Learning & Resource Center Articles
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine for the Treatment of Bed-Wetting
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM
Bed-wetting, when it occurs in young children, may very well be more of a temporary inconvenience than a medical issue. It often takes until a child is between five and seven years old before they have complete nighttime control over their urinary bladders. As the child ages, the bladder naturally strengthens, resulting in fewer bed-wetting incidences. However, frequent bed-wetting after age 7 may require some medical treatment.
Other names for bed-wetting are nocturnal enuresis and nighttime incontinence. It doesn't just happen to children, but can affect adults, usually as a secondary condition. Certain diseases and illnesses such as bladder cancer, neurological problems, diabetes or urinary tract infections can trigger episodes. Obstructive sleep apnea is a known cause as well, especially for children.
A practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine may likely find an imbalance in the kidneys when examining a child with bed-wetting problems. The kidneys govern water metabolism for the entire body, which includes the urinary system. They have a special relationship with the bladder and can influence its functioning. For example, they control the opening and closing of the urethra, which starts and stops urination. Urinary continence is maintained when the kidneys exert proper control over bladder functions.
There may well be other organ imbalances involved, but since the kidneys rule all functions in the body relating to water, they will probably play a role in the pathology. According to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, the kidneys are related to the element of water, the emotion of fear, and wintertime. These associations provide clues for selecting the proper treatment and lifestyle recommendations for the pediatric bed-wetting patient.
Since winter is typically the chilly season, this indicates the vulnerability of the kidneys to an invasion by cold. Symptoms of excess cold include low energy, weak or painful lower back and knees, frequent and copious amounts of pale urine, the tendency to frighten easily, and nocturnal enuresis.
Interestingly enough, the kidneys lie outside the peritoneal sac, the protective and warming lining that encases many organs. The kidneys are in a less protected position, making them susceptible to cold.
A treatment utilizing moxabustion has the ability to significantly warm the kidneys. During this therapy, the herb mugwort is burned to release smoke and heat, which penetrates deep into the patient's body, where it then nourishes the organs inside. One common form of moxa looks like a big cigar that is lit at one end. The lit end is then held close to the skin and should feel warm and soothing to the patient.
To further support kidney and bladder health, a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine may recommend acupuncture treatments. Children are not seen as mini adults but instead are treated with special guidelines. For instance, the needles used for a pediatric patient are not retained for as long as adults. In some cases, depending on the age of the patient, needles are inserted for just a few seconds, or are used to merely tap and not pierce the skin.
Acupuncture points that support kidney functions are particularly useful. This is because the kidneys are viewed as the powerhouse for the whole body. Simply stated, when the kidneys are functioning well with ample energy, the whole body directly benefits. There are additional ways to protect the kidneys that can be done at home.
When your child is indoors, encourage the use of slippers to avoid walking barefoot on cold floors. After bath time, make sure to thoroughly dry your child's hair. Room temperature drinking water is preferable to heavily iced beverages, especially as evening approaches. Cold beverages stimulate the bladder and encourage the production of large amounts of clear urine.
Be especially kind if you notice your child experiences anxiety or fear at nighttime. For some, being alone in a dark room is a very frightening prospect. Or, perhaps there is some embarrassment or guilt concerning bed-wetting episodes. Be as understanding as possible and consider adding a night light or taking other measures to ensure a good night. Making sure your child is secure and comfortable at bedtime will support the kidney functions.
Do you think your child might need some extra help due to bed-wetting episodes? Find an Acupuncturist to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you!
About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.