Prostatitis gets little press, but it is a widespread inflammatory disease that accounts for more than two million doctor visits in the United States each year. Some cases are caused by bacteria that can be easily recognized and treated with antibiotics. But more than 90% of the time, symptoms of prostatitis (which can include painful urination and ejaculation, pelvic pain, and sexual dysfunction) have no apparent cause. This is known as chronic non-bacterial prostatitis / chronic pelvic pain syndrome or CP / CPPS. The treatments are varied. Doctors sometimes start antibiotics when the condition is preceded by a urinary tract infection. You may also recommend anti-inflammatory pain relievers, stress reduction techniques, pelvic floor exercises, and sometimes drugs like alpha blockers that relax tight muscles in the prostate and bladder.
Another treatment that can work for some men is acupuncture. A 2018 review of three published studies found that acupuncture had the potential to reduce CP / CPPS symptoms without the side effects associated with drug treatments.
Now, the results of a newly published clinical study show that the symptom reductions from acupuncture are long-lasting. Published in the prestigious magazine Internal Medicine Annals, the results provide encouraging news for those suffering from CP / CPPS.
In acupuncture, single-use needles are inserted into “acupuncture points” on different parts of the body and then manipulated manually or with heat or electrical stimulation. During the study, researchers at ten institutions in China assigned 440 men with prostatitis to receive 20 sessions (over eight weeks) of either real acupuncture or a sham control procedure in which the needles are inserted away from traditional acupuncture points.
The researchers were doctors, but the treatments were performed by certified acupuncturists with five years of basic training and at least two years of clinical experience. Treatment benefit was assessed using the National Institutes of Health’s Chronic Prostatitis Symptom Index (NIH-CPSI), which assigns scores for pain, urinary function, and quality of life. The men were followed for 24 weeks after the eight week treatment sessions.
At week eight, just over 60% of the men in the acupuncture group reported significant improvements in symptoms (excluding sexual dysfunction), compared with 37% of the sham-treated men. Importantly, these differences hardly changed by week 32, suggesting that the benefits of acupuncture remained unchanged months after starting treatments.
How exactly acupuncture relieves symptoms of prostatitis is unclear. The study’s authors suggest several possibilities, including that stimulation at acupuncture points promotes the release of naturally occurring opioid-like chemicals (enkephalins, endorphins, and dynorphins) with pain relieving properties. Acupuncture can also have anti-inflammatory effects, and experience of treatment can also have psychological benefits that lead to improvement in symptoms, the authors speculated.
“Research on prostatitis CPPS has been very sparse and scarce and has often yielded disappointing results, so this article is very welcome by doctors who are also experts in acupuncture,” said Dr. Marc Garnick, the Gorman Brothers Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, editor of Harvard Health Publishing Prostate Disease Annual Report, and Editor-in-Chief of HarvardProstateKnowledge.org. âThe possible causes of prostatitis are diverse and not yet fully understood. In addition, we do not fully understand how or why interventions that may occasionally relieve bothersome symptoms are effective – the acupuncturist you choose is well trained and qualified to perform this potentially important procedure. “
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