Is Acupuncture Good for Crohn’s Disease?

Breeze Academy August 17, 2023
Woman with stomach pain

Crohn’s Disease is a life-long bowel condition where parts of the digestive system become inflamed. Typically, symptoms of Crohn’s Disease include diarrhoea, stomach cramps, fatigue, weight loss and blood in the stool. Milder cases are commonly treated with medications to control inflammation, whereas more severe cases may require surgery. But, what if there was a drug-free, non-invasive treatment? 

So,  is Acupuncture good for Crohn’s Disease? Evidence suggests that Acupuncture may be effective in helping to treat the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, but does not offer a cure. Additionally, researchers find Acupuncture for Crohn’s Disease most effective when used in conjunction with other treatments, such as medication.

Read on to learn more about Acupuncture for Crohn’s Disease with Breeze Academy.

Can Acupuncture Help with Crohn’s Disease?

Acupuncture is not a cure for Crohn’s Disease. Rather, it is considered as a complementary approach that works well alongside other interventions to manage symptoms. 

It is thought that Acupuncture may help to reduce the pain and discomfort associated with Crohn’s Disease, alongside improving the intestinal microbiota and inflammation in patients with mild to moderate symptoms.

Success Rate

A review from 2019 stated that Acupuncture may increase the likelihood of symptom remission for Crohn’s Disease patients. However, researchers concluded that this is in conjunction with other treatments, such as medication. Used together, Acupuncture and medication is more effective than medication alone. Other studies tend to agree, taking the stance that Acupuncture offers additional benefits to traditional treatment. One study in particular found that Acupuncture offers more long-term benefits than other treatments used in the control group.

How it Works

For pain relief, it is thought that Acupuncture works by stimulating the nervous system which releases pain relieving endorphins and other beneficial hormones. It also helps to improve blood circulation which more effectively delivers essential oxygen and nutrients. 

Additionally, Acupuncture is thought to help reduce inflammation. This is of key importance as Crohn’s Disease is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system. Researchers from Harvard University believe that Acupuncture works to reduce inflammation by triggering an anti-inflammatory response via a signalling pathway in a specific subset of neurons.

Benefits of Acupuncture for Crohn’s Disease

Aside from pain relief and reducing inflammation, there are a number of other benefits of Acupuncture for Crohn’s Disease. 

Reducing Symptoms

A number of studies into Acupuncture for Crohn’s Disease reported a reduction in symptoms such as weight loss and diarrhoea. This resulted in an increased quality of life.

Mental Health Benefits

People with bowel diseases such as Crohn’s are 20-30% more likely to experience mental health issues such as depression than those who do not. Mental health issues like depression or anxiety can worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, however, there is evidence to suggest that Acupuncture may be effective against mental health issues, or at least more effective than using traditional medication alone.

Crohn's Disease Acupuncture Points

Acupuncture points for Crohn’s Disease will vary from person to person depending on their specific ailments. However, the below points are a good starting point; prescriptions can be amended from here to suit individual patients.

  • ST25 – Tianshu – located 2 cun lateral to the AML level with CV8, and beneficial for intestinal issues.
  • ST37 – Shangjuxu – located 6 cun below ST35, and beneficial for disorders of the intestines and digestive system.
  • UB25 – Da Chang Shu – located 1.5 cun lateral to GV3 level with L4, and beneficial for all intestine related issues.
  • L4 Huatuo – Huatuojiaji – located .5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous processes of L4, and beneficial for Crohn’s Disease among other symptoms/disorders.
  • L5 Huatuo – Huatuojiaji – located .5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous processes of L5, and beneficial for various bowel issues.
  • T12 Huatuo – Huatuojiaji – located .5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous processes of T12, and beneficial for various colon issues.

Risks of Acupuncture for Crohn’s Disease

There are no known risks associated with Acupuncture for Crohn’s Disease specifically. However, there are some rare side effects and contraindications to be aware of before proceeding.

Side effects are typically rare and mild in nature. They include pain, bruising or bleeding at the needle site and feeling faint or dizzy after treatment. They are generally not cause for concern and are usually self-correcting.

Contraindications for Acupuncture are more serious. Both patients and practitioners should be aware of the following conditions before going ahead with treatment. This is not to say that people with such conditions cannot have Acupuncture, but they must consult their GP before proceeding.

Contraindications include:

  • Use of particular Acupuncture points on pregnant women
  • Use of Acupuncture on clients with uncontrollable movements
  • Use of Acupuncture on clients with spinal instability
  • The needling of scars, keloid, recent wounds, or skin with sensory deficit
  • Use of acupuncture on clients with blood disorders, or those on anticoagulant medication
  • Use of Acupuncture on clients with a pacemaker 
  • Clients that have had an acute stroke
  • Clients with cancer
  • Clients with skin conditions
  • Clients with diabetes
  • Clients with epilepsy
  • Clients with imuno-suppression
  • Clients with an unclear medical diagnosis
  • Clients with an abnormal physical structure

Learn more about the risks and contraindications associated with Acupuncture in our dedicated blog, Is Acupuncture Safe?

Final Thoughts

Evidence suggests that Acupuncture is effective in reducing the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, particularly when used in conjunction with other treatments. It is thought to reduce the pain and discomfort associated with the disease as well as reduce inflammation. Evidence suggests Acupuncture may also improve the intestinal microbiota and aid mental health issues such as depression and anxiety - both of which are common in those with Crohn’s Disease .

If you’re a healthcare professional interested in offering Acupuncture for individuals suffering with Crohn’s Disease, take a look at our Acupuncture courses online today. 

Our foundation-level Acupuncture courses are available throughout the UK, giving you all the knowledge you need to safely and effectively practise Acupuncture. There are also a number of more advanced CPD Acupuncture courses available to take your skills to the next level.

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