I hear it often from my patients: ‘sometimes I pee a little when I laugh,’ ‘I wouldn’t dare try to do jumping jacks or it would be a mess,’ and ‘I just know that I have to use the bathroom before I leave to go anywhere or I might pee my pants.’ Overactive bladder, leakage and incontinence aren’t anything new, but in my practice I’ve gotten the impression that patients think that having these conditions is just a part of getting older, from giving birth or prostate enlargement and it’s something you just have to live with. Treatments for overactive bladder (OAB) leave a lot to be desired, patients don’t want to undergo invasive surgery, but medications have high rates of undesirable side effects which leaves most patients thinking there isn’t a viable treatment option and that urinary leakage is just something they’ll tolerate. While kegel exercises may provide some relief and help for many patients, not everyone notices a difference with doing them, pressing the point home again that OAB is just something we live with, untreated.
Overactive bladder (OAB) is a condition that affects adults and children worldwide and can be caused by numerous underlying factors or traumas like childbirth, prostate enlargement, poor pelvic floor muscle control, bladder prolapse and more. It goes without saying that this condition can create a significant psychological burden on patients and symptoms range from urinary urgency to incontinence, while this condition can be incredibly bothersome, surgery often seems a drastic approach and medications may have limited effect and side effects (de Wall, L. L., & Heesakkers, J. P. (2017.) So what’s the good news? Acupuncture is actually an incredibly effective treatment for OAB, working better than most medications with fewer side effects, it is so effective in fact, that medical doctors use acupuncture and electrostimulation in order to address the tibial nerve and improve its functionality which addresses the innervation of the bladder and helps with OAB, they call it Percutaneous Tibial Nerve Stimulation (PTNS). Studies on PTNS have shown improvement in bladder symptoms of over 50% improvement and up to 80% improvement in quality of life studies, this therapy is also minimally invasive and does not pose traditional risks or side effects associated with medications and surgeries (de Wall, L. L., & Heesakkers, J. P., 2017).
In my acupuncture practice in San Rafael, California I provide patients PTNS treatments with acupuncture for with overactive bladder it is a simple adjusted acupuncture treatment to address the innervation of the bladder and improve the regulation of information from the brain to the bladder called Percutaneous Tibial Nerve Stimulation and Sacral Nerve Stimulation. While for some patients, the cause of OAB lies in the musculature of the pelvic floor, for many it can be an issue with the nerves that bring information from the bladder to the brain and vice versa, and no amount of kegel exercises will provide relief, for most it’s a combination of both! In addition to treating the issues of the bladder directly, as an Acupuncturist my aim is to always get to the root of an issue, and that doesn’t mean just what’s going on in the body as a cause of an issue, it also means the bigger picture in the body - mind - spirit connection. Acupuncture treatments for OAB will consist of a direct treatment to address the symptoms of overactive bladder and leakage, but also addressing the patient as a unique individual and their constitution so that they can embody more strength and health throughout all aspects of their life, not just the symptoms at hand.
Dr. Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc is the Owner and Acupuncturist at Lion's Heart Wellness, the San Francisco Bay Area and Marin's #1 Cosmetic Acupuncturist and #1 Holistic Healer.
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