Acupuncture Treatment for Prostatitis
What Is Acupunture?
Acupuncture treatment for prostatitis is considered an alternative treatment for chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP/CPPS). It is an ancient Chinese medicine practice that is based on the theory that qi (chi), or life energy, flows through the body in invisible channels called meridians. Sometime this energy becomes blocked, and this disruption in the energy flow leads to illness.
Practitioners access the meridians at certain points of the body, called acupoints, by inserting very fine needles into the skin. This stimulates specific acupoints along the skin and can be used for a range of conditions, including CP/CPPS. Stimulating these points is believed to enhance the body’s function and promote the body’s own healing.
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years in the East. The Western view is that acupuncture works by stimulating the central nervous system to release hormones and neurotransmitters that can boost the immune system, dull pain, and help regulate various body functions.
Many people are nervous about trying acupuncture because it involves needles, but acupuncture should not be painful. Acupuncture needles are extremely thin. Some people are apprehensive during the first treatment because of the unfamiliarity and their previous experiences with much thicker hypodermic needles. The needles acupuncturists use are single-use, factory-sterilized, disposable needles.
Patients may feel temporary discomfort when undergoing dry needling through tender muscular trigger points. Once the needles are left alone for about 20 minutes the discomfort disappears and then acupuncture can actually be very relaxing. A small group of patients with prostatitis and pelvic pain experience temporary experience exacerbation of their condition or minor flare-ups of old conditions following their first few treatments. After the third treatment or so this also disappears.
Acupuncture Treatment for Prostatitis—How Does It Work?
Mainstream doctors are increasingly accepting the practice of acupuncture for treating pain. There are many studies on acupuncture for prostatitis for relieving pain, urinary symptoms, stress, and quality of life for prostatitis patients. The studies are generally encouraging that acupuncture is an effective therapy for CP/CPPS. Since it is difficult to use a placebo with acupuncture, researchers use sham acupuncture as a placebo. That means that patients are told they are receiving acupuncture when they are actually not receiving any treatment.
Acupuncture treatment for prostatitis and other alternative and natural therapies are part of the NPAT/CPPS treatment protocol, which is a holistic approach to CP/CPPS. NPAT stands for:
- Natural treatments (ALCAT, elimination diets, and wheat-free diets)
- Phytotherapy (pollen and quercetin together with probiotics)
- Alternative Treatments (acupuncture, prostate massage, pelvic rehabilitation and therapy)
- Total body (exercise, chronic stress management, lifestyle)
The NPAT program was developed by Dr. Geo Espinosa, a naturopathic urologist. Dr. Geo has a specialized acupuncture technique that involves the following three things:
- Dry Needling of muscular trigger points
- Needling other points known to help with prostatitis—most of which are highlighted on the below studies
- Inserting needles on “stress points”
Dr. Geo treats prostatitis by first identifying muscle pelvic trigger points. Trigger points are hyperirritable points that are located in taut bands of either skeletal muscle or fascia. When compressed, the trigger points cause local tenderness and referred pain. When identifying such points, a dry needle is inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a myofascial trigger point. Then other traditional acupuncture points used for prostatitis are identified and inserted with needles as well. It typically it takes 6 to 12 acupuncture treatments, performed once or twice a week, before experiencing results
It is well established that stress is tightly linked to prostatitis and can make symptoms worse. For decades, acupuncture has been successfully used for stress. A recent study demonstrates that acupuncture inhibits the excess release of stress chemicals, show how the acupuncture helps relieve stress.
The latest of a series of studies from Georgetown University Medical Center was published in April 2013. Researchers used electroacupuncture on rats to study the levels of proteins and hormones that humans and rodents secrete that are involved in the stress response. Electroacupuncture was chosen because allowed researchers to make sure each animal received the same dose. (Eshkevari, L.)
The experiment lasted 10 days. It involved a control group that was not stressed and did not receive acupuncture; a group that was stressed each day for an hour and did not receive acupuncture; a group that was stressed and received sham acupuncture near the tail; and the experimental group, which was stressed and received acupuncture on the Zusanli spot, which is reported to relieve stress. For humans this spot is below the knee.
The electronic acupuncture blocked the chronic stress-induced elevations of hormones and NPY, a peptide secreted by the sympathetic nervous system. The NPY levels were reduced in the experimental group close to the level of the control group. The rats who received the sham acupuncture experienced an elevation of the hormones similar to that of the stress-only animals. The rats who were stressed and did not receive acupunture to the Zusanli spot had high levels of NPY. As stress is a major contributor to pelvic muscle tension and CPPS, using acupuncture to reduce stress may help men with stress-induced prostatitis.
Other studies that involve acupuncture for prostatitis include the following:
- The American Journal of Medicine evaluated the use of acupuncture versus sham acupuncture in men who had CP/CPPS. In the study, 89 men were arbitrarily assigned to undergo either actual or sham acupuncture two times per week for a total of 10 weeks. Each session lasted half an hour. Following the 10-week study, 32 (73%) of the 44 men who had real acupuncture responded favorably, compared with 21 (47%) of the 45 men in the sham group. The findings were based on reactions to the National Institutes of Health Chronic Prostatitis Symptom Index [NIH/CPSI].) Also, 14 (32%) of the men who had real acupuncture still showed favorable signs six months after completing the study, compared to only 6 (13%) in the sham group.
- A Canadian study sought to establish if acupuncture could ameliorate trouble with urination, pain, and overall quality of life in men with CP/CPPS. The study involved 12 men who did not previously respond to standard treatment, such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, or alpha-blockers. The men had acupuncture twice per week for six weeks. Thirty acupuncture points were addressed during each session. Based on NIH/CPSI scores, the 12 men saw marked progress with regard to pain, urinary symptoms, and quality of life after approximately 33 weeks of follow-up. Authors of the study said, “Acupuncture appears to be a safe, effective, and durable treatment in improving symptoms in, and the quality of life of, men with chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome refractory to treatment.”
- An August 2011 review of the benefits of acupuncture for CP/CPPS stated there is “increasing evidence that acupuncture could be a safe and effective treatment in managing CP/CPPS.” The reviewers said their assessment of clinical research of acupuncture for CP/CPPS “could encourage healthcare providers and urologists to apply acupuncture for managing pains of CP/CPPS with standard treatment.”
- A study that was published in 2009 involved 39 men with CP/CPPS who were randomly put into three groups: the first group received advice, exercised, and had 12 sessions of electroacupuncture (EA); the second group received advice, exercised, and had 12 sessions of sham EA, and the third group received advice and exercised for six weeks. Six acupuncture points were targeted. The CP/CPPS symptoms were determined using the NIH-Chronic Prostatitis Symptom Index (CPSI). After six weeks, the NIH-CPSI score had dropped markedly in the group that received EA compared to the other two groups. The EA group experienced significant improvements in their pain-related symptoms. All 12 men in the EA group had at least a six-point drop in their score, compared with two in the sham group (16.7%) and three in the remaining group (25%). Researchers concluded that EA therapy demonstrated therapeutic effects, principally pain relief.
- A Columbia University study involved 10 men with CP/CPPS who had gotten no relief from other treatments. The men received ear and full-body acupuncture twice a week for six weeks. After three and six weeks the men reported less pain, and they retained that measure of relief for another six weeks after treatment ended.
- A meta-analysis was conducted in China and published in 2008. That review involved 13 case-control studies on acupuncture for CP/CPPS before August 2007 and involved a total of 861 cases and 738 controls. Overall, the effectiveness and cure rates were significantly higher among men who had acupuncture than among controls.
Side Effects of Acupuncture
Acupuncture treatment for prostatitis is considered a safe alternative to treatment with medication. Side effects are rare and may include bacterial infections at the site of needle insertion. This would relate to poor training and hygiene of the acupuncturist. The most common infection reported from acupuncture is hepatitis. Look for qualified practitioners who use Clean Needle Technique. Serious adverse events are rare but may occur.
As NPAT demonstrates, acupuncture treatment for prostatitis can be combined with other therapies. As CP/CPPS may actually stem from areas in the body outside of the prostate, many men find success in treating their prostatitis with a multimodal approach, especially one that involves stress reduction and other alternative prostatitis treatments.
References for Acupuncture Treatment for Prostatitis:
Eshkevari, L. et al. Acupuncture Blocks Cold Stress-Induced Increase in Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Rat. Journal of Endocrinology, 2013.
Lee S.H. Use of acupuncture as a treatment method for chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndromes. Curr Urol Rep. 2011 Aug;12(4):288-96.
Lee S.H. Electroacupuncture relieves pain in men with chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome: three-arm randomized trial. Urology. 2009 May;73(5):1036-41.
Lee, S.W. Acupuncture versus sham acupuncture for chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain. Am J Med. 2008 Jan;121(1):79.e1-7.