Research: SCHNEIDER and others,

Listed in Issue 133


SCHNEIDER and others, Department of General Practice and Health Services Research, University Medical Hospital, University of Heidelberg, Vossstrasse 2, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany, have conducted a trial of acupuncture for IBS.


The aim of this study was to assess whether acupuncture is beneficial for those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.


43 patients with IBS were randomly assigned to receive either acupuncture (n = 22) or sham acupuncture (n = 21) using the so-called “Streitberger needle”. Treatment duration was 10 sessions with an average of two acupuncture sessions per week. The primary outcome measure was improvement in quality of life using the functional digestive diseases quality of life questionnaire (FDDQL) and the SF-36. Measurements were repeated three months after treatment.


Both the acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups improved significantly in global quality of life as assessed by the FDDQL, at the end of treatment (p = 0.022), with no differences between the groups. SF-36 was insensitive to these changes (except for pain). This effect was partially reversed three months later. Post hoc comparison of responders and non-responders in both groups combined revealed a significant prediction of the placebo response by the sleep and coping subscales of the FDDQL (F = 6.746, p = 0.003) in a stepwise regression model.


Acupuncture in IBS is primarily a placebo response. The placebo response can be predicted by high coping capacity and low sleep quality in individual patients.


Schneider A, Enck P, Streitberger K, Weiland C, Bagheri S, Witte S, Friederich HC, Herzog W, Zipfel S. Acupuncture treatment in irritable bowel syndrome. Gut 55 (5): 649-654, May 2006.   


Do readers agree with the author’s conclusions that acupuncture for IBS is in reality a placebo response?

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