2002-10-16 13:00:07 -0400
By Alison McCook
Women who experience repeated bouts of urinary tract infections (UTI) may want to try acupuncture to prevent another episode, new study findings suggest.
Terje Alraek of the University of Bergen in Norway and colleagues found that women with recurrent UTIs who were treated with acupuncture were half as likely to have another infection during the next 6 months as women who did not receive acupuncture.
"Our results, as well as previous findings, indicate that acupuncture treatment may be effective in preventing recurrent lower UTIs in healthy adult women," Alraek and colleagues write in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
"Acupuncture seems well worth trying as a prophylactic treatment," Alraek told Reuters Health.
UTIs affect an estimated 11.3 million women per year in the US alone, and around 6% of adult women experience at least 3 bouts of the painful condition each year. UTIs are currently treated using antibiotics; women who get UTIs especially frequently take antibiotics to prevent UTIs before they strike, raising the possibility that an unbroken cycle of recurrent UTIs could contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
An ancient therapy that arose in China more than 2,000 years ago, acupuncture involves placing fine needles at specific points on the body's surface. Traditional theory holds that these points connect with energy pathways, or meridians, that run through the body, and acupuncture helps keep this natural energy flow running smoothly.
Previous research has also suggested that acupuncture may help stave off future UTIs in women who are prone to them, reducing the rate of infection by up to two-thirds.
In the present study, Alraek and colleagues investigated the benefits of acupuncture in a group of 94 women, all of whom had experienced at least 3 UTIs during the previous 12 months. At least 2 of the infections were diagnosed and treated as a UTI by a doctor.
Sixty-seven of the women received acupuncture 2 times per week for 4 weeks.
The authors found that 73% of the women who received acupuncture remained infection-free during the 6 months after treatment, relative to only 52% of those who did not receive acupuncture. This difference translates into a 50% reduced risk of experiencing another UTI during a 6-month period, Alraek and colleagues write.
Alraek told Reuters Health that the women treated with acupuncture showed a 50% decrease in the urine left in their bladders after urinating, while residual urine levels did not appear to change in those who did not receive acupuncture. Residual urine is a risk factor for recurrent UTIs.
Consequently, the researcher suggested that acupuncture may treat women with recurrent UTIs by reducing their levels of residual urine. "Ancient Chinese medical theory would have used other terms to describe this change," Alraek noted. "One possibility would be better circulation of qi (energy) in the lower abdomen."
SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health 2002;92:1609-1611.
Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited