Low libido, impotence, and difficulties with orgasm can be influenced by factors beyond just physical or physiological aspects. These issues often have strong connections to an individual's mental and emotional well-being, as well as underlying health conditions. This has led many people to explore acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice involving the insertion of tiny stainless steel needles into specific points on the body. Acupuncture is valued for its holistic approach to addressing sexual health and overall well-being.
Acupuncture is a frequently used treatment within traditional Chinese medicine for enhancing sexual health. A growing body of evidence suggests that it can help improve sexual desire, address sexual dysfunction, and target underlying issues that may hinder sexual pleasure.
Joseph Alban, a doctor of acupuncture and New York State-licensed acupuncturist with nearly two decades of experience at Alban Acupuncture in New York City, states that individuals often seek acupuncture for various sexual health concerns. These may range from primary issues like low libido or premature ejaculation to underlying health problems such as pelvic pain or endometriosis.
How Acupuncture Functions
While Western medicine views the body as a complex system of mechanical, chemical, and electrical processes, traditional Chinese medicine sees the body as a more holistic entity.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the concept of "qi" is central. Qi can be described as the "vital life force" that is believed to enhance overall health and sexual desire. It is considered the energy that powers growth, digestion, reproduction, healing, physical activities, daily functions, and detoxification. Every aspect of bodily function is connected to qi.
According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, individuals possess an inherent qi from birth, which can be equated with a person's constitution in Western terms. In addition to this inherent qi, people acquire qi from the food they consume and the air they breathe. Qi is essential for maintaining health and libido, and it can become deficient due to various factors such as poor diet, excessive stress, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and illnesses.
Acupuncture aims to stimulate the body to enhance the production and circulation of qi, allowing the body to replenish its vital energy. The practice involves the use of needles to remove blockages or imbalances in the flow of qi that connects different organs, facilitating the free flow of energy throughout the body.
For example, conditions like kidney qi deficiency, which has been linked to low libido, may be addressed through acupuncture. Kidney qi deficiency refers to a weakened energy of the kidneys, which can be enhanced through acupuncture to address the issue.
Acupuncturists like Joseph Alban typically customize treatments for patients by selecting specific acupuncture points, such as kidney 3 (tai xi, or Great Ravine) or urinary bladder 23 (Shenshu, or Kidney Shu), along with other acupuncture points designed to regulate and enhance the flow of qi. In some cases, complementary techniques like moxibustion, involving the burning of mugwort close to the skin, may be used in conjunction with acupuncture.
Acupuncture treatments are often administered over several weeks. Patients may receive weekly sessions for a duration of two to four months. While some individuals may achieve their desired results without ongoing acupuncture sessions, others may benefit from maintenance treatments, which could include monthly visits or a series of sessions once or twice a year.
Research and Evidence
Recent research provides support for the efficacy of acupuncture in addressing sexual health issues. A pilot study published in 2022 in Sexual Medicine showed that acupuncture was associated with significant improvements in female sexual dysfunction. The study involved 24 women who received acupuncture treatment, resulting in substantial improvements in sexual desire, arousal, vaginal lubrication, orgasm, sexual satisfaction, and reduced dyspareunia (pain during intercourse).
A systematic review published in 2021 in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine evaluated the effect of acupressure on sexual dysfunction. The review analyzed 13 studies and found that acupuncture had a positive impact on sexual dysfunction, including improvements in desire, libido, erectile dysfunction, and impotence, with no serious side effects reported.
Addressing Underlying Issues
Acupuncture not only targets sexual health concerns directly but also addresses underlying conditions that may contribute to sexual problems. This approach involves identifying the root cause of a patient's sexual issues, whether related to hormonal imbalances, endometriosis, depression, headaches, fatigue, or other factors, and then customizing acupuncture treatments accordingly.
Some studies have suggested that acupuncture can help improve certain underlying issues. For instance, a randomized controlled trial in 2023 found that acupuncture improved menstrual cramps, reduced pain duration, and enhanced well-being and quality of life for women with endometriosis. Another meta-analysis published in 2022 supported acupuncture as an effective treatment for symptoms of chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome in men, particularly in reducing pain.
The Stress-Health Connection
Stress plays a significant role in sexual health, and acupuncture has been recognized for its stress-reducing effects. Acupuncture helps balance stress hormone levels, leading to improved relaxation and a positive impact on sexual desire. It is essential to note that individuals experiencing sexual dysfunction should also undergo a comprehensive medical evaluation to rule out physical conditions or medications that may affect desire or sexual enjoyment.
Finding an Experienced Acupuncturist
To benefit from acupuncture for sexual health or other concerns, it is crucial to seek a qualified and experienced acupuncturist. Various types of licensed acupuncturists are available, including medical doctors with additional training in acupuncture, practitioners with master's degrees in acupuncture or traditional Chinese medicine, and naturopathic physicians trained in acupuncture. Patients can find certified practitioners through organizations like the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA) or the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).
Health Insurance Coverage
Acupuncture may be covered by some health insurance plans, particularly for conditions related to pain. However, the extent of coverage varies by plan and the specific condition being treated. Fortunately, acupuncture often requires only a limited number of sessions, and it can address various health issues simultaneously.
In summary, acupuncture offers a holistic approach to improving sexual health by addressing both direct sexual concerns and underlying issues. With a growing body of evidence supporting its efficacy, acupuncture has become a valuable option for individuals seeking to enhance their sexual well-being. It is essential to consult with an experienced acupuncturist to receive personalized and effective treatments that can positively impact both sexual health and overall well-being.