Incontinence and urinary tract disorders commonly arise as one gets older, especially for women over 50. One reason the risk for incontinence increases as we age, is because the bladder lining starts losing elasticity which, in turn, reduces its ability to store urine. This can result in frequent and urgent bouts of urination. If this occurs at night it is called nocturia.
In some cases, coughing, sneezing or pressure on the abdomen may cause an involuntary voiding of urine, known as leakage. Those suffering from incontinence also endure a greater risk for repeated urinary tract infections (UTI).
A UTI occurs when bacteria enters the urinary system through the kidneys, urethra, ureters and/or the bladder. Although signs and symptoms vary according to the location of the bacteria, some common signs include the urgent, persistent urge to urinate, burning on urination, and cloudy urine. These conditions not only signal a malfunction of the urinary tract system, but may lead to social isolation and/or loss of self esteem.
Fortunately, acupuncture and Oriental medicine can address bladder health and reduce the symptoms of incontinence. The July 2005 edition of Obstetrics and Gynecology detailed a study called “Acupuncture for overactive bladder: a randomized controlled trial.” The study aimed to compare acupuncture treatments versus placebo acupuncture for an overactive bladder. Out of the 85 women initially enrolled, 74 completed the four weekly sessions. The researchers concluded that women who received four weekly bladder-specific acupuncture treatments had significant improvements in bladder capacity, urinary urgency and frequency, and quality of life as compared with women who received the placebo acupuncture treatments.
This study made use of the following acupuncture points:
- Spleen 6 -- This is an important, versatile point which is excellent for treating any urogenital problems. It benefits urination, resolves dampness, strengthens the kidneys, stomach and spleen, and calms the shen (the mind). In AOM, the kidneys govern the systems related to water in our bodies, in this case, the urinary tract system.
- Urinary Bladder 39 -- This point is especially beneficial to the bladder as it `opens the waterways` in the Lower Burner, the area of the body where the bladder sits. Dampness in the Lower Burner causes cloudy urine and urgent urination.
- Urinary Bladder 28 -- This is the back-shu point of the bladder or group of points which powerfully treat their related organ, especially useful in chronic conditions. UB 28 resolves dampness, clears heat and stops pain. If a patient feels a painful, burning sensation with a persistent desire to urinate, but is unable to completely empty the bladder, then the diagnosis is Damp Heat in the Bladder.
- Ren 4 -- Among the many functions of this point worth noting, is its ability to tonify the kidneys, strongly calm the mind and tonify the ming men fire. The ming men fire resides between the kidneys and provides a powerful energy the body utilizes to treat a variety of conditions and diseases. If a patient urinates frequently with large volume voidings of clear urine this may indicate a decline in the ming men fire or a deficiency of the kidneys.
To maintain bladder health, increase water consumption and avoid irritants such as coffee, orange juice and most soft drinks, which can stimulate the bladder. Kegel, or pelvic floor exercises, can tonify the muscles used in urination.
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If you or someone you know struggles with bladder health and incontinence contact a practitioner near you today!
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.