Acupuncture for Chronic Prostatitis
The prostate is a small gland found in men’s bodies between the bladder and the urethra (the tube urine passes through). Chronic prostatitis is a long-lasting inflammation or infection of the prostate – in some cases this is due to bacterial infection, but in the vast majority of cases no bacteria, or any other infectious agents, can be found; chronic non-bacterial prostatitis is poorly understood by western medicine. The symptoms of prostatitis usually include:
Low back pain
Pain on urinating, frequent and urgent urination
Pain when ejaculating
Western medicine may treat bacterial prostatitis with antibiotics, but in an estimated 50% of patients the condition will recur at a later date. Western medicine currently struggles to find suita
Chronic Prostatitis and TCM
TCM can be a very helpful way of approaching prostatitis because its method of diagnosis differs markedly from that of western medicine. Whereas western medicine typically aims to find a single root cause of a problem, and cannot deliver treatment if such a cause is not found, TCM diagnosis proceeds by gathering information about all the patient’s symptoms (including one’s which are not obviously related to the complaint in question) together with other information provided by the patient’s pulse and what their tongue looks like, and weaving this information together to form what is called a ‘pattern of disharmony’. This pattern of disharmony explains, from within the logical framework of TCM, why the patient suffers in the way they do, and makes it clear what treatment is needed.
To give an example of how this might work, suppose a patient suffers from frequent, painful and burning urination, and the urine is cloudy. The patient’s tongue has a sticky yellow coating and their pulse is slightly rapid and feels ‘slippery’ – smooth and rolling. The patient feels slightly warmer than usual, has a dry mouth but doesn’t feel like drinking, and they say they feel ‘full’ below their navel.
These symptoms describe the pattern called “Damp-Heat in the Bladder”; TCM treatment would proceed with acupuncture points which are known to “clear Heat” and/or “drain Dampness” from the Bladder; herbal therapy might also by useful, and the patient would be instructed in dietary changes they could make to support the treatment. However, treatment needs also to address the issues which have led to the problem in the first place; for example, if their digestion is impaired, resulting in symptoms such as loose stools, bloating, tiredness and weight-gain, this may indirectly contribute to Dampness—the inability to metabolise body fluids properly—which may be a contributing factor. Treatment would need also to strengthen their digestive functions.
Not all men with prostatitis would present with the same symptoms, but the above example begins to give an idea of how TCM goes about providing a holistic treatment for prostatitis.
Acupuncture is a very safe form of treatment. All needles are sterile and disposable so there is no risk of infection, and all practitioners adhere to strict codes of conduct and hygiene, put in place by the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), the governing body for Acupuncture in the UK.
Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Chronic Prostatitis?
A 2009 randomised controlled trial 1 found that electro acupuncture significantly decreased symptoms of prostatitis as compared with treatment which only consisted of exercises and lifestyle advice, and further that it reduced levels of proinflammatory prostaglandin E2 in urine samples, suggesting that it reduced the inflammation of the prostate.
An earlier study on patients who had not responded to conventional treatments for prostatitis 2 showed significant and lasting improvements both on specific prostatitis-related symptoms and general quality of life.
1 Lee S & Lee B. (2009) Electroacupuncture relieves pain in men with chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome: three-arm randomized trial Urology 73(5) 1036-41
2 Lee S et al (2008) Acupuncture versus sham acupuncture for chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain. The American Journal of Medicine 121(1) 79