Can Acupuncture Help Erectile Dysfunction?
Can Acupuncture Help Erectile Dysfunction?
Male sexual functions (such as penile erection) are a product of hormonal symphony, tactile/ physical stimulation and optimal functioning of penile vascular system. It is imperative to understand that sustained penile erection is mainly regulated by the complex interplay of vascular forces in the penile venous sinuses.
Pathophysiology of Penile Erection
Erection occurs when the venous sinuses in the penis are fully engorged with blood under the influence of parasympathetic hormones. A sustained erection is the result of constriction of vessels that are responsible for draining these venous sinuses (in order to retain maximum amount of blood); resulting in optimal swelling and firmness that is required to complete the act of intercourse.
Any disturbance or interruption in this normal physiology can result in erectile dysfunction. In medical or clinical terms; erectile dysfunction is defined as a partial or complete inability to achieve or maintain optimal penile erection during the act of intercourse. ED can be physiological or pathological; transient or permanent. Certain risk factors that are usually reported in the setting of ED are; advancing age, co-existing medical, psychological and metabolic issues (especially uncontrolled diabetes, depression and obesity), history of drug abuse and certain vascular disorders.
How to manage Erectile Dysfunction effectively?
Several drugs (such as sildenafil) have played a revolutionary role in the management of erectile dysfunction by offering safe and effective solutions to transient erectile dysfunction. But it is also imperative to understand that the response to phosphodiesterase inhibitors and other drugs vary from person to person. For example, individuals with a history of cardiac dysfunction (or those who are on nitrates) are not ideal candidates for drugs like sildenafil. Likewise, other management options like penile rings or vacuum devices may lead to other adverse effects in some susceptible individuals
So what else can be done to resolve erectile dysfunction in individuals? Are there any natural and permanent solutions to address ED?
Acupuncture and Erectile Dysfunction
Holistic healthcare professionals believe that natural solutions such as acupuncture can be effectively used to address erectile dysfunction without increasing the risk of any complications or adverse effects on fertility/ reproductive functions.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique that works on the principle of activating body’s own internal messaging system. It is usually performed by a trained and certified acupuncturist in sterilized environment to improve the internal flow of energy. In this procedure, approximately 360 hair-thin needles are inserted into pre-determined anatomical sites in the body (called the meridians), at highly precise depths and angles. The acupuncturist inserts needles till the patient feels warmth on the surface along with numbness of that area.
According to some traditional beliefs these meridians carry body’s Qi (chee), or vital forces, hence the acupuncturist actually tends to restore the proper power flow within your body to optimally align the hormonal, autonomic and chemical messenger systems. Various research studies have statistically proven that these practices can activate and induce the body’s own analgesic system by stimulating the release of endorphins and other chemical messengers.
Can acupuncture help in restoring normal erectile function?
Acupuncture has been in use for the treatment of erectile dysfunction for several decades; mainly due to cost effectiveness and safety of this treatment protocol. So far the ideal candidates for acupuncture are; patients who develop mild to moderate ED secondary to an inorganic illness; such as depression, anxiety, psychological disorders due to hormonal imbalance or adverse effect of a drug for above mentioned conditions as suggested by a report published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (1).
According to a joint study conducted by investigators of United Kingdom and South Korea (2); it was observed that acupuncture can be used as a viable option to address ED symptoms in adult males.
According to another study reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (3), investigators suggested that acupuncture is extremely effective in patients who experience ED symptoms due to antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs. Investigators enrolled a group of patients who were on either serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in a 12-week program. After the completion of course, investigators observed that:
- All patients reported remarkable improvement in the symptoms of ED as well as other sexual disorders/ dysfunctions
- Acupuncture therapy also helped in improving the symptoms of anxiety and depression; thereby reducing the dependence on psychotropic drugs (or antidepressants).
- Female patients who underwent acupuncture therapy reported better lubrication and libido.
Acupuncture when used for the treatment of erectile dysfunction can be complimented with lifestyle adjustments and other holistic protocols. For example; some helpful interventions include:
- Management of metabolic and medical conditions like diabetes and hypertension. For example uncontrolled hyperglycemic state can damage the blood vessels and nervous functioning of the body; thereby causing or worsening the erectile dysfunction.
- Reduce the intake of alcohol and quit cigarette smoking to restore normal erectile function.
- Maintenance of body weight and body-mass index; since obesity and other metabolic issues can worsen ED.
To sum up, acupuncture for the treatment of erectile dysfunction has been proven more effective than placebo and certain other conventional and non-conventional interventions. It is imperative to understand that efficacy of therapy vary from person to person and depends largely on the intensity and pathophysiology of erectile dysfunction. It is highly recommended to consult a certified acupuncturist in order to learn more about the efficacy and potential benefits of acupuncture in ED management.
1. Wu, J., Yeung, A. S., Schnyer, R., Wang, Y., & Mischoulon, D. (2012). Acupuncture for depression: a review of clinical applications. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 57(7), 397.
2. Tsai, M. Y., Liu, C. T., Chang, C. C., Chen, S. Y., & Huang, S. T. (2014). Overview of the relevant literature on the possible role of acupuncture in treating male sexual dysfunction. Acupuncture in Medicine, acupmed-2014.
3. Sunay, D., Sunay, M., Aydoğmuş, Y., Bağbancı, Ş., Arslan, H., Karabulut, A., & Emir, L. (2011). Acupuncture versus paroxetine for the treatment of premature ejaculation: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. European urology, 59(5), 765-771.