Reviewed by Jill Johnson, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Wondering about acupuncture for erectile dysfunction? Here’s everything you need to know.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) — a condition when a man can’t get hard enough penile erections for penetrative sexual intercourse — can impact the quality of life of men of all ages, with around 30 million American men affected. Fortunately, there are several treatments for ED available, with medications known as PDE5 inhibitors being a popular option.
Three of the most popular erectile dysfunction drugs on the market are sildenafil (Viagra®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and tadalafil (Cialis®). A systematic review of a few hundred studies found that each of these medications improved erections in 67 to 89 percent of people with ED.
While this is encouraging, around 30 percent of men don't respond to ED pills. There are also men with additional health conditions who can’t take ED medication and some who simply don’t want to use standard Western medicine.
This can make old remedies like acupuncture — a long-established treatment in traditional Chinese medicine — a possible option to try instead of new therapies. We’ll explore whether acupuncture for erectile dysfunction is a viable treatment and if it may have other beneficial effects for sexual dysfunction.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine where certain points of the body are stimulated, usually with thin needles, to treat various health problems.
But does acupuncture for erectile dysfunction work? Unfortunately, research into the use of acupuncture for the treatment of erectile dysfunction is limited, and the studies so far have been small.
Studies on acupuncture for erectile dysfunction have primarily focused on patients with ED from psychological causes rather than medical or physical issues.
One meta-review from 2019 showed acupuncture to have beneficial effects on patients with psychogenic ED. It found that acupuncture therapy combined with the prescription medication tadalafil was even more effective at treating erectile dysfunction.
Another meta-review found one study that suggested acupuncture combined with psychological therapy may be better at reducing ED than psychotherapy alone.
Four studies on acupuncture for erectile dysfunction were also reviewed and found that acupuncture was effective for most patients, resulting in sufficient erections. However, fewer than 100 patients went through multiple acupuncture sessions in all four studies.
A review of studies on the effects of acupuncture on blood flow found that this treatment increased blood circulation in four of the studies — which may be helpful for treating erectile dysfunction. That said, the current evidence on increased blood circulation from acupuncture is insufficient to provide reliable evidence supporting this theory.
Acupuncture has also been shown to be effective at improving the sexual function of patients with erectile dysfunction from taking antidepressants.
But the review also concluded that there haven’t been enough clinical studies completed on the ability of acupuncture and its role in sexual medicine. The studies that have been done had mixed results, indicating that more research is needed to fully understand the effectiveness of acupuncture for erectile dysfunction.
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This medical treatment is most commonly used for back, neck or joint pain as well as additional health conditions like migraines and fibromyalgia.
Researchers believe the efficacy of acupuncture is due to factors not caused by the insertion of acupuncture needles but rather its placebo effects. The benefit of acupuncture was greater compared to no treatment than with sham acupuncture (a fake acupuncture procedure also known as placebo acupuncture).
How acupuncture treatment works isn’t fully understood, but it’s thought to affect the nervous system and other body tissues while potentially causing placebo effects. This nerve stimulation releases chemicals that promote physical and emotional well-being.
Acupuncture has a long history as a treatment in traditional Chinese medicine to relieve pain, most often from the back, neck and joints, as well as additional health conditions. Some may even wonder if acupuncture can be a treatment of erectile dysfunction.
There have been some studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture in improving psychological ED and erectile function. Still, there’s currently not enough research showing that acupuncture treatment can help erectile dysfunction caused by a medical condition or as a medication side effect.
If Western medicine doesn’t work to improve sexual function, consult with your healthcare provider.
Acupuncture may be helpful when used as a natural treatment for ED. Your provider might suggest it as part of a holistic approach alongside other interventions, including therapy, medication, herbal medicine, diet and exercise.
Explore ED treatments from Hims to see what your options are.