Acute abdominal pain is often a warning of serious illness which requires prompt surgical intervention. Appendicitis, cholecystitis, regional ileitis, mesenteric thrombosis, pancreatitis, perforated peptic ulcer and various other life-threatening conditions produce severe abdominal pain which should not be relieved by analgesics or acupuncture until diagnosis has been made. Chronic abdominal pain which has been adequately diagnosed can be relieved by acupuncture while other appropriate treatment of the condition causing the pain is being given. Even the severe pain of terminal cancer can usually be relieved by acupuncture, but acupuncture should not be used as a substitute for other treatment of cancer.
Pain from ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis or peptic ulcer or adhesions can often be relieved by acupuncture if the patient is observed carefully for symptoms of perforation, hemorrhage or intestinal obstruction requiring surgical intervention. Acupuncture seems to promote homeostasis and a feeling of well-being which is generally beneficial to all conditions with a psychosomatic component.
Undiagnosed chronic abdominal pain should not be treated by acupuncture unless all appropriate diagnostic procedures have been performed with negative results and psychogenic etiology seems most likely. In such cases, acupuncture is advisable along with careful observation of the patient to rule out symptoms of serious complications.
Six to ten acupuncture treatments given on a daily, or at least a weekly, basis should be sufficient to give lasting relief from non-specific abdominal pain. Treatment of ulcerative colitis usually takes longer and should be accompanied by a diet free from alcohol, drugs, spicy foods and suspected allergens. Patients with colitis often suffer from malnutrition and generally benefit from a high protein diet supplemented by vitamins.