UCLA Center for East-West Medicine found that the Eastern and Western medicine can blend to find solutions to the common problem of constipation. In a randomized clinical trial, 72 percent of participants said that the technique, which involves application of external pressure to the perineum, the area between the anus and genitals, helped them have a bowel movement.
Dr. Ryan Abbott, the study's principal investigator said that the research suggests that all primary care and general internal physicians should consider this technique as a first line intervention together with conventional treatment. It can also help to limit health care costs and excessive medication use.
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:
1. Strain during defecation
2. Have lumpy or hard stools
3. Experience a sensation of incomplete evacuation
4. Experience a sense of obstruction or blockage
5. Use manual maneuvers such as digital evacuation
After researchers gave patients just 3 to 5 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:
1. 72 percent said the technique helped them break up, soften or pass stools
2. 54 percent claimed it helped avoid hemorrhoids or lessen the severity of existing hemorrhoids.
3. 82 percent said they would continue using the technique
4. 72 percent said they would recommend the technique to family and friends
However, there are some limitations to this study, the authors write. For instance, like all trials of behavioral interventions, this was not a blinded trial. The sample size was also relatively small, with fewer than 100 patients completing the study. Also, the researchers were uncertain whether the technique could prevent constipation or whether similar techniques would result in comparable improvements.
The study is published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.