A couple years back, I toured the William Beaumont Hospital Women’s Urology Center in Royal Oak, Michigan. I was impressed with their state of the art approach to managing LBL. And surprised to see they offer alternative treatments like acupuncture to help women with LBL, PMS, and symptoms of menopause. I didn't know acupuncture had made it into mainstream health care. I mentioned it to a few friends and family members, and found out that my niece uses acupuncture to help manage allergies. My girlfriend got pregnant after adding acupuncture to her infertility treatment plan, and her husband sees an acupuncturist regularly to manage chronic pain.
How does acupuncture help? To find out, I contacted Carey Ryan, R.Ac , a registered acupuncturist at the Integrative Medicine Acupuncture Department at William Beaumont Hospital. “They keep doing studies and it’s proven to be very effective,” Carey said, “Physicians consider acupuncture a complimentary treatment that doesn't interfere with traditional treatments.” Much like meditation, and yoga, acupuncture has a way of calming the body, and shifting it from a stressed state to a relaxed, healing state. “Acupuncture is a method used in Chinese medicine to promote health and well-being,” Carey explained. It works through the nervous system. Our bodies have nerves or energy channels that correlate to specific organs, like the bladder. When an acupuncture needle stimulates specific nerves, it affects specific organs, triggering the body's self-healing mechanisms.
I was fascinated to hear that the acupuncture needles are hair thin, and electrodes are sometimes attached to provide a little bit of electricity. “The body is electrical, especially the nervous system,” Carey said, “When a muscle isn't firing, and you put a little electricity there it will fire the muscle and reestablish it.” Think of it as turning the muscle back on. An acupuncturist can improve the functioning of pelvic floor muscles by stimulating the nerves associated with those muscles. When there are functional problems in organs such as the bladder or kidneys, acupuncture can help restore function.
“Do women ever get nervous about the needles?” I asked this because needles make me nervous. Carey laughed, “It only takes a couple needles to make you feel calm and peaceful.” Though acupuncture can be helpful to women experiencing bladder leakage, Carey cautions that it is not a quick fix. Treatments need to be spread out over time to retrain the nervous system, and support the nerves related to urinary functioning. I asked Carey what she most wanted women to know about acupuncture. Her answer was simple, “It helps on many levels, and leaves you feeling deeply relaxed and at peace” The hospital she works for obviously agrees, because acupuncture is a service covered under their employees’ health plan.
What about you? Have you tried alternative treatments like acupuncture to help manage LBL?