Wednesday, 22 October 2014 10:17

Acupuncture and bladder incontinence?

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Q: Can acupuncture cure bladder Incontinence where the muscle has been damaged due to radio therapy and the bladder continually leaks?

A: We're not sure how much background information we are missing. The fact that you have had radiotherapy points to surgery of some kind, possibly the bladder or the prostate, and if so the radiotherapy may be the precipitating factor rather than the cause itself.

There isn't a great deal of research which we can point to. Studies like

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21092614

seem to point in a favourable direction, and when we were asked a similar question last year we replied:

Q: In 2010 I had a T.U.R.P on my prostate and after the operation I had stress incontinence for several weeks. I still have slight leakage now and again e.g. when lifting something heavy. I wondered if acupuncture is used to treat this problem.

A: There is no evidence which we can find of the treatment of post-TURP incontinence with acupuncture. Most research into male incontinence is done on subjects who have had spinal injuries, but the evidence from these is not very conclusive. There are some very useful articles on the problem, such as

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2938549/

but none which make a positive recommendation for treatment. If you google the condition you may find a number of individual practitioners who make claims about treatment in this area, mainly from the USA, but you would be well advised to treat such websites with caution.

Having said that, the use of acupuncture treatment to improve the overall function of the system is one of its purposes. In ancient times patients paid the doctor to keep them well, not to get them better after they had become ill, and the underlying theories of Chinese medicine are about maintaining good health as much as trying to resolve symptoms. It is possible that there have been aspects of the condition itself and of the treatment which you have received which have lowered your system as a whole, and a skilled practitioner might find that there are aspects of your balance which, if corrected, may have consequences for your ability to recover successfully foir what can be quite unpleasant surgery.

We are aware, though, that without a proven evidence base for treating this condition any form of treatment aside from the ones outlined in the article above will involve a certain leap of faith, and as such we would recommend that whatever you might try you draw a very sharp line in the sand about the number of sessions you have before determining whether to carry on, and to set measurable outcomes for your progress. 'Feeing a bit better' is difficult to quantify, and can change very quickly, but recording episodes on a chart is hard evidence.

We recommend that you visit a BAcC member local to you for advice on whether they think acupuncture treatment may be of benefit to you based on a brief face to face assessment

We think this remains the best advice we can give without knowing more about the specifics of your case. We have treated people who have had muscle damage after radiotherapy and it can be a long haul, but each case is unique and different. What we can say with certainty is that it won't do any harm, and may help to alleviate some of the stress that is no doubt accompanying what can be a very distressing symptom. We have found that it has been an aid to recovery, but that is very much what we hope to achieve with traditional acupuncture, a speeding up of natural healing after damage. The limiting factor, though, is the extent of the damage; radiotherapy can be a 'blunt object' kind of treatment, and can sometimes cause irreversible damage in pursuit of a more wide-ranging benefit from the problems it is aimed at eradicating.

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