my attention, demonstrating positive effects of acupuncture on treating Crohn’s disease. In this study acupuncture patients were compared to a control group. Both groups were needled, but in the acupuncture group known acupuncture points were used where as the control group were needled in places not thought to be acupuncture points. Patients received 10 acupuncture (or sham) treatments (considered one course of treatments in Chinese medicine) over a 3 week period, and then for followed for a subsequent 12 weeks. Three months after having received one course of acupuncture treatments, patients receiving true acupuncture retained a 35% decrease in symptoms, compared to 18% in the control (sham acupuncture) group.
A 2006 Scandinavian study of ulcerative colitis demonstrated a 50% reduction in symptoms in the true acupuncture group compared to a 25% reduction in the control group. In this study, a course of treatment (true and sham acupuncture) was administered over a 5 week period, and then followed up 4 months subsequent to the cessation of treatments.
In actual clinical practice, patients with a chronic disease, such as IBS, Chrohn’s, or ulcerative colitis receive multiple courses of treatments. As symptoms improve, the frequency of treatments are reduced until the patient is able to maintain improvement with monthly, then 6 week intervals between treatments, so that the gains are consolidated before treatment is discontinued. I’ve seen all types of bowel problems respond well to Chinese medicine. I also prescribe customized herbal formulas which increase clinical results and allow for the consolidation of gains while acu therapy is being reduced.