Female Urethral Syndrome and Acupuncture

By Christina Morris, L.Ac.

If you are a female that suffers from or has suffered from urinary frequency, urgency, burning or irritated bladder symptoms, this article should be of interest to you. How many times have you thought you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI) but the tests come back negative? A negative test shows no evidence of any kind of infection. When tests come back negative, some doctors may send you home without treatment options, leaving you wondering what to do next.

Female urethral syndrome is a condition in which the cause is uncertain by conventional medicine. There are no medical tests that can clearly diagnose this condition. Female urethral syndrome is usually diagnosed through the process of ruling out other disorders. Many of the symptoms associated with female urethral syndrome, including urinary frequency, urgency and burning, suprapubic pain, hesitant or slowed urination may also be symptoms associated with other disorders. It is important to have the necessary medical tests performed to rule out possible urogenital diseases.

From a Traditional Chinese medicine viewpoint, female urethral syndrome is the result of an imbalance in the body. The underlying, root cause of this condition can vary from person to person. Chinese medicine believes that when the body’s energy is not in balance, disease can arise. The environment, stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise are a few examples of situations that can alter a person’s natural energetic balance. Imbalances in the body can manifest differently in each individual. Particular imbalances that may lead to the female urethral syndrome include dampness and heat in the urogenital system, an energy (qi) blockage, an energy (qi) deficiency, or a deficiency in the kidney’s energy system. There are several treatment methods in Chinese medicine which may be used for female urethral syndrome including acupuncture, traditional Chinese herbs, and moxibustion (the burning of an herb called mugwort above the skin or on top of the acupuncture needles). Treatments are based on the individual and their particular case.

Studies indicate that acupuncture can help relieve symptoms associated with female urethral syndrome. In 1998 the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine published a study of one hundred eighty patients with female urethral syndrome, one hundred twenty-eight women were treated by acupuncture and moxibustion and fifty-two by western medicine in the control group. The short term effective rate in the acupuncture and moxibustion group was 90.6% and the long-term effect rate, 80.4%. This is a successful outcome considering the short-term effective rate of the control group was 26.9%. In the acupuncture and moxibustion group the urine flow rate increased and in the control group no such change was found. Sixty-nine cases from the acupuncture and moxibustion group and thirty-nine from the control group were tested on their maximal bladder pressure, maximal abdominal pressure, bladder-neck pressure and maximal urethral closure pressure during urination. The results revealed that all the above indexes decreased remarkably in the acupuncture and moxibustion group, while no changes were observed in the control group.

Another study in the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion indicated that symptoms disappeared after acupuncture treatments in 18 out of 23 patients with urethral syndrome while symptoms improved in the remaining 5 patients.

The intention of this article is to educate women on the alternate possibility of Chinese medicine in the treatment of female urethral syndrome. Acupuncture, moxibustion and traditional herbal therapies may offer help to those who suffer from symptoms often associated with this disorder. You don’t have to live with pain, take control of your health!