ACUPUNCTURE and SPERM

There have been a number of randomised controlled trials and pilot studies that have looked at the effect of acupuncture or electro stimulation of acupuncture points, on sperm quality in men with low counts, poor motility and morphology or a varicocele, most with favourable results. Because these trials all had different methodology and measured different outcomes, it is difficult to pool results in a meta-analysis and therefore to make therapeutic recommendations at this stage.

Effects and mechanism of action of transcutaneous electrical acupuncture point stimulation in patients with abnormal semen parameters

Yan Yu et al, Acup Med BMJ, 2019

 

Acupuncture in Medicine, British Medical Journal

A randomised controlled trial examined the effect of electrical stimulation of acupuncture points (using TEAS), on sperm parameters. They found that low frequency stimulation significantly improved sperm count and motility in men with abnormal semen analysis.

 

 

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The effectiveness and safety of acupuncture for poor semen quality in infertile males: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Ui Min Jerng et al Asian J Androl. 2014 Nov-Dec; 16(6): 884–891

Asian Journal of Andrology

This review looks at a selected number of RCTs that examined the effect of acupuncture on sperm motility and count, but not morphology. From the 4 trials they examined, they report that motility and sperm concentration were significantly increased in the acupuncture groups. However if trial designs are heterogeneous, and there is risk of bias, as was the case in this meta analysis, it makes it more difficult to draw firm conclusions at this stage.
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Randomised clinical trial of comparing effects of acupuncture and varicocelectomy on sperm parameters in infertile varicocele patients.

th_Andrologia

Kucuk EV et al, Andrologia, Vol 48, 10, 1080 – 1085, 2016

Andrologia

A study comparing surgical versus acupuncture treatment of men who were infertile due to varicoceles in the testes, found both methods were successful in improving sperm parameters although acupuncture improved sperm concentration more than surgery. The acupuncture was performed twice a week for 2 months. Pregnancy rates after more than 3 years was similar in both groups.

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Effects of work and life stress on semen quality

Janevic T et al, Fert Stert 2014, vol 102, p 530-538

Fertility and Sterility

When nearly 200 men were assessed for stress and semen quality, a clear association was apparent between stressful life events and perceived stress and lower sperm count. However work related stress did not have an impact.

This study is included here, since acupuncture is well known for its beneficial impact on perceived stress.

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Success of acupuncture treatment in patients with initially low sperm output is associated with a decrease in scrotal skin temperature.

Siterman S et al, Asian J Androl 2009 Vol 11(2):200-8
Asian Journal of Andrology.

This rather unusual study discovered that acupuncture may reduce scrotal temperature in some men with genital tract inflammation. They report that improved sperm quality was associated with a drop in temperature of the testes.

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A prospective randomized placebo-controlled study of the effect of acupuncture in infertile patients with severe oligoasthenozoospermia

Dieterle et al Fertil Steril 2009 Oct; 92 (4): 1340–3
Fertility and Sterility

This small RCT recruited 57 patients who had extremely low sperm counts, to acupuncture and placebo acupuncture groups. After receiving true acupuncture twice weekly for 6 weeks motility of sperm (but not overall count) was found to increase significantly. The authors conclude that the results of the present study support the use of acupuncture in male patients with severe oligoasthenozoospermia. More evidence with larger trials needs to be accumulated before the efficacy and effectiveness of acupuncture in male infertility can be evaluated.

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Point-and frequency-specific response of the testicular artery to abdominal electroacupuncture in humans

Cakmak Y et al, Fertil Steril 2008;90:1732–8
Fertility and Sterility 
 
 
 

In a small prospective randomised trial, healthy men were treated with electroacupuncture of different frequencies, and the effect on the blood flow in the arteries of the testicles was measured. The trial showed that a frequency of 10HZ was effective in increasing blood flow in the testes, and the authors suggest that such a stimulus may address the damaged microcirculation associated with varicoceles, and with aging. They note that decreased testicular arterial blood flow may result in impaired spermatogenesis from defective metabolism in the microcirculatory bed and suggest that further research is needed to discover if electroacupuncture can improve sperm manufacture in this instance.  Read More

Significant reduction of sperm disomy in six men: effect of traditional Chinese medicine?

Tempest HG et al, Asian J Androl. 2005 Vol 7(4):419-25.
Asian Journal of Andrology.

This is a small pilot study carried out in the UK, but one of the few (outside of China)  to look at the effect of Chinese herbs on sperm quality. The incidence of chromosomal abnormality in all the patients who took the herbs was significantly reduced. Further trials are needed to confirm these findings.  Read More

Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility.

Pei J et al Fertil Steril. 2005 Jul;84(1):141-7
Fertility and Sterility 
 
  

In a small RCT, a group of infertile men who had pathological semen analyses according to WHO criteria, were treated with acupuncture twice a week for 5 weeks. A statistically significant increase after acupuncture in the percentage and number of sperm with no structural defects was demonstrated compared to the control group of patients who received no treatment. They concluded that male infertility patients may benefit from having acupuncture.  Read More

Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities.

Gurfinkel E et al Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec;5(4):345-8.
Asian Journal of Andrology

In a prospective, controlled and blinded study, a group of infertile men were randomized into two groups, the treatment group receiving 10 acupuncture treatments and the control group receiving sham acupuncture treatments. The patients in the acupuncture group demonstrated a significant increase in the percentage of sperm with normal morphology compared to the control group. 

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Does acupuncture treatment affect sperm density in males with very low sperm count? A pilot study.

Siterman S et al Andrologia. 2000 Jan;32(1):31-9. Andrologia

Siterman S et al Andrologia. 2000 Jan;32(1):31-9.
Andrologia

 This small before and after pilot study showed a positive effect of acupuncture on sperm count – but this time on men with such low sperm counts (or no sperm) that they would usually require a testicular biopsy to extract sperm for use in an IVF cycle. Seven of the 15 men with no sperm at all produced sperm detectable by the light microscope after a course of 10 acupuncture treatments (p < 0.01) ie enough sperm could be produced for ICSI to be performed without recourse to testicular biopsy. The control group with similar semen analysis had no treatment and showed no change after 3 months. Larger trials are needed to confirm these findings. 

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