Efficacy of electroacupuncture compared with transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation for functional constipation: Study protocol for a randomized, controlled trial

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To treat functional constipation, both electroacupuncture (EA) therapy and transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) are safe and effective. However, no head-to-head comparison trial has been conducted. This trial compares the efficacy of electroacupuncture relative to transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation for functional constipation.


Individuals with functional constipation will be randomly allocated to receive either EA or TENS (n = 51, each), 3 times per week for 8 weeks. The primary outcome is the percentage of participants with an average increase from baseline of 1 or more complete spontaneous bowel movements at week 8. The secondary outcome measures are the following: at the time of visits, changes in the number of complete spontaneous bowel movements, number of spontaneous bowel movements, stool character, difficulty in defecation, patients’ assessment of quality of life regarding constipation (self-report questionnaire), and use of auxiliary defecation methods.


The results of this trial should verify whether EA is more efficacious than TENS for relieving symptoms of functional constipation. The major limitation of the study is the lack of blinding of the participants and acupuncturist.

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