Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition affecting between 10-15% of the population (Grundmann & Yoon, 2010) with multifaceted possible causes in both western medicine (WM) and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It is not considered life threatening yet, as it is chronic and episodic, it impacts on health-related quality of life (Holloway, 2010; Ruepert et al., 2011).
IBS is characterised by abdominal pain, bloating and altered bowel dysfunction resulting in diarrhoea or constipation (Snyder, 2012) and in significant impairments of functional status, higher levels of disability and increased frequency of physician visits (Zijdenbos, de Wit Niek, van der Heijden Geert, Rubin, & Quartero, 2011).
Acupuncture was considered significantly more competent than pharmacological therapy and no specific treatment (Manheimer et al., 2012). Herbal medicine treatment of IBS is looking promising for the treatment of IBS yet it is too premature to make recommendations (Liu, M, Liu, ML, & Grimsgaard, 2011).
A recent trial involving 233 participants with IBS looked at the use of 10 weekly individualised acupuncture sessions plus usual care or usual care alone (Macpherson et al., 2012). Usual care referred to treatment with their medical doctor and the use of prescription medication and outcome data was collected for up to 12 months. There was a statistically significant difference between the groups IBS symptom severity score (IBS-SSS) favouring acupuncture and usual care which suggests that acupuncture could be considered as a treatment option alongside primary care (Macpherson et al., 2012).
In a systematic review of 75 trials investigating herbal medicine including TCM, Tibetan, and Ayurvedic medicine, they are assessed as being ‘promising for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome’ (Liu et al., 2011).