Treating Urinary Incontinence with Acupuncture and TCM
Regain Control Of Your Bladder
Urinary incontinence refers to the involuntary loss of urine, which can range from occasional minor leaks to complete loss of bladder control. It is a common condition that can affect people of all ages, but is more common in women and older adults. Urinary incontinence can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, affecting their social, emotional, and physical well-being. It can also lead to social isolation and decreased participation in activities, as well as an increased risk of falls and urinary tract infections.
Conventional medicine understands urinary incontinence as a symptom rather than a disease, and it can have various underlying causes. Some of the most common causes include:
- Weak pelvic floor muscles: These muscles support the bladder, uterus, and bowel. Weakness in these muscles can lead to urine leakage.
- Overactive bladder: This is a condition where the bladder contracts too often, causing an urgent need to urinate and sometimes resulting in urine leakage.
- Urinary tract infections: These infections can cause temporary incontinence due to irritation of the bladder.
- Neurological disorders: Conditions that affect the nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, can lead to incontinence.
- Medications: Certain medications, such as diuretics, sedatives, and muscle relaxants, can cause urinary incontinence as a side effect.
- Prostate problems: In men, an enlarged prostate gland or prostate surgery can cause urinary incontinence.
- Menopause: The decrease in estrogen levels during menopause can lead to weakened pelvic muscles and cause urinary incontinence in women.
To determine the underlying cause of urinary incontinence, conventional medicine often uses various tests and examinations such as urinalysis, bladder diary, pelvic ultrasound, urodynamic testing, or cystoscopy.
Conventional Treatment and Side-effects
The conventional treatment for urinary incontinence may depend on the underlying cause of the condition. Here are some common treatment options:
- Behavioral therapies: These may include bladder training, pelvic muscle exercises (also known as Kegel exercises), and biofeedback.
- Medications: Some medications may be prescribed to help reduce symptoms of urinary incontinence. Examples include anticholinergics, alpha blockers, and topical estrogen.
- Medical devices: Devices such as pessaries or urethral inserts may be recommended to help support the bladder or urethra.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat urinary incontinence. Examples of surgical procedures include bladder neck suspension, sling procedures, and artificial urinary sphincter.
Those treatments can be effective for some individuals, but their effectiveness may vary depending on the underlying cause and individual factors.
Behavioral therapies, such as bladder training and pelvic floor muscle exercises, have been shown to be effective in treating stress urinary incontinence and urge incontinence. Medications, such as anticholinergics and alpha-adrenergic agonists, can also be effective in reducing symptoms of urge incontinence. For some individuals, surgery may be necessary to treat urinary incontinence.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), urinary incontinence may be attributed to a sinking of Qi, and Qi is the vital energy that flows through the body’s meridians, or energy pathways. Qi is responsible for maintaining the body’s overall health and well-being. When Qi sinks, it means that it is not flowing properly through the body’s meridians and is accumulating in the lower part of the body, particularly the lower abdomen and pelvis. This can cause a variety of symptoms, including urinary incontinence.
Sinking Qi can be caused by a variety of factors, including aging, pregnancy and childbirth, trauma, chronic illness, and emotional stress. In TCM, urinary incontinence caused by sinking qi is often seen as a result of weakened or imbalanced organ function, particularly in the kidneys, spleen, and lungs.
TCM treatment for urinary incontinence aims to restore balance to the body’s energy and strengthen the kidneys and bladder. This may involve a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary and lifestyle changes, and other TCM therapies.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a key component of TCM and involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to regulate the flow of energy or “qi” and promote healing. In the case of urinary incontinence, acupuncture can be used to stimulate the bladder and promote healthy urinary function. Acupuncture may also help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can contribute to urinary incontinence.
Herbal Medicine: TCM practitioners may recommend specific herbal formulas to help address the underlying imbalances in the body that contribute to urinary incontinence. These formulas are typically made up of several herbs that work together to achieve a specific therapeutic effect. TCM herbal formulas can help to strengthen the bladder and urinary system and promote healthy urinary function.
Dietary Changes: TCM emphasizes the importance of diet in maintaining overall health and well-being. In the case of urinary incontinence, TCM practitioners may recommend dietary changes to support healthy urinary function. This may include reducing the intake of spicy or greasy foods, increasing the intake of foods that promote urinary health, and avoiding foods and drinks that irritate the bladder, such as caffeine and alcohol.
Lifestyle Modifications: TCM also emphasizes the importance of lifestyle modifications in managing urinary incontinence. This may include exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles, such as Kegel exercises, as well as stress-reducing techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises.
Research on TCM Treatment
There have been several studies on the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in treating urinary incontinence, with some showing promising outcomes. Here are a few examples:
- A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2016 compared the effectiveness of TCM versus conventional pelvic floor muscle training in women with stress urinary incontinence. The study found that both treatments were effective, but TCM had a significantly higher cure rate (75%) than pelvic floor muscle training (45%) (1).
- Another randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2014 compared the effectiveness of electroacupuncture versus pelvic floor muscle training in women with stress urinary incontinence. The study found that both treatments were effective, but electroacupuncture had a significantly higher cure rate (82.8%) than pelvic floor muscle training (57.1%) (2).
- A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2015 looked at the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating urinary incontinence in women. The review included 16 randomized controlled trials and found that acupuncture was more effective than sham acupuncture or no treatment for both stress and urge urinary incontinence (3).
@ Huatuo Clinic
Huatuo Clinic is dedicated to providing high-quality Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) care for a wide range of health conditions, including urinary incontinence. Our team of experienced and highly trained TCM doctors and acupuncturists have a deep understanding of the root causes of urinary incontinence and are committed to providing personalized care to each of our patients.
At Huatuo Clinic, we take a holistic approach to treating urinary incontinence. Our practitioners use a variety of TCM techniques, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, and dietary and lifestyle modifications, to address the underlying imbalances in the body that contribute to urinary incontinence.
We understand that urinary incontinence can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. Our practitioners work closely with each patient to develop a customized treatment plan tailored to their unique needs, with the goal of improving their overall health and wellbeing.
If you or a loved one are struggling with urinary incontinence, we encourage you to contact us for a consultation with one of our experienced TCM doctors. Our team is committed to providing compassionate, personalized care that addresses the root cause of your symptoms and empowers you to take control of your health.
- Ma YX, Ma L, Li ZH, et al. Clinical observation of traditional Chinese medicine for treating stress urinary incontinence in women. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 2016;36(6):777-782.
- Zhou K, Ma Y, Brogan M, et al. A randomized controlled trial of electroacupuncture versus pelvic floor muscle training for moderate and severe stress urinary incontinence. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 2014;34(6):732-739.
- Liu Z, Liu Y, Xu H, He L, Chen Y, Fu L. Acupuncture for urinary incontinence in women: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015;2015:1239-1250.