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Thursday, 16 April 2015 00:00

Can acupuncture help with an irritable bladder?

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Q: I have seen a urologist who says i have an  irritable bladder.   Can acupuncture help with symptoms of frequency?

A: We have been asked this question a few times over the past two years, and one of the answers we gave to a similar question was:

Can acupuncture alleviate symptoms of an irritable bladder?

Q:  I have been diagnosed with an irritable bladder. Can acupuncture alleviate my symptoms, which is an urgent need to urinate.

 A: As our factsheet shows 

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/urinary-incontinence.html

there is some evidence to suggest that urgency of urination can be helped by acupuncture, although there is not yet anywhere near enough evidence to make substantive claims here. If you search the internet there are a number of studies such as this one

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15994629

which offer some hope.

However, we have to remind ourselves sometimes that Chinese medicine has been dealing with problems like this for over 2000 years, and has a very sophisticated process for understanding patients' symptoms against a backdrop of an entirely different conceptual framework. The understanding of the body as a system of energy, 'qi', in flow and the concepts of yin and yang to describe its flow and inter-relationships is very alien to the western ear. However, the rather wider understanding of organs as functional units with effects on body mind and spirit, and the underlying premise that symptoms are alarm bells, not the problem itself, can sometimes offer possibilities for understanding a problem in a far wider context. This will often be corroborated by other problems which a patient suffers and by diagnostic signs which the practitioner sees, and can often lead to a situation where a practitioner can tell the patient about symptoms that they haven't yet mentioned. If the problem is a part of a recognised syndrome or pattern of symptoms a practitioner will be able to give a clear idea of prognosis. Even if it doesn't the attempt to re-establish balance in the system can also have an effect on individual symptoms.

We recommend that you talk to a BAcC member local to you an ask for their advice in a brief face to face consultation whether they think that they can help you. We trust that they will give you an honest assessment, and refer you on to other modalities of treatment if they felt that these offered a better prospect of success.

We have had another look at the research evidence which has emerged since we wrote this response, and there are two more papers which make encouraging noises

 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25399241

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25033919

and evidence of a systematic review about to take place. This is a survey of all papers on the subject which is regarded very highly within conventional medicine since it irons out anomalies in smaller samples.

One of our members has studied this problem for several years and given presentations at our research gatherings and conferences, so we are confident that there is something of importance emerging in the use of traditional acupuncture in this field. However, each individual person is different, however similar their symptoms may be, and the strength of Chinese medicine is that treatment is tailored to the unique needs of the patient, not simply offered as a one size fits all option. Visiting a BAcC member local to you would seem to us to be your best option. Here you will get advice for your own unique presentation.  

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