Judy Bowen-Jones

Cystitis and Urinary Problems

About Cystitis

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder, typically caused by bacterial infection of the lower urinary tract. Typical symptoms include: an urgent and frequent need to urinate, pain or stinging when you urinate and pain in the bladder. Bladder infections can be caused by: bacteria being transferred from the anus to the urethra, for example, during sex, not emptying your bladder properly, or damage or irritation around the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body). It is recommended that you drink plenty of water and see your GP if your symptoms persist or are very severe.

Cystitis which occurs in the absence of an infection is called interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome.

About Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the unintentional passing of urine. The most common types of urinary incontinence are:

  • stress incontinence, when urine leaks out at times when your bladder is under pressure, for example when you cough or laugh
  • urge incontinence, when urine leaks as you feel a sudden, intense urge to pass urine, or soon afterwards

Stress incontinence is usually the result of the weakening or damaging of the muscles used to prevent urination, such as the pelvic floor muscles and the urethral sphincter.

Urge incontinence is usually the result of over-activity of the muscles which control the bladder.

Urinary incontinence is more likely to develop where there is a family history of incontinence, after vaginal birth, and with obesity and increasing age.

Acupuncture for Cystitis and Urinary Problems

Research about the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of cystitis is limited, but studies In Norway have indicated that acupuncture may help cystitis by reducing inflammation, pain and swelling and enhancing neurological function.

A survey of 52 patients with interstitial cystitis (Holford & Tucker, 2010) reported that “acupuncture was perceived to be very effective in treating IC, reducing symptoms of pain, frequency, urgency, and nocturia by around half.”

Acupuncture trials for a range of types of urinary incontinence have shown positive outcomes.

A World Health Organization Review of Controlled Clinical Acupuncture Trials (2003) lists: recurrent lower urinary tract infection, traumatic retention of urine and urolithiasis (Bladder Stones) among conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed.

Treating Urinary Problems

“Suffering from recurrent cystitis or chronic urinary problems can be really stressful. In addition to helping with your symptoms, acupuncture helps reduce stress and anxiety. For younger ladies with recurrent cystitis, practicing good hygiene after sex may help…..and for more mature ladies with urinary frequency or stress incontinence, regular pelvic floor exercises can make a big difference.”

Holford, E and Tucker T. (2010) An Investigation into the Treatment of Interstitial Cystitis with Acupuncture. Journal of Chinese Medicine, 99, 26-32.

World Health Organization. Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials (2003), 87pp. Full report http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/pdf/s4926e/s4926e.pdf

Research Fact Sheets

For more information see the British Acupuncture Council Research Fact Sheet below.