Acupuncture for Overactive Bladder

Overactive Bladder

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide, causing sudden and uncontrollable urges to urinate.  Overactive bladder is a syndrome characterized by the frequent, strong, and sudden urge to urinate. The syndrome can seriously disrupt your life by interrupting your work and make you avoid social situations.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine has been treating syndromes of frequent urination for over 2000 years and recent research has shown acupuncture to be effective for overactive bladder.

Overactive Bladder

What is Overactive Bladder?

Overactive bladder is characterized by a frequent and sudden urge to urinate. It is also often associated with urinary incontinence, which is the unintentional loss of urine. People with overactive bladder may experience urinary urgency, which is a strong and compelling need to urinate that is difficult to postpone.

In a normal bladder, the muscles remain relaxed as the bladder gradually fills with urine. When it is time to empty the bladder, the muscles contract while the urinary sphincter (a circular muscle that surrounds the opening of the bladder) relaxes, allowing the urine to flow out. However, in individuals with overactive bladder, the muscles of the bladder contract involuntarily, causing a sudden and intense urge to urinate even when the bladder is not full.

The exact cause of an overactive bladder is not always clear, but several factors may contribute to its development. These include nerve problems that disrupt the normal communication between the brain and the bladder, bladder muscle abnormalities, certain medical conditions such as urinary tract infections or bladder stones, and certain medications. Other factors, such as advancing age, hormonal changes, and obesity, may also increase the risk of developing overactive bladder.

Acupuncture for Overactive Bladder

Overactive bladder is very similar to the acupuncture 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.

Acupuncture views the body as an interconnected whole. Acupuncture 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. 

Physiologically, acupuncture helps reduce the symptoms of overactive bladder by stimulating the nerves and relaxing the muscles associated with the bladder. Addressing the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles may also be involved with the clinical improvements. I like to say that acupuncture helps to reset these functions to treat the symptoms of an overactive bladder.

Additionally, clinical studies have shown acupuncture to be effective at reducing symptoms of overactive bladder. 

Imbalances Leading to Overactive Bladder

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 an 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 which 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.

Treatment course 

During your initial consultation, I will ask about your medical history, symptoms, and overall health. Based on this information, I’ll develop a personalized treatment plan targeting specific acupoints related to your OAB.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment are focused on correcting the root imbalance in the body.  The treatment is usually once or twice a week with acupuncture and a treatment series is usually 10-12 sessions.  For some people, this may be shorter and for others, it may take longer.  The treatment should increase one’s ability to hold urination, decrease the number of times one urinate at night, decrease urinary urgency and create a smoother urine flow.

Acupuncture points such as Ren 4 and 6 on the lower abdomen as well as Bladder 23 and Du 4 on the lower back all tonify the Kidney.  Kidney 7 can be added to tonify the yang, while Kidney 2 will be used if there is more yin deficiency with heat. Other points, such as Ren 3 and Bladder 64 can directly tonify the Bladder and help with incontinence. If the spleen is involved, Spleen 3 and 9 will be helpful.  If the liver is in disharmony, Liver 5, 3, or 2 can help move the qi and open the channels in the pelvic floor muscles.

Chinese Herbal Formulas

Chinese herbal medicine can also be effective for Overactive Bladder.  When taking Chinese herbs, it is very important to get diagnosed and treated by a trained practitioner of Chinese medicine.  Herbal formulas such as liu wei di huang tang can be used for kidney yin deficiency, while ba wei di huang tang is effective for yang deficiency.  If the root imbalance is in the spleen, wu ling san or bu zhong yi qi tang can be effective. 


Acupuncture and Chinese medicine offer a natural, non-invasive, and drug-free solution for those struggling with overactive bladder. Acupuncture has shown promising results in clinical studies and has helped many people find relief from their OAB symptoms. I have helped many people with OAB in my 18 years of clinical practice. Give us a call at 212-319-5757 or schedule your appointment online. 

Feedback From our clients…

“I went to see Joe for an overactive bladder condition. Almost immediately, I noticed a reduction in my urinary urges and frequency, directly related to Joe’s acupuncture. I was not only impressed with the immediacy of results, but also with Joes warm, down-to-earth nature and professionalism. He made it comfortable for me to openly discuss a topic that was embarrassing for me, and he is always a good listener. I have no doubt my condition would not have made the quick and steady turnaround it has without Joes treatments and sound advice.”

~ S.M., New Jersey