Acupuncture for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
The prostate is a small gland found in men’s bodies between the bladder and the urethra (the tube urine passes through). Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (sometimes called Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy) is a condition in which the prostate is enlarged, but not malignant or cancerous. It is common in older men, as the prostate tends to grow as men age. The enlarged prostate gland can interfere with the flow of urine through the urethra, causing some of the following symptoms:
Nocturia – the need to urinate in the night
Urinary incontinence or urgency
Urination which stops and starts or which is difficult to initiate
A feeling that the bladder has not been emptied fully
Western medicine may treat BPH with medication, minimally invasive heat treatments or, if symptoms are severe and other treatments are ineffective, surgery is an option. Sometimes a ‘wait and see’ approach may be recommended, as mild symptoms of BPH may get better on their own.
Benign Prostratic Hyperplasia
TCM treatment of BPH begins with an understanding of what is behind the problem; this will vary from individual to individual. For example, some cases of BPH are due to ‘Qi deficiency’. As mentioned above, Qi, one of the most important concepts in TCM, is the vital energy of the human being; a healthy person is one in whom Qi flows freely and abundantly. Furthermore, one of the most important functions of Qi is to regulate and control the excretion of waste fluids, including urine, form the body. If the Qi is weakened, perhaps through overwork, poor dietary habits or excessive sexual activity, this control is impaired, leading to some of the symptoms mentioned above. In this case TCM treatment aims to strengthen the Qi with acupuncture and perhaps herbal therapy and appropriate exercise.
On the other hand, in some cases it is not so much that the Qi is weak, but rather that it is not free flowing—there is ‘Qi Stagnation’ in the lower abdomen. This might arise from emotional or sexual frustration or from lack of exercise. This stagnation in the lower abdomen leads to localised congestion and blockage which starts to affect urination. In this case treatment aims to free up the flow of Qi, something acupuncture is effective in doing.
Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia?
A study conducted in 2001 1 on 58 men suffering from BPH found that acupuncture treatment reduced night-time urination to between one and two times and reduced the size of the prostate (measured by ultrasound scan) to normal in 62% of the patients. In a further 34% of the patients, night-time urination was reduced to between 3 and 4 times, and the prostate size was significantly reduced.
A further Chinese study 2 conducted on 41 patients
1 Li L.M. et al (2001) 58 Cases of Prostatic Hypertrophy Treated by Electroacupuncture World Journal of Acupuncture Moxibustion 11(2) 55-6
2 Gao Wei-bin et al. (2005) The Treatment of 41 Cases of Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy with Electro-acupuncture. Clinical Journal of Acupuncture & Moxibustion 5:46-47