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Natural Treatments for Urinary Incontinence

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Updated May 01, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

To date, no type of alternative medicine has proven to be an effective natural treatment for urinary incontinence, a condition marked by loss of bladder control. However, certain alternative therapies may help improve bladder control to some degree, as well as improving quality of life for people with urinary incontinence.

Natural Treatment for Urinary Incontinence

Here's a look at two types of alternative medicine studied in the treatment of urinary incontinence:

1) Acupuncture

A study published in 2005 shows that treatment with acupuncture (a needle-based Chinese therapy) may boost bladder capacity in women with urge incontinence (a type of incontinence characterized by the sudden need to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine). For the study, 85 women were assigned to receive either acupuncture or a relaxing placebo treatment once weekly for four weeks. While both groups experienced significant decreases in their number of incontinent episodes, women undergoing acupuncture also showed significant reduction in urinary frequency and urgency (as well as in bladder capacity and quality of life).

In a more recent study, published in 2009, researchers focused on nine women with urge incontinence or mixed urge and stress incontinence (a condition marked by symptoms of both urge incontinence and stress incontinence, in which loss of bladder control occurs when actions like sneezing or laughing put pressure on the bladder). Study results showed that four weeks of acupuncture led to a 67 percent decrease in daytime accidents, as well as an increase in quality of life.

2) Biofeedback

Biofeedback may benefit women with urinary incontinence, according to a 2002 study. A type of alternative therapy based on learning to control bodily functions that are usually unconscious, biofeedback may help urinary incontinence patients identify and contract muscles involved in bladder control.

For the study, researchers assigned 222 older women with urge incontinence or mixed incontinence to eight weeks of biofeedback, behavioral therapy, or self-treatment with the help of a booklet. Results revealed that all three approaches helped the women achieve comparable improvements in urge incontinence.

Should You Try Natural Treatment for Urinary Incontinence?

It's important to work closely with your doctor in developing the urinary incontinence treatment program that works best for you. While this treatment program may include the use of alternative medicine, it's important not to pursue any type of alternative treatment without first consulting your doctor. In some cases, urinary incontinence may signal a serious underlying condition, or lead to complications like urinary tract infections or skin ulcers.

Standard treatment for urinary incontinence often includes the use of exercises, medicines, surgery, and/or special devices or procedures prescribed by your doctor.

Sources:

Burgio KL, Goode PS, Locher JL, Umlauf MG, Roth DL, Richter HE, Varner RE, Lloyd LK. "Behavioral training with and without biofeedback in the treatment of urge incontinence in older women: a randomized controlled trial." JAMA. 2002 13;288(18):2293-9.

Emmons SL, Otto L. "Acupuncture for overactive bladder: a randomized controlled trial." Obstet Gynecol. 2005 106(1):138-43.

Engberg S, Cohen S, Sereika SM. "The efficacy of acupuncture in treating urge and mixed incontinence in women: a pilot study." J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2009 36(6):661-70.

MayoClinic.com. "Urinary incontinence". June 2009.

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