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York YO24 1ET
United Kingdom

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Acupuncture for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common bowel disorder seen by primary care physicians and gastroenterologists. It is a gastrointestinal disorder that is believed to affect approximately 15%-20% of the adult population and is characterised by an array of symptoms including “abdominal distension, abdominal pain, and bowel dysfunction, characterised by loose bowels, constipation or a fluctuation between these two extremes”. Many patients have been led to seek alternative therapies such as acupuncture to treat their IBS. The lack of good quality trials mean that current evidence for acupuncture is inconclusive, however further investigation being      warranted.             

We conducted a pilot study to develop a platform for a full-scale randomised controlled trial to evaluate the clinical and economic benefits of offering acupuncture to patients being treated for irritable bowel syndrome. The project was based in South Birmingham and involved primary care referrals of patients with IBS to receive either a course of acupuncture or normal GP care alone.(Reynolds et al 2008) 

In 2008, the University of York received £250,000 funding from the National Institute of Health Research, in their Research for Patient Benefit scheme, to conduct a full-scale trial. Managed by the York Trials Unit, the trial has now recruited 233 patients who are currently being followed up for a period of welve months. We expect to complete data collection in June 2010 and publish the results in 2011.


Key publications

Reynolds JA, Bland JM, MacPherson H. Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome: an exploratory randomised controlled trial. Acupunct Med 2008; 26(1):8-16.

  • Amy Best
  • Anne & Sonia
  • Denise
  • Karla
  • Mark

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