Bed-wetting and Chinese Medicine

By Christina Morris, L.Ac.

Enuresis (“en-yer-ee-sis”) is the medical term for bed-wetting. This term applies to children who wet the bed at night when they are sleeping. By the age of 5, most children stop urinating in their sleep, however it is estimated that 1 in every 5 children that are 5 years old, wet their beds. This condition affects more boys than girls.

Bed-wetting is a common occurrence in children. As the child develops better bladder control, usually the child will stop wetting the bed. Children typically out grow this, but some children continue to have this problem until puberty. It is estimated that 90% of bed-wetters do not have a physical problem. If you feel that your child has a physical abnormality that is creating the problem, schedule an appointment to see your family doctor. Bed-wetting can be very frustrating for parents and embarrassing for the child.

Traditional Chinese medicine has treated this condition for thousands of years with acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion, and herbs. These forms of treatment are safe and can be very effective. For many children, acupressure can be used instead of acupuncture. Acupressure is finger pressure applied to precise acupoints. Moxabustion can also be used in the treatment of enuresis; moxabustion is the burning of an herb called mugwort above specific acupuncture points. The only sensation felt from the moxabustion is warmth. A child’s energy is more superficial than an adult’s, so gentle stimulation to the acupuncture points through shallow needling, acupressure, or moxabustion can restore the vital energy needed to tonify the weakened energy system. Traditional Chinese herbs are also very beneficial in the treatment of bed wetting.

In Chinese medicine, it is believed that enuresis stems from a deficient or an excess condition weakening the child’s energetic system. Chinese theory believes that a child may be born with an inherent kidney deficiency, causing the child to have weaker bladder control or later development of bladder control. Other theories indicate that a frightening incident can weaken a child’s kidney energy. In traditional Chinese medicine the kidneys and the bladder are closely related. The kidneys are thought to regulate the strength of the bladder.

Don’t punish or embarrass your child for wetting the bed, talk to your child and try to be understanding. Studies indicate that bedwetting may be genetic. It is estimated that if both parents were bed-wetters then their child has a 7 out of 10 chance of also being a bed-wetter. If one parent wet the bed then there is a 4 out of 10 chance that the child may wet the bed. Think back to when you were a child, did you have problems with wetting the bed? Bedwetting is not a disease and can be helped. Support your child as they try to stop wetting the bed at night. Changing the child’s drinking habits by not allowing the child to have a drink two hours before bedtime can also reduce the urge for the child to have to urinate at night. It is important to support your child and show them they are loved and cared for. Bed-wetting is not the child’s fault. Given time and some treatment this condition should resolve itself.