Acupuncture for Erectile Dysfunction: Should You Consider It?
By The Rex MD Editorial TeamMarch 18, 2021
Acupuncture is a holistic approach to medicine that's been around for centuries. Thought to have its origins in China in 6000 BCE, acupuncture has continued to be used by thousands of people globally and represents one of the treatment options that traditional Chinese medicine has to offer.
Even with rising popularity and broader acceptance in both holistic and traditional medicine circles, acupuncture treatment is not well understood by a large chunk of the population.
This article aims to demystify acupuncture and provide you with information and answers to commonly asked questions so you can be better equipped to determine if acupuncture treatment is right for you and your circumstances.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture, at its most basic level, is the strategic placement of thin needles through the skin and muscle tissue to treat a medical condition. Why on earth would someone subject themselves to becoming a human pincushion, you might wonder?
The reality is that acupuncture facilitates real and measurable results.
To better understand what acupuncture is, it's helpful to understand its origins and history. Acupuncture is a technique that originated in China thousands of years ago. Acupuncture is just a small part of what is now known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM encompasses a host of core traditionally Eastern ways in which people were treated with holistic, natural methods in the past.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has an underlying root in Taoist beliefs, and as such, draws from the concept of qi (pronounced chi). Qi in TCM describes the life energy that flows throughout your body. One of the key aspects to treating ailments, according to TCM, is to remove energy blocks that inhibit the flow of qi throughout your body.
TCM, unlike modern medicine, uses rudimentary diagnostic techniques and observations such as smell, visual cues, auditory cues, and asking questions. This "back to basics" approach can be extremely insightful, and this attention to small details is one of the reasons TCM is gaining in popularity as a viable treatment option for certain conditions.
What is Acupuncture Used for?
With such a long standing history of treatment, it's only reasonable to want to know what acupuncture can treat. The answer as to what acupuncture can treat depends on who you ask.
The traditional Chinese medicine community uses acupuncture to treat a wide range of conditions including stress, constipation, mental health issues, nerve pain, gynecological issues in women – application is almost endless, according to practitioners. The word “treat” should be taken with a grain of salt as the TCM community practices medicine based on ancient techniques and do not place a large emphasis on evidence-based practice.
From a modern western medical perspective, acupuncture is much more limited in scope. According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), acupuncture has shown to be effective in chronic pain management, migraines, and decreasing nausea. The scope is much more limited in the eyes of western medicine because acupuncture has yet to provide compelling controlled data proving efficacy across the spectrum of its uses.
Who Can Perform Acupuncture?
In the United States, only acupuncturists that have received a degree from an accredited educational institutional and have passed their state licensing exam are able to administer acupuncture. It's important that acupuncturists have an accredited education and stay up to date on best practices in the field.
The penetration of the skin through acupuncture, while not very painful, can lead to more harm than good. If performed by an untrained individual, acupuncture is less likely to be effective and likely to just feel like you are getting poked and prodded.
If you're considering acupuncture, do your research and ensure you're visiting a reputable and licensed individual that knows what they're doing.
Can Acupuncture Help With ED?
As stated previously, according to modern medicine and the current research, acupuncture has been found to be effective in pain management, reducing migraines, and some kinds of nausea. This, however, does not mean that these are the only things acupuncture can treat; more importantly, there's insufficient data to prove acupuncture to be an effective means of treatment for other conditions. The jury is still out on some acupuncture uses.
There have been many studies that have looked into the claims of treating erectile dysfunction through the use of acupuncture.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is able to help to some degree, yet there is insufficient quality data to convincingly deem it a viable treatment option.
With that being said, if you're experiencing erectile dysfunction, acupuncture provides a holistic approach that has the potential to help your situation, if a chemical-free alternative is of importance to you. However, because it's not a verified treatment option for ED, your time may be better spent finding other treatment options. This isn't to say that you shouldn’t give it a try and see for yourself if you gain anything from the treatment.
What Are the Risks?
When conducted by a trained and experienced acupuncturist, there are very few risks associated with acupuncture treatment. The largest risk factors have to do with the fact that the needles are breaking the skin and entering the body. If these needles or the pricked area are not adequately sanitized, the needle can act as a vector for bacteria or other foreign bodies to enter the body. Additionally, the needle itself could potentially cause damage if placed incorrectly in a nerve or blood supply.
These risks are why accreditation is required to practice acupuncture, and are also why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actively regulated the sale and distribution of acupuncture needles. The FDA requires these needles to be single-use, sterilized, and made of a material that is biocompatible.
What Are Alternative Treatment Options to Acupuncture?
At this point you're most likely wondering what your other options are for erectile dysfunction treatment. Luckily there are a wide variety of treatments available for ED. These include both natural and medical forms of treatment.
As far as natural treatment options go for erectile dysfunction, the best thing you can do is to make positive changes to your lifestyle. Some forms of erectile dysfunction are caused by lifestyle choices that decrease your body's ability to effectively achieve an erection. Decreases in circulatory health or hormonal signaling can be impacted through your lifestyle choices. Making changes for the better like quitting smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, eating a healthy diet, and exercising can all help with ED.
While the natural remedies above have the potential to improve your ED symptoms, medication is the best way to get immediate relief and proven results. Viagra®, as an example, is effective in approximately 70% of those with ED that take it. This makes Viagra® a highly effective means of attaining an erection.
Viagra® is not the only medication available to help treat ED. It's just one of the numerous FDA-approved medication options for ED. Rex MD offers plenty of other medications including generic Viagra® (sildenafil), Cialis® (tadalafil), generic Cialis®, daily Cialis®, and Levitra®. With a wide range of medications to choose from, you can find the best erectile dysfunction medication for you and your price point.
The typical first line of treatment for erectile dysfunction typically consists of the medications described above. In some scenarios these treatment options may not be effective and you may need further medical treatment.
These treatments can include surgery, injections, or the use of a penis pump. Developing a good relationship with a physician is a great way to find a treatment that works for you. Licensed physicians can help guide you through the process, educate you on the options available, and make recommendations based on your needs and limitations.
In summary, there is not substantial evidence to indicate that acupuncture is an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction. While Traditional Chinese Medicine has its roots in over a thousand years of use, the lack of scientifically backed, double-blind studies dilutes any claims of it being able to treat erectile dysfunction.
The lack of evidence is not a definitive answer as to whether it's effective, but simply shows a need for further research into the effectiveness of acupuncture for ED treatment. With acupuncture becoming more widely accepted and prevalent, it may be worth a try. Even if the treatment is unable to improve your ED symptoms, it will most likely provide other benefits like a reduction in stress and more.
While acupuncture as a treatment is not yet supported by evidence-based studies, pharmaceutical interventions like Viagra®, Cialis®, and Levitra® are backed by hard science and have been used by millions of men safely and effectively. Navigating ED treatment options can be tricky, and the Rex MD team is here to help guide you. With a team of dedicated licensed physicians at your fingertips, you can rest assured knowing that you have the best option for you, your budget, and your specific needs.
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