By Mary Vincent, L.Ac.
A urinary tract infection, otherwise know as a “bladder infection” is a common complaint that many people will experience at least once in their lives. They can be caused by bacteria entering any part of the urinary tract, which typically affects the bladder but can also affect the kidneys, ureters (tubes that bring urine from the kidneys to the bladder), and urethra (the tube that passes urine out of the bladder during urination). It is a much more common occurrence among women, though we do see the occasional man come through BCA with UTI as their chief complaint. Women are more susceptible to them due to the simple fact that a women’s urethra is shorter than a man’s, thus bacteria is able to find it’s way into the bladder with greater ease. Sexual intercourse is often the culprit in aiding bacteria that get pushed into the urinary tract. You are also more likely to get a UTI if you have diabetes or any physical condition that can impede the flow of urine from the bladder (pregnancy, kidney stone, enlarged prostate, ect.).
It is usually very clear when you have a UTI, as symptoms cause obvious and increasingly worse discomfort rather rapidly.
▪ Burning pain with urination
▪ Feeling the need to urinate, but very little comes out when you do
▪ Lower abdominal pressure or pain
▪ Cloudy urine with strong odor (can be pink or red if infection is more severe and blood is in urine)
▪ Lower back pain, particularly in kidney areas (below ribs), typically only on one side
▪ Fever and/or chills
Can Acupuncture Help?
If this is the first (and hopefully only) urinary tract infection you have ever experienced we would typically recommend you to see you primary care physician who will prescribe you antibiotics to stop the infection and ease your discomfort in the quickest way possible. This is because the severity of a UTI can progress rapidly and potentially spread to the kidneys, which then becomes a significantly more serious condition. However, there are many individuals who experience UTIs over and over again for reasons that aren’t well understood, and we have found that we have success in treating these people if they come into the clinic at the very first sign of an impending UTI. It is important to find an alternative in treating frequent UTIs, as overuse of antibiotics can cause serious issues on a person’s overall health. We have a treatment protocol that will typically include an acupuncture treatment at the first sign of a UTI, and a follow up treatment the very next day. You will also most likely be give an herbal formula called Ba Zheng San, which you will begin to take immediately and for the next couple of days. You will be asked to monitor your symptoms (which would be almost impossible not to do, given the discomfort a UTI causes), and if symptoms begin to increase in severity to go ahead and take the antibiotics. It should be noted though that we have lots of patients with chronic, reoccurring UTIs that are able to stave off a full blown infection by coming in immediately (at the initial sign) and following the above instructions. It makes a huge difference in their overall health and physical comfort to be able to prevent full blown infections and to not be chronically dependant on the use of antibiotics.