Background: Constipation is a common health problem that adversely affects an individual's general health and quality of life. Constipated people usually manage the problem by taking laxatives and by modifying their lifestyle even if such have questionable therapeutic effects. Auriculotherapy, a safe treatment modality in Chinese medicine, has been reported to be effective in managing constipation. Despite previous studies reported encouraging results in using auriculotherapy, its effectiveness in managing constipation has not been systematically reviewed. This review, therefore, examines previous studies that have investigated the effectiveness of auriculotherapy in managing constipation.
Method: A search in the databases of MEDLINE EMBASE, AMED, and China Academic Journals Full-text Database and manual searching were performed to identify relevant clinical studies.
Results: A total of 29 relevant clinical studies conducted from 1994 to 2008 were identified. All of the studies reported that auriculotherapy was effective in managing constipation. However, generalization of their findings was limited because of two significant methodological flaws: (1) uncertainty in accurate acupoints identification and subjects' compliance to instructions resulted in varied doses of intervention received; and (2) inconsistent intervention protocols and therapeutic outcome criteria made comparison among different studies difficult.
Conclusions: The findings of this review could provide pertinent information for researchers in terms of study designs and methodologies that may be used for future studies. The use of randomized controlled trials on a sample of sufficient size and of standard intervention protocol is recommended to provide empirical evidence that will support auriculotherapy as a complementary strategy in managing constipation.