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Report: Self-Acupressure Can Help Relieve Constipation

New research from the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine shows how Eastern and Western medicine can blend to find a solution to the common medical problem of constipation, reported Science Daily.

In a randomized clinical trial, 72 percent of participants said that perineal self-acupressure, a simple technique involving the application of external pressure to the perineum — the area between the anus and genitals — helped them have a bowel movement, and the research suggests that all primary care and general internal physicians should consider this technique as a first line intervention together with conventional treatment, said Dr. Ryan Abbott, the study’s principal investigator and a visiting assistant professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“Constipation is very common and can have debilitating symptoms,” said Dr. Abbott, who is also a researcher and educator with the East-West Center. “But patients can perform this simple intervention themselves to treat their own constipation and improve their quality of life. It can also help to limit health care costs and excessive medication use.”

With significant hospital costs to treat the condition at an estimated at $4.25 billion in 2010 alone, constipation can also lead to depression, lower quality of life and a drop in work productivity. Treatments include use of laxatives, increased intake of dietary fiber and fluid, and exercise, reported Science Daily.

The researchers recruited 100 patients, nine of whom dropped out during the trial, age 18 and older whom met the established criteria for functional constipation. Among these criteria are that they have fewer than three defecations per week and that for at least 25 percent of the their bowel movements they:

• Strain during defecation
• Have lumpy or hard stools
• Experience a sensation of incomplete evacuation
• Experience a sense of obstruction or blockage
• Use manual maneuvers such as digital evacuation

Self-Acupressure

Self-Acupressure

After researchers gave patients just three to five minutes of instruction, patients were encouraged to perform the exercises on their own for four weeks when they felt the urge to defecate. Patients reported using the technique three to four times a week on average. The self-acupressure broke up hard stools, relaxed muscles and stimulated nerves responsible for bowel movements.

Among the other findings:

• 72 percent said the technique helped them break up, soften or pass stools
• 54 percent claimed it helped avoid hemorrhoids or lessen the severity of existing hemorrhoids.
• 82 percent said they would continue using the technique
• 72 percent said they would recommend the technique to family and friends

“This unique self-administered acupressure treatment for constipation is just one example of how an integrative approach to medicine helps patients and is cost-effective, too,” said Dr. Ka-Kit Hui, Wallis Annenberg Endowed Chair in Integrative East-West Medicine at UCLA and founder and director of the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine. “Utilizing both Eastern and Western approaches helps create a new paradigm of medicine that combines the best of both worlds.”

According to authors, the study does provide evidence that the technique could be useful in tandem with other treatments. “As a non-invasive, non-pharmacological treatment intervention for constipation, perineal self-acupressure likely carries a lower risk for side effects and complications than commonly used medications such as stool softeners, fiber supplements, stimulants, laxatives and lubricants,” the researchers write. “In addition, perineal self-acupressure may help to control treatment costs because it only requires a brief, initial period of training. Furthermore, not all patients respond favorably to existing treatment options, and perineal self-acupressure may represent an effective alternative to conventional treatment options.”

For more information, visit www.sciencedaily.com.