How Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Can Help Reduce Pain, Solve Urinary Problems, and Improve Sexual Function
Male Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS) is a well-established condition known for the pain and discomfort it causes. It was long thought to be connected specifically with prostatitis or inflamed prostate gland and differentiated from acute bacterial prostatitis or chronic bacterial prostatitis. However, more recently it has been re-defined as abdominal and/or pelvic pain lasting for 3 months, without evidence of a urinary tract infection.
The reasons for pain and discomfort are varied and can include:
- Chronic urinary tract/pelvic organ dysfunction
- Neurological disease (i.e. peripheral neuropathy)
- Orthopedic disease (i.e. lumbar disc prolapse)
- Idiopathic (i.e. myofascial pain)
- Post surgery
CPPS is an issue that tends to be both systemic and local and can manifest in dynamic ways. It is systemic in the way that the nervous system can be in a chronic heightened emergency state where the sympathetic nervous system is aroused thereby tightening the pelvic floor muscles causing pain or bladder symptoms. Nervous arousal causes direct tightening of the pelvic muscles, exacerbating the symptoms and creating localized pain or inflammation. Often conventional treatments focus more on the local problem and miss the big picture of the systemic/local relationship. It is important to address the root and relieve the overall stress response and inflammation in the body.
With CPPS patients can have neuropathic pain (where the nerve fibres themselves may be damaged) that can be reflected with urinary/bladder issues, sexual disturbances and often musculoskeletal pain. This is why therapy beyond prostate-specific treatments is essential, expanding our perception of CPPS to address both the systemic and local area.
Men with CPPS often present with symptoms such as:
- Urinary symptoms
- Psychosocial symptoms
- Organ-specific symptoms (prostate)
- Infection-related symptoms
- Neurologic/systemic symptoms
- Tenderness in the muscles and pelvic floor symptoms
More specifically, people can experience:
- Urinary frequency, urgency and/or hesitancy
- Pain with sitting
- Rectal and/or perineum pain
- Genital pain
- Pain during or after sex
- Pain or relief after Bowel Movement
- Lower Abdominal Pain
- Tailbone and/or low back pain
- Stress can increase pain
- Hot baths or heat helps
- Depression and/or anxiety
Dr. Richard Chen, a urologist and acupuncturist in Mississauga, Ontario has seen great results with acupuncture and a significant reduction in pain and symptoms associated with CPPS. His study showed that most men had a greater than 50% decrease in symptoms, and others over 75% improvement using electroacupuncture on specific points. Incredibly, these initial improvements have held up over 24 to 52 weeks of follow up.
There has recently been more work and research put in to uncover the true benefits of acupuncture in treating CPPS.
- A study from 2016 showed that acupuncture outperformed placebo and had similar long-term effects to medication, without the risk of side-effects from long-term ingestion of these medications. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26986148)
- This study showed that improved needling techniques and the use of specific acupuncture points improved the efficacy of treatments, showing improved quality of life and reduction in symptoms.(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28499367)
- This study concluded that “Acupuncture has promising efficacy for patients with CP/CPPS. Compared to standard medical treatment, it has better efficacy. Thus, it may also serve as a standard treatment option when available.”(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26741647)
- This study from 2015 indicated that acupuncture on men with CP/CPPS resulted in significant decrease in symptoms and improved quality of life for patients.(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25939517)
- A meta-analysis of research from 1947 to 2011 found that acupuncture improved urination and voiding problems in men with CPPS.(https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0041941)
- The Journal Of Andrology confirmed that “Of the 9 trials that met our eligibility criteria suggested that acupuncture is effective for chronic CP/CPPS”, although they acknowledged that more research is necessary.https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2164/jandrol.111.013235/full)
CPPS is a long-term issue and often requires time and effort to get to the root and make positive, lasting changes and to maintain a reduction in symptoms. Chinese medicine and acupuncture require minimal effort and cause few or no side effects for the patient, as well as being a profoundly relaxing experience resulting in other benefits such as improved sleep, balanced mood, improved digestion and reduced allergic response. If a patient remains committed to the process improvement can be expected to last beyond the short-term.
What to Expect
Because of our experience we have the knowledge to confidently manage all cases of CPPS. The elegance and simplicity of acupuncture treatments make it an extremely versatile therapy; in the right hands it is able to treat both simple and complex situations. The lack of any significant side effects (aside from occasional minor bruising) and overall efficacy are important considerations and since CPPS can present in a variety of ways, each individual experiencing symptoms differently, one of the strengths of Chinese medicine is its ability to address systemic issues and take into account a person’s full spectrum of symptoms.
Treatments Options Include:
- Acupuncture and/or Electro-Acupuncture
- Herbal support
- Pelvic floor stretches and exercises
- Breathing and muscle strengthening techniques
- Exploration of your lifestyle and diet choices that may be having an impact
Imagine moving forward in comfort. Imagine cultivating a deeper awareness of your body and how to address the effects of stress and pain. Imagine more comfort with urination, sex and daily activities. With our clinical experience and success you can feel confident that your pain will be reduced and symptoms lessened ultimately improving your quality of life.
- Less localized pain
- Improved urinary function
- Better sleep
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved Sexual Function
As the symptoms and presentation of CPPS are varied and individual, it is important to hold realistic expectations with regard to treatment using acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Studies have shown that treatments 2/wk for 4-6 weeks can have significant results, as well as exploring other therapies such as physiotherapy, psychotherapy or prescription medications. It is important to note that some studies and clinical experience show that treatments could take longer or involve several courses of treatment to achieve satisfaction with results.
Each acupuncture treatment involves:
- A discussion of recent symptoms and overall progress.
- A review of lifestyle or diet choices that may be playing a role.
- Point specific acupuncture treatment to address your chief complaint as well as daily symptoms or other concerns.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are important treatments able to address both the systemic and the local area issues, having an influence on the nervous system, hormone balance, homeostasis, as well as local pelvic muscle tension and pain.