How Does Acupuncture Work for Bladder Dysfunction? Find Out HERE!

How Does Acupuncture Work for Bladder Dysfunction? Find Out HERE!

How Does Acupuncture Work for Bladder Dysfunction? Find Out HERE! final

            As many as 25 – 33 million Americans, according to the Urology Care Foundation, have urinary incontinence including overactive bladder. Bladder dysfunction can affect anyone at any age, and acupuncture can help if you have patients who are dealing with this issue. While it may cause patients some embarrassment or frustration, in this case they cannot control it, but it is something that can be helped by acupuncture treatment. There have been many research studies in recent years in support of acupuncture for bladder dysfunction by targeting specific points in these areas.

Bladder Dysfunction

            The health condition of bladder dysfunction is a health condition that causes loss of bladder control. This can range from small leaking urine accidents from coughing or sneezing to an needing an emergency trip to the bathroom and not making it in time. In a healthy patient without these issues, the bladder and the muscles within the urethra are able to hold the urine back so as not to cause leakage. Although bladder dysfunction is not a disease itself but a side effect from a symptom of a condition or from and underlying medical condition. In standard medicine, bladder dysfunction is viewed as simply a symptom as opposed to a disease with multiple causes.

Types of Incontinence Depending on the Cause:

  • Overflow Incontinence – the body creates more urine than the bladder can store
  • Stress Incontinence – the body experiences stress or pressure leading to unexpected muscle constricting in the bladder. Examples of this pressure would be heavy lifting, sneezing, coughing, pregnancy, or exercise.
  • Urge Incontinence – this is due to hyperactivity in the bladder muscles which causes the patient to feel the need to urinate even if the bladder isn’t full. This type of incontinence is often seen in men with prostate issues or women in menopause, and also in those with specific underlying conditions like Parkinson’s, stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Mixed Incontinence – a combined issue of both urge and stress related incontinence.

Additionally, in standard medicine, the treatment will be dependent on the underlying cause, and each treatment may come with specific side effects.

Conventional Medicine Treatment and/or Side Effects for Bladder Dysfunction:

  • Medications – these are sometimes prescribed to decrease symptoms of urinary incontinence such as alpha blockers, topical estrogen, and anticholinergics.

  • Behavioral therapies – this can include Kegel exercises (pelvic muscle exercises), biofeedback, and bladder training.

  • Medical tools – devices such as urethral inserts or pessaries can be utilized to support the urethra or bladder.

  • Surgery – in more rare cases, surgery may be needed to address the issue. Types of surgery can be sling procedures, artificial urinary sphincter, and bladder neck suspension.

Just like with so many conditions, these western medicine treatments can be effective for some, but the efficiency may vary and potentially come with harmful side effects. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment has been shown to be effective on bladder dysfunction without the side effects or need for surgery.

Acupuncture for Bladder Dysfunction

            Acupuncture works to help with bladder dysfunction symptoms like urinary frequency and incontinence as well as potentially elevate bladder capacity. Acupuncture treatment, particularly to the sacrum, improved the symptoms of nocturnal enuresis as well as decreasing reflex bladder activity. In TCM, issues of bladder dysfunction more often are deficiencies in the Kidneys, Liver, or Spleen as they each play an important role in the bladder as well as the muscles surrounding it.

Acupuncture Points for Bladder Dysfunction:

  • SP6 (overactive bladder)

  • KI3 (overactive bladder)

  • CV4 (overactive bladder)

  • Ren3 (urinary incontinence)

  • BL64 (urinary incontinence)

  • Ren4 (tonify Kidney)

  • Ren6 (tonify Kidney)

  • BL23 (tonify Kidney)

  • DU4 (tonify Kidney)

  • SP3 (Spleen)

  • SP9 (Spleen)

  • LV5 (Liver disharmony)

  • LV3 (Liver disharmony)

  • LV2 (Liver disharmony)

All of these points will also allow Qi to move and open the channels within the pelvic floor muscles. The nerve stimulation from acupuncture decreases the muscle activity in the bladder, and needling specific acupuncture points strengthens both the sphincter muscles and the bladder allowing for better control within the urethra. Additionally, acupuncture helps the underlying condition causing the bladder dysfunction making it that much more effective as a treatment.

Herbal Formulas for Bladder Dysfunction:

  • Liu Wei Di Huang Tang (Kidney Deficiency)

  • Ba Wei Di Huang Tang (Kidney Deficiency)

  • Wu Ling San (Spleen Imbalance)

  • Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Spleen Imbalance)

In addition to acupuncture and herbal medicine, dietary changes and lifestyle modifications should also be recommended. Patients with bladder dysfunction should decrease the intake of greasy or spicy foods, and avoid caffeine or alcohol which can irritate the bladder. As for lifestyle modifications, this can include Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles as well as meditation, and deep breathing to reduce stress.

According to BMJ, studies have shown that acupuncture treatment is an effective and safe modality for treating multiple urinary conditions including frequent urination or overactive bladder, incontinence, bladder pain, UTIs, and cystitis. A recent study in 2023, Effects of Acupuncture and Pelvic Floor Muscle Training on Bladder Dysfunction, stated that acupuncture along with pelvic floor exercise “are effective intervention and treatment methods which have obvious effects on rehabilitation treatment of bladder dysfunction after spinal nerve injury.” While there is more research that needs to be done, the amount of positive results from acupuncture for bladder dysfunction both in research and in our own patient experiences, it is evident that acupuncture is a great option for our patients experiencing bladder dysfunction.