Overactive bladder is a syndrome characterized by the frequent, strong, and sudden urge to urinate. Often, those with overactive bladder will urinate eight or more times during the day, and may also experience frequent urination at night. In some cases, individuals may experience urge incontinence, which is the involuntary loss of urine right after feeling the need to urinate. The syndrome can seriously disrupt your life by interrupting your work and make you avoid social situations. But Chinese medicine can help. Chinese medicine has been treating syndromes of frequent urination for over 2000 years.
Overactive bladder from the Western and Eastern Viewpoints
The precise cause of overactive bladder is often unknown. Like many other syndromes, the search for the single cause is often impossible as the condition arises from a complex interaction of causes. For overactive bladder, the name throws us off because it suggests that the bladder alone is responsible and is somehow hyperactive. The syndrome probably involved many of the organs and muscles involved in urination.
Urination is a complex action involving the nervous system, smooth muscles of the bladder, the urinary sphincters, and pelvic floor muscles. The symptoms of OB may be from any one of these functions: from the involuntary contraction of the bladder creating the sudden need to urinate, a sudden feeling of urination when the bladder is filling, although it is not totally full, or contraction of the pelvic floor muscles.
Most often, the symptoms of overactive bladder are serious, but the syndrome itself does not pose a threat to your health. But in rare cases it can be due to a growth or obstruction or a neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and multiple sclerosis. So it is important to check in with your physician about these symptoms.
Chinese medicine is natural choice to address overactive bladder is because of it’s holistic approach. Chinese medicine views the body as an interconnected whole. Rather than examining the body to find a specific organ, muscle, or tissue that is diseased, Chinese medicine seeks to understand the imbalance of the interactions between the organs, muscles, and tissues. Once the imbalance is corrected, the root of the problem is improved and body can work to heal itself.
Chinese Medicine Imbalances of Overactive Bladder
Overactive bladder is very similar to the Chinese medicine syndrome of frequent urination. This can be caused by many factors such as an injury to the pelvic floor while giving birth, congenital issues, an injury, and factors in your life, such as stress, grief, and pain.
The root of this imbalance can be in the kidneys, spleen, urinary bladder, or liver, and, more often than not, these imbalances are interconnected. Please note that while the organ names and some of the functions are the same in both TCM and Western medicine, a dysfunction of the TCM kidney, spleen, and liver does not mean a disease in the western medicine organ.
In TCM, the kidneys are said to “govern water.” In other words, the kidneys are in charge of water metabolism and urination. Just like in western medicine, the kidneys filter out the urine. But unlike western medicine, kidney qi (or energy) also contributes to the ability to hold urine in the bladder. So problems with the kidney qi may cause overactive bladder.
The functions of the kidney can be described in terms of yin and yang. The ability for the bladder to sufficiently hold urine is a yin function. When there is too little kidney yin, the bladder cannot hold urine and may result in overactive bladder symptoms, such as the frequent and sudden need to urinate, which is called urge incontinence. Weak kidney yin can also cause stress incontinence, which is when urine leaks while laughing, coughing, or sneezing. Other symptoms of kidney yin deficiency are night sweats, hot flashes, a red face, thirst, frequent nighttime urination, a rapid pulse, and a red tongue.
The spleen is also an important organ in overactive bladder. If the overactive bladder is accompanied by extreme fatigue especially in the morning, loose stools, poor digestion, and a pale swollen tongue, the imbalance may be in the spleen. Often, the spleen problem is combined with an imbalance in the liver.
The liver is said to “govern the muscles and sinews,” which means the liver reflects the general health of the muscles in the body. Because the many different muscles are the key to having the ability to hold urination, imbalances in the liver can lead to overactive bladder. Another sign of liver involvement is when the condition is worsened by stress or anger.
A Holistic Treatment with Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Treatment, and Pelvic Floor Exercises