Reflexotherapy Improves Symptoms after Prostate Surgery
Urinary symptoms in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) that persist after surgical treatment improve more with acupuncture reflexotherapy than with medication, reports a study published in Neurourology and Urodynamics (2004;23:58–62).
BHP is a progressive condition that occurs commonly in older men in which the prostate gland becomes enlarged. The enlarged prostate can press on the urethra and obstruct urine flow, causing irritative urinary symptoms such as frequency, urgency, and retention. These symptoms are generally relieved with a surgical intervention that relieves the pressure on the urethra by removing a portion of the prostate. For some men, however, urinary symptoms persist after surgery. Dysfunction of the muscles around the urethra, and abnormal sensitivity, or irritability, in the urinary system has been identified as other causes of urinary symptoms in some men with BPH.
Acupuncture reflexotherapy is a form of acupuncture that involves the application of microcurrent electricity to fine needles placed at traditional acupuncture points in the body. The anesthetic effect of acupuncture has been well documented, but the effects of acupuncture reflexotherapy are less well known. Acupuncture reflexotherapy is used to treat pain disorders such as chronic back pain, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other sensory disorders.
In the current study, the effect of acupuncture reflexotherapy on irritative urinary symptoms was compared with that of a medication that relaxes the muscles of the urinary tract. Forty-two men who had been treated surgically for BPH but continued to have irritative urinary symptoms were randomly assigned to one of three groups: the first group received three 20-minute sessions of reflexotherapy per week for four weeks, then once every other week for the remainder of the treatment period; the second group received 5 mg of the muscle relaxant oxybutynin two times per day for 3 months; and the third group received a placebo pill. The acupuncture points stimulated during reflexotherapy had been found to anesthetize the urethra in a previous study. All of the participants were evaluated after 3 months of treatment and again at 12 months.
Scores on symptom questionnaires improved significantly after 3 months of treatment in the reflexotherapy group, but not in the oxybutynin or placebo groups. Improvement in the reflexotherapy group was maintained at the12-month evaluation. Furthermore, a 20% decrease in daytime urinary frequency and a 60% decrease in nighttime frequency were noted in the reflexotherapy group at the 3-month and 12-month evaluations, while the oxybutynin group experienced an 8% decrease in daytime and 20% decrease in nighttime frequency, and the placebo group experienced no changes.
The results of this study suggest that acupuncture reflexotherapy might be an effective treatment for irritative urinary symptoms that persist in men with BPH after surgical treatment, though other studies are needed to confirm these observations. Given the safety and low expense of this treatment, it would be logical to offer it to men with symptoms that persist after surgery.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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