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Gallstone Disease: Acupuncture Treatment



Acupuncture has gained considerable success in both the treatment and prevention of gallstone disease. It can effectively alleviate biliary colic and facilitate the expulsion of gallstones, as well as prevent the formation of new stones.


Acupuncture points are identified by locating tender spots in the liver and gallbladder reflex area in the right upper abdomen, primarily distributed along a line from Riyue, Qimen, or Jiuwei to Fuai. Needling is typically oblique, aiming beneath the external oblique muscle. For intense pain, additional points on the lower limbs like Yanglingquan or Gallbladder point, or on the right side of the back like Dan Shu and Tianzong, can be used, with local tenderness as the criterion for point selection.


During an acute biliary colic episode, acupuncture treatment should be administered at least once daily, continuing until the pain subsides or the stones are expelled. When stone expulsion is not effectively achieved, the treatment can be complemented with a fatty meal and medications like magnesium sulfate to facilitate stone passage. For preventive treatment, acupuncture stimulation can be applied once a week or once a month.


The mechanism behind acupuncture's ability to expel stones or prevent gallstone formation is increasingly understood. Acupuncture at points like Jiuwei, Burong (right), Yanglingquan (right), and Zusanli (right) significantly influences the relaxation of the Oddi's sphincter and promotes contraction of the common bile duct. This effect is strong during needle manipulation, diminishes during needle retention, and subsides after needle removal. Additionally, needling these points stimulates bile secretion and provides analgesic effects, thereby aiding in stone expulsion. Enhancing acupuncture stimulation, such as through multiple or prolonged needle manipulations, may further improve efficacy.


Acupuncture offers a non-surgical, complementary approach for managing gallstone disease, focusing on relieving symptoms and potentially reducing the recurrence of gallstones.

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