Acupuncture and Erectile Dysfunction

By

Elizabeth Beasley

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PHYSICIAN CONTRIBUTOR

Treatment Options for Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is an early indicator of a more serious medical condition like cardiovascular disease.  
Doctor holding acupuncture needle

Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects up to 52% of men between the ages of 40 and 70 and nearly 30 million men in the United States. It’s defined as a consistent inability to achieve and maintain an erection during sexual intercourse and can be caused by physical and psychological factors. Regardless of the cause, erectile dysfunction is a serious health problem that results in a reduced quality of life for many men. Though there are several medications on the market to treat ED, many patients don’t like the side effects or prefer a natural approach. Recently, more studies have been looking at acupuncture as a natural treatment option for erectile dysfunction.  

How Acupuncture Works

The use of acupuncture dates back over 2000 years and is a fundamental treatment in Chinese medicine. Acupuncture theory centers around balancing the body’s energy, or Qi (pronounced ‘chEE’), along specific points and meridians that connect our vital organs and systems. By inserting tiny needles just under the skin at certain points on the body, acupuncture practitioners activate and redirect Qi energy to create a healing balance. Acupuncture is commonly used to treat chronic pain, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression.

The energy pathways used in acupuncture don’t translate directly to Western medicine, so there aren’t many resources to explain exactly how acupuncture works as a traditional science. However, there is increasing evidence that acupuncture may have physiological benefits for nervous, endocrine, vascular and immune systems, as well as positive psychological effects for stress and anxiety reduction.

Does acupuncture help erectile dysfunction?

Though research about the healing benefits of acupuncture is growing, studies are limited and the participant groups have been small. But preliminary results do show a positive outlook for the value of acupuncture for men who experience erectile dysfunction. Here’s what we know right now:

  • Acupuncture works best for men who have erectile dysfunction due to psychological causes (also known as psychogenic ED).

  • Participants who reported improvements after acupuncture treatments said they felt happier and more satisfied with their overall sexual health and performance.

  • Acupuncture may affect the central nervous system and calm the anxiety and stress that can lead to psychogenic ED.

  • Chinese medicine addresses the wellness of the whole person and can be valuable as part of a holistic treatment for ED.

  • Psychotherapy combined with acupuncture seemed to be more effective than relying on psychotherapy treatment only.

  • When considering treatments to address psychological issues related to erectile dysfunction, acupuncture may be less expensive than traditional medical treatments and is covered by some insurance companies.

The Bottom Line

There’s still a lot to be learned about how acupuncture works as an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction, but it’s certainly an approach worth trying if you’re looking for a natural remedy for ED. You’ll likely have the best success if your ED is psychogenic and if you combine acupuncture with psychotherapy as well as other natural treatments. At the very least, this ancient Chinese medicine technique can help reduce anxiety about ED and boost your overall wellness.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 15, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Acupuncture in the treatment of psychogenic erectile dysfunction: first results of a prospective randomized placebo-controlled study. International Journal of Impotence Research. http://www.nature.com/ijir/journal/v15/n5/full/3901021a.html
  2. Can Acupuncture Help Erectile Dysfunction? Renal and Urology News. http://www.renalandurologynews.com/erectile-dysfunction-ed/can-acupuncture-help-erectile-dysfunction...
  3. Can Acupuncture Help Erectile Dysfunction? British Acupuncture Council. http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/public-content/public-ask-an-expert/ask-an-expert-neuro-and-psycho-log...
  4. Acupuncture for erectile dysfunction: a systematic review protocol. U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4386219/

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