Comparison of Electroacupuncture and Mild-Warm Moxibustion on Brain-Gut Function in Patients with Constipation-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Chin J Integr Med. 2018 May;24(5):328-335. doi: 10.1007/s11655-018-2838-0. Epub 2018 May 11.


Objective: To compare the effects of electroacupuncture (EA) and mild-warm moxibustion (Mox) therapies for constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (C-IBS) patients.

Methods: Sixty C-IBS patients were assigned to 2 groups by simple randomized method, i.e. EA group (30 cases) and Mox group (30 cases). Both EA and Mox treatments were performed on bilateral Tianshu (ST 25) and Shangjuxu (ST 37) for 30 min each time, 6 times per week, for 4 consecutive weeks. The gastrointestinal symptoms and psychological symptoms of the two groups were scored before and after treatment. The effects on the corresponding functional brain areas, namely the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), insular cortex (IC) and prefrontal cortex (PFC) were observed by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after treatment.

Results: Compared with the Mox group, greater improvements in abdominal distension, defecation frequency, diffificulty in defecation and stool features were observed in the EA group (all P<0.01), both Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale scores were signifificantly decreased in the EA group (all P<0.01). Finally, decreased activated voxel values were observed in the ACC, right IC and PFC brain regions of EA group with 150 mL colorectal distension stimulation (P<0.05 or P<0.01).

Conclusions: Both EA and Mox could signifificantly improve some of the most intrusive symptoms of C-IBS patients, and EA was more effective than Mox. The therapeutic effect of these two therapies might through modulating of the brain-gut axis function. (Registration No. ChiCTRTRC-11001349).

Keywords: constipation; electroacupuncture; irritable bowel syndrome; moxibustion; randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Constipation / physiopathology*
  • Constipation / therapy*
  • Electroacupuncture* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / therapy*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Moxibustion* / adverse effects
  • Pain Measurement
  • Rectum / physiopathology
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology