photo credit: Practical Cures on flickr CC
Constipation is extremely common post-surgery, especially in combination with constipating pain killers, less physical activity, and irregular fluid and food intake. Often a bowel movement is required before a hospital will let a patient go home, so encouraging this process is especially beneficial to get you home sooner.
Acupuncture is extremely useful for alleviating postoperative constipation. Studies have shown that patients receiving regular acupuncture post-surgery actually perform better (have more frequent, easier, less painful, more complete bowel movements) than those taking laxatives or stool softeners.
Points on your arms, legs, and abdomen are most frequently chosen for this purpose, especially points on either side of your navel and points on the stomach and large intestine ‘meridians’ (lines along the body in Chinese Medicine, sort of like dermatomes).
Several of these points can also be used at home as acupressure points for constipation. Press each point lightly (no more than an inch deep for abdominal points, about the pressure of holding hands for arm and leg points) for about 30 seconds at a time:
Belly massage is also helpful. You can find a Chi-Nei-Tsang practitioner near you, or watch this video demo to perform a similar belly massage yourself. You can also refer to the illustrated steps available here. There are many methods of breathing exercises for constipation as well that massage your belly from the inside!
Acupuncture can be complemented with some herbs that stimulate bowel motility like:
- Da Huang (Rhizoma rhei)
- Huang Lian (Rhizoma coptidis)
- Gui Zhi Jia Shao Yao Tang (Cinnamon Twig Decoction plus Peony)
- Slippery elm
Hydration is key. Drink plenty of water and incorporate more warm foods and beverages to wake up your digestive system gently. Try ginger tea, hot water with lemon, and bone broth. If you urinate more frequently than every 2 hours you may be drinking too much or too fast. If you urinate less frequently than every 5 hours you are dehydrated!
Eat warm, easy-to-digest foods like rice porridge, oatmeal, and mashed sweet potato or yams. When you’re ready, try lamb or vegetable and mushroom soup. Give your family and friends recipes to make for you during your recovery, such as: Magical Mineral Broth, Congee, and Almond flour ginger cookies.
All advice on this site and blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or schedule an acupuncture appointment with Katrina to get your own personalized herbal formula and acupuncture treatment. Questions? Check out the FAQ or resources pages or contact.
|Acupuncture at ST25 and BL25||Acupuncture at LI11 and ST37||Acupuncture at ST25, BL25, LI11 and ST37||Medicine:oral use of mosapride citrate: 4-week oral use, 5mg, three times daily 0.5 hour before meal||Total|
[units: times per week]
Mean (Standard Deviation)
|2.7 (1.9)||2.5 (1.7)||2.9 (2.0)||2.9 (2.8)||2.8 (2.1)|
|Bristol scale 
[units: units on a scale]
Mean (Standard Deviation)
|2.8 (1.3)||2.9 (1.4)||3.0 (1.5)||2.7 (1.4)||2.9 (1.8)|
|Degree of straining during defecation