Flailing libido? Acupuncture could help boost sex drive, scientists say
- Chinese experts studied 24 women suffering with female sexual dysfunction
- All of their conditions improved significantly after being given the treatment
- Researchers said acupuncture could offer a ‘relatively inexpensive’ option
Millions of women suffer with a lack of sexual desire, difficulty in achieving orgasm or pain during intercourse.
But researchers believe they may have found an effective treatment in acupuncture.
The treatment — derived from ancient Chinese medicine — helped improve libido in every woman it was given to.
Academics claimed it could offer a ‘relatively inexpensive’, safe and readily available option to women struggling to get in the mood.
Twenty-four volunteers were recruited for the study.
All of them had female sexual dysfunction, the medical term for persistent problems with intercourse.
Experts at the Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital of Zaozhuang in Shandong believe acupuncture could help women suffering with a lack of sexual desire, difficulty in achieving orgasm or pain during intercourse
Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine. Fine needles are inserted at certain sites in the body for therapeutic or preventative purposes.
It is used in many NHS GP practices, as well as in most pain clinics and hospices in the UK.
How does it work?
Western medical acupuncture is the use of acupuncture following a medical diagnosis. It involves stimulating sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles.
This results in the body producing natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins.
It’s likely that these naturally released substances are responsible for the beneficial effects experienced with acupuncture.
What does it treat?
Currently, NICE only recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for:
- chronic (long-term) pain
- chronic tension-type
- headaches migraines
Acupuncture is also often used to treat other musculoskeletal conditions (of the bones and muscles) and pain conditions, including:
- joint pain
- dental pain
- postoperative pain
However, the evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture compared with other treatments is unclear.
One in six women in the UK live with female sexual dysfunction, while up to 40 per cent in the US are thought to have the condition.
It can pile pressure on relationships by making sex difficult and unpleasant for both parties.
The condition can be caused by a variety of medical issues, including low oestrogen levels and anxiety or depression.
But cancer and other serious conditions can trigger some of the tell-tale symptoms.
Current treatments tend to address that variety of causes, including with oestrogen and psychological therapy or with antidepressants.
It is not clear how acupuncture works in boosting libido, the experts from Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital of Zaozhuang in Shandong admitted.
But they speculated that the treatment was effective because it boosted oestrogen.
Previous research suggests it can help stimulate blood flow to the ovaries, where the hormone is produced.
And the team acknowledged ‘relatively few participants’ reached ‘normal’ sexual function, indicating acupuncture can only help symptoms, not cure them.
The study, published in the journal Sexual Medicine, ran between October 2018 to February 2022.
Needles were inserted on the top of their head, stomach, above their ovaries, under their knee, on the ankle, foot and lower back.
They underwent two to three sessions a week, each lasting around 30 minutes.
All of the women had regular sexual partners and recent intercourse at the time the study began.
They were quizzed about what bothers them sexually, with them listing pain during intercourse or a lack of desire as their biggest problems in bed.
Volunteers were then grilled about six key aspects of their love life: sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction an pain.
Dr Jun tan Zhang and colleagues totted them up a score out of a potential 36 points, with the total representing their ‘female sexual function index’ (FSFI).
The FSFI is a standardised number used to indicate how
The same quiz was carried out after the treatment ended to assess whether acupuncture may have helped.
After the treatment, all the women saw an improvement on their FSFI scores.
Eleven out of 24 saw their scores reach a ‘normal level’, with the average increasing from 18.5 to 26.3 — an increase of 42 per cent.
The biggest improvement came in desire (54.6 per cent), arousal (45.8 per cent) and pain (43.1 per cent).
Sexual satisfaction saw the smallest change, with an increase of 35.7 per cent.
Writing in the journal, the team said: ‘This treatment of acupuncture for FSD is extremely effective.
‘However, relatively few participants showed improvement to “normal” FSFI domain scores, indicating that the treatment is likely to help but not completely resolve these issues.
‘Additionally, all participants with FSD showed a significant improvement, which could be due to the small sample size.
‘With the increase in the sample size, the effective improvement rate may decrease.’
Experts did not compare the results to a control group not given acupuncture, and it is not clear if the treatment would stand up in bigger trials.
Evidence on it is already mixed with the NHS recommending it only for chronic pain, tension headaches and migraines — despite clinics charging up to £730 for 12 session to help couples undergoing IVF treatment.
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