Urinary tract infection (UTI) is one of the most common bacterial infections, and about one quarter of all antibiotics are prescribed to treat UTI (Cartwright & Miotla, 2020). It is more common in young women than men, but it is similarly common among the genders in elderly population. In the recent years, the bacteria that cause UTI have shown to develop resistance to antibiotics, and acupuncture is being considered as an alternative treatment, more so for mild to moderate infections (Bader, Loeb, & Brooks, 2017). One of the problems with UTI is recurrence: when a person has it once, there is a high probability of having it again, turning UTI into a chronic issue (Wagenlehner et al., 2020). Researchers have been studying acupuncture’s effectiveness in different aspects of UTI.
Acupuncture for UTI Recurrence
Those people who had UTIs often have them again, and research has demonstrated that acupuncture can be effective for prevention of UTI recurrence. On the one hand, the lack of understanding of the mechanisms involved in how acupuncture works and the small number of studies make experts reluctant to recommend it. But on the other hand, the increasing number of antibiotic-resistant urinary tract infections and the accumulating evidence of acupuncture’s safety and efficacy make them consider acupuncture as a possible treatment option more and more often (Qin et al., 2020). The complexity of research also becomes greater because the acupuncture method involves improving organisms’ innate ability to heal itself, rather than treating the symptoms directly.
Ear Acupuncture for UTI Symptoms
Besides being effective in reducing the frequency and intensity of UTI recurrence, auricular (ear) acupuncture appears to be effective in treatment of uncomplicated urinary tract infections. While the mechanisms remain unclear, “All patients presented improvement of the symptoms and urine cultures positive for bacteria before the treatment and negative after the treatment only with acupuncture, Chinese dietary counseling and apex ear bloodletting, not requiring antibiotics use in neither of the cases” (Huang, 2019). Considering that acupuncture typically does not involve injection of any medications, this finding suggests that the human organism has natural resources to fight off at least some types of bacteria.
- Bader, M. S., Loeb, M., & Brooks, A. A. (2017). An update on the management of urinary tract infections in the era of antimicrobial resistance. Postgraduate medicine, 129(2), 242-258.
- Cartwright, R., & Miotla, P. (2020). Pinning down the evidence for acupuncture for recurrent urinary tract infection (UTI).(Mini-commentary on BJOG-20-0142. R1). Authorea Preprints.
- Huang, W. L. (2019). Can we treat urinary tract infections without using any antibiotics. Archives of Infect Diseases & Therapy, 3(2), 1-9.
- Qin, X., Coyle, M. E., Yang, L., Liang, J., Wang, K., Guo, X., … & Liu, X. (2020). Acupuncture for recurrent urinary tract infection in women: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 127(12), 1459-1468.
- Wagenlehner, F. M., Bjerklund Johansen, T. E., Cai, T., Koves, B., Kranz, J., Pilatz, A., & Tandogdu, Z. (2020). Epidemiology, definition and treatment of complicated urinary tract infections. Nature Reviews Urology, 17(10), 586-600.