Acupuncture and IBS

It’s IBS Awareness Month, so it seems like the perfect time to have a look at what acupuncture can do for sufferers.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disturbance in the large intestine which is characterised by a range of symptoms. These include diarrhoea (sometimes urgent) and/or constipation, abdominal spasms and pain, excess wind and bloating.

Hand in hand with these, sufferers might also experience symptoms in other parts of the body, eg headaches, muscle and joint pain, tinnitus, nausea, and stress and anxiety.

Stomach Ache.jpg

IBS and Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine looks at the body as a whole and at the energy flowing through the organs and along the meridians, or channels. Consequently, there’s nothing specifically known as ‘IBS’ in acupuncture, just a number of imbalances that result in the symptoms.

So which organs and channels might be involved?

The usual culprits in IBS from a Chinese medicine point of view are the liver, stomach, spleen and large intestine. When we talk about organs misbehaving, we are talking about the energy, or ‘qi’, of these organs, not the physical organs themselves. This energy flows through the organs and along their corresponding channels.

Acupuncture treats you as an individual

No two people are treated in exactly the same way in acupuncture. Everybody is different, and whilst you may suffer from what you see as exactly the same symptoms as a friend or family member, your health history and other aspects of your current health and lifestyle will make your overall picture different. Therefore, no two Chinese medicine diagnoses and treatments are exactly the same.

Points used for IBS

Whilst no two people will be treated in the same way, there are some points that are used more than others when it comes to particular conditions. As IBS most commonly involves the liver, stomach, spleen and large intestine, various points on these channels are highly likely to be used. Some are located on the abdomen, where you would probably expect to have needles for IBS, though others may be on the legs and feet or arms and hands.

Local points might include Stomach 25, of which there are two, one each side of the navel, and also Spleen 15, which lies about an inch further away from the navel on each side. This combination of acupuncture points nourishes the flow of energy through the large intestine, helping with spasms, pain and diarrhoea, and also tonifies the spleen, which is responsible for a smooth and thorough digestion.

Distal (meaning away from the centre of the body) points, however, may include Large Intestine 4, which is on the back of the hand between the thumb and forefinger, and Liver 3, located on the top of the foot. These two points together can also ease spasms in the abdomen as well as joint pain, and can benefit nausea and stress.

Throughout the next week, I will be tweeting an acupuncture point a day that may be used in treatment for IBS. Follow me on @KPAcupuncture to find out about them.

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