Background and aim: Patients with diarrhea-dominant irritable bowel syndrome experience abdominal pain and reduced quality of life and need effective treatments. This study aimed to evaluate whether transcutaneous electrical acustimulation at two acupuncture points, Hegu (LI 4) and Zusanli (ST 36), could improve pain and quality of life of patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
Materials and methods: A total of 42 patients with irritable bowel syndrome who met the Rome IV criteria were randomly divided into two groups: transcutaneous electrical acustimulationand sham-r transcutaneous electrical acustimulation. Transcutaneous electrical acustimulation was performed through acupoints Hegu (LI 4) and Zusanli (ST 36) for one hour twice daily for one month, using previously established parameters; sham-transcutaneous electrical acustimulation was delivered in the same way as transcutaneous electrical acustimulation but without actual electrical current stimulation.
Results: The sham-transcutaneous electrical acustimulation group showed a significantly higher rate of drop-out than the transcutaneous electrical acustimulation group (29% vs 0%, p = 0.021). Transcutaneous electrical acustimulation, but not sham-transcutaneous electrical acustimulation, significantly improved quality of life (before: 78.55 ± 9.62, after: 85.97 ± 9.49, p < 0.0001).
Both transcutaneous electrical acustimulation and sham-transcutaneous electrical acustimulation reduced abdominal pain; however, transcutaneous electrical acustimulation was more potent than sham-transcutaneous electrical acustimulation (p = 0.014). The irritable bowel syndrome symptom severity scale score was reduced by both transcutaneous electrical acustimulation and sham-transcutaneous electrical acustimulation. Autonomic functions assessed by plasma norepinephrine and pancreatic polypeptide were not altered with transcutaneous electrical acustimulation, nor was interleukin 10 or interleukin 6.
Conclusions: Transcutaneous electrical acustimulationat (Hegu LI 4) and Zusanli (ST 36) improves abdominal pain and quality of life of patients with irritable bowel syndrome, probably mediated by mechanisms other than autonomic function or inflammatory cytokines.