What Are the Benefits of Acupuncture for Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects approximately 52% of people between the ages of 40 and 70 years of age who have a penis. It is estimated there will be more than 320 million cases globally by the year 2025.

Erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability to achieve and maintain an erection at least 25% of the time. Over time, this condition can lead to feelings of insecurity about sexual performance, deterioration of relationships, depression, and an overall lower quality of life.

There are several options for treating ED, including a number of effective prescription medications. Additional therapeutic options for treating ED include penile pumps, psychosexual therapy, psychological therapy, herbal medicine and injection of vasoactive drugs, and penile prosthesis.

There are also natural, alternative solutions that show promise as a treatment for ED, such as acupuncture. This centuries-old practice, which involves stimulating specific energy points in the body with hair-thin needles, is used to help treat many conditions such as chronic pain and arthritis and may also have benefits for erectile dysfunction.

In this article, we'll discuss the benefits of acupuncture and how it may help in treating erectile dysfunction.

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The Origins of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that has been practiced for over 2,000 years. The practice entails using solid, hair-thin, metallic needles to penetrate the skin. Once the needles are inserted, they are activated through gentle, specific movements of the acupuncturist's hands.

According to TCM lore, the human body has over 400 acupuncture points that are connected by meridians, which are pathways in which energy flows through the body. This energy (referred to as Qi, pronounced "chee") is thought to influence overall health. In TCM, it is believed that blocked energy flow in certain meridians is what creates disease. Acupuncture aims to restore the flow of Qi to restore health and homeostasis.

Acupuncture has been shown to be beneficial for a number of conditions such as back pain and arthritis. Although this is not originally a Western medicine practice, it is available and accessible in most places. If you do decide to try acupuncture, be sure to find a licensed practitioner. In addition, discuss the options with your doctor to make sure it is the right decision for your condition.

Benefits of Acupuncture for ED

There is some research that suggests acupuncture may be effective at treating erectile dysfunction, but the studies have been small and have mainly focused on ED caused by psychological issues rather than medical or physical concerns.

One recent meta-review showed acupuncture to have beneficial effects on people with psychogenic ED and found that acupuncture combined with the prescription medication Tadalafil (Adcirca) was even more effective at "curing" ED.

Another study suggested that acupuncture combined with psychological therapy may be better at reducing ED than psychotherapy alone. Acupuncture has also been shown to be effective at improving the sexual function and satisfaction of patients who struggle with ED as a side effect of antidepressants.

More research is needed to determine whether acupuncture can effectively treat ED, but the current data is promising. It is believed that acupuncture may help to stimulate blood flow to the pelvic region and has stress-reducing effects that can help with psychological causes of ED.

Acupuncture may be especially beneficial when used as part of an integrative treatment approach for ED, alongside other interventions including therapy, medication, herbal medicine, diet, and exercise.

How Acupuncture Works

Before your acupunture session begins, you will have a conversation with the practitioner about your goals and concerns. This is the time to bring up any questions you may have.

Then you'll be asked to lay down on a table and relax in the space. The acupuncturist will place needles along the ears, hands, legs, and abdomen to stimulate specific meridians. Typically between five to 20 needles are used.

Once the needles are inserted, the practitioner may apply heat or electrical pulses to the needles to stimulate them. The needles will remain in the specified area for 20 minutes while you relax in position.

At the end of the session, the practitioner will remove the needles. After a session, people report different responses, with some feeling very relaxed after others feeling energized.

Possible Risks and Side Effects

There are not a lot of potential risks for acupuncture. The most common side effect is bruising where the needles are inserted. Some people also experience soreness and minor bleeding.

However, if you have a health concern, such as heart disease, it's a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before making an acupuncture appointment.

If an individual has a bleeding disorder, pacemaker, or is pregnant, they should inform their practitioner to address any safety concerns. Bleeding or bruising can increase if an individual has a bleeding disorder or if they are taking blood thinners. Electro-acupuncture is also known to affect the operation of the pacemaker.

Finding a Licensed Specialist

When looking for an acupuncturist, it is a good idea to consult your healthcare provider first, especially if you have any health concerns. They will review your medical records and any medication and supplements you are taking and help you determine whether acupuncture is right for you.

Acupuncture is not a cure-all for health and medical conditions. When looking for an acupuncturist, be sure to find someone who is a certified acupuncturist and complies with the specific state guidelines and regulations. There are some medical doctors who are also acupuncturists. Once you find an acupuncturist, you can ask if they offer consultations to determine whether it is a good fit.

Other Natural ED Treatments to Try

There are lifestyle changes you can make that have been shown to help reduce the symptoms of ED. These include exercising, eating healthy, reducing stress, eliminate smoking and drinking, and if applicable, seeking psychological help.

If you are on certain medications, ED could be a side effect. Talk to your doctor to see if they can change your medication or offer other treatment options.

When an individual gets acupuncture for ED, the needles are typically placed on the ears, hands, abdomen, and legs. They are not placed in the penis.

There are a few supplements that are known to help ED. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider regarding supplements. If a person has additional health conditions or they are taking a particular medication, the supplements could cause harmful effects.

Research has shown acupuncture to be a promising natural solution for ED, but more research is needed to confirm these results. Studies suggest that acupuncture may be more beneficial for those whose ED stems from psychological triggers rather than medical ones.

Acupuncture costs typically start around $75-$100 per session and go up from there. Some practitioners may offer a sliding scale payment option. Some insurance providers also offer coverage for acupuncture.

A Word From Verywell

If you have ED, remember you are not alone, and there are many treatment options available that may help in restoring your erectile function and improving your quality of life. Talk to your healthcare provider about which treatments may hold potential to help you.

If you would like to try an alternative treatment like acupuncture, your healthcare provider can be a valuable resource in offering recommendations and advice. Often, treating ED involves a process of trial and error to find what works best for you. Be gentle and patient with yourself. It is also important to speak openly with your partner to help them understand your condition and manage expectations.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where do the needles go during an acupuncture session for ED?

    When an individual gets acupuncture for ED, the needles are typically placed on the ears, hands, abdomen, and legs. They are not placed in the penis.

  • Do ED supplements work?

    There are a few supplements that are known to help ED.  It is important to talk to your healthcare provider regarding supplements. If a person has additional health conditions or they are taking a particular medication, the supplements could cause harmful effects.

  • What does research say about acupuncture for erectile dysfunction?

    Research has shown acupuncture to be a promising natural solution for ED, but more research is needed to confirm these results. Studies suggest that acupuncture may be more beneficial for those whose ED stems from psychological triggers rather than medical ones.

  • How much does an acupuncture session cost?

    Acupuncture costs typically start around $75-$100 per session and go up from there. Some practitioners may offer a sliding scale payment option. Some insurance providers also offer coverage for acupuncture.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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