Newswise — At age 12, Rachael Fellers developed a debilitating form of pelvic pain that at times prevented her from standing, walking or going to the bathroom. Mrs. Fellers saw several doctors who determined that she had endometriosis. They unsuccessfully tried to alleviate her pain through medication and surgery.

Despite her discomfort, Mrs. Fellers hoped to become a mom. She soon became pregnant and gave birth to two children only to be diagnosed later with interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome after undergoing a hysterectomy for the endometriosis. The painful bladder syndrome resulted in burning and labor-like cramping pain. This left her depressed, anxious bedridden on many days and unable to work or take care of her kids.

“I was desperate and unable to leave the house or enjoy my life as a mom and a wife,” Mrs. Fellers said. “I didn’t want my kids to see me in pain, so I began researching alternative methods to manage my condition.”

Mrs. Feller’s research led her to Loyola University Health System. The organization helped Loyola urologist and medical acupuncture doctor Larissa Bresler, MD, open an acupuncture clinic for men and women with pelvic health disorders in the fall. The clinic uses acupuncture to treat patients with common conditions such as pelvic pain, nausea from pelvic surgery, interstitial cystitis, painful bladder syndrome, post-surgical pain, prostatitis and overactive bladder.

Acupuncture has been used as a healing tool for more than 2,000 years. This traditional form of Chinese medicine believes that energy flows through the body along channels called meridians. Illness occurs when energy is blocked or disrupted.

Acupuncturists use fine needles to stimulate various acupressure points in the body. The insertion of needles into designated points improves the flow of energy and releases feel-good hormones, beneficial chemicals and immune system cells to reduce inflammation, aid healing and promote pain relief.

Mrs. Fellers, a Milwaukee resident, made the trip to Loyola. She found that acupuncture, combined with low-voltage electrical stimulation applied to acupuncture needles, brought her pain relief.

“The treatment has improved my anxiety, related headaches, energy and overall mood, and I no longer require pain killers or other medication,” Mrs. Fellers said. “Acupuncture has been life-changing. It has saved my marriage and has allowed me to enjoy being a mom again.”

Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome affects nearly 7.9 million women in the U.S. It is a complex condition that significantly reduces a person’s quality of life. Many women with this condition contemplate suicide as a result, according the Interstitial Cystitis Association. More than 80 percent of patients with this condition seek complementary and alternative medical treatment due to the growing evidence to support acupuncture for various types of pain.

“Traditional treatments for women with interstitial cystitis have limited utility and problematic side effects,” said Larissa Bresler, MD, who also is an assistant professor of Urology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Our clinic offers these patients an effective tool to help alleviate their symptoms without the side effects of medication.”

Loyola is currently offering an innovative clinical trial investigating acupuncture for painful bladder syndrome and its effect on bacteria in the bladder. For more information, call 708-216-2067.

Loyola’s acupuncture clinic is offered every Wednesday at the Loyola Outpatient Center in Maywood. To make an appointment call 888-LUHS-888/888-584-7888.

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