According to statistic, the main cause of around 40% infertility couple originates from the man side, meaning that there are reproductive problems which does intervene men’s fertility. Facts showed that a man’s sperm volume drops by 20% between ages of 30 and 50. The sperm motility (i.e. “swimming capability”) drops 3.1%, whereas number of sperm which swim in a good manner decrease by 5% for each advancing year. Besides, the older the man, the more time needed for his partner to conceive, and more risk of miscarriage that she might suffer regardless of her age.
For IVF intervention, even low sperm counts are not considered to be a problem, we still consider it important to improve the quality of sperm. The reason is a better sperm semen would increase the likelihood of obtaining quality sperm to meet egg and generate a healthy embryo.
The primary causes of male infertility are various, including:
- genetic factors
- hormone disorders
- urogenital infections, varicocele
- lifestyle problems (such as smoking, alcohol or drug abuse),
- semen irregularities (in sperm count, concentration, motility, vitality, morphology, antibody and DNA fragmentation disorder).
Among these causes, poor sperm quality is a major factor of male infertility. It is demonstrated that the quality of sperm has deteriorated significantly due to age, unhealthy lifestyle, stress, chemical and radiation exposure, environmental pollution, and also from certain drugs. In this regards, there is increasing demand seeking nature healing methods which can effectively help with the sperm quality. Statistics showed that approximatedly 30-40% of men with sperm problems seek alternative therapies, including acupuncture to inhance their sperm quality.
The use of traditional Chinese medicine treatment for male infertility was first documented in Chao Yuan-fang’s Zhu Bing Yuan Hou Lun in 610 CE. According to Traditional Chinese medicine, male infertility is closely connected to the malfunction of the Kidney, the Liver and/or Spleen systems.
- Kidney deficiency: involve kidney Qi, Kidney Yang and Yin Kidney function is closely connected to the sexual ability, libido and the production, maturation of sperm.
- Liver Qi stagnation: In Chinese medicine, the liver regulates the flow of Qi, stores and distribute the blood to other organs including the Kidney and therefore assists the production of sperm. Liver Qi function is often harmed by excessive alcohol consumption, excessive of anger and frustration, fatty and spicy diet, sedentary lifestyle, etc.
- Spleen Yang deficiency: In Chinese medicine, the Spleen is responsible for digest and transform food into Blood to nurture the body, including the reproductive organ. When it fails to perform normal function, the body is weak, poor digestive, cold limbs and poor sperm production.
Acupuncture for sperm improvement – Research evidences
Researches suggest that acupuncture treatments given twice per week for at least 10 weeks significantly enhance sperm count, morphology and motility.
Some clinical trials suggest that acupuncture improves sperm motility (Dieterle 2009), increases sperm count (Siterman 2009, Siterman 2001), improves sperm quality (Pei 2005; Gurfinkel 2003) and has a beneficial effect on psychogenic erectile dysfunction (Engelhardt 2003).
Acupuncture may help in the treatment of male infertility (Stener-Victorin 2010), by:
- lowering scrotal temperature (Siterman 2009);
- enhancing local blood flow velocity of peripheral arterioles (Komori 2009);
- reducing inflammation, by release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003)
- by improving sperm maturation, increasing testosterone levels, and reducing liquid peroxidation of sperm (Crimmel 2001) (4)
One prospective controlled study in 1997 assessed the effect of acupuncture on the sperm quality of males suffering from sperm impairment. 16 patients had acupuncture twice a week in 5 weeks were analyzed before and 1 month after treatment, and compared to the control group who did not receive acupncture treatment. It showed that the fertility index increased significantly (P < or = .05) following improvement in total functional sperm fraction, percentage of viability, total motile spermatozoa per ejaculate, and integrity of the axonema (p < or = .05), which occurred upon treatment. The intactness of axonema and sperm motility were highly correlated (corr. = .50, P < or = .05). Thus, patients exhibiting a low fertility potential due to reduced sperm activity got benefit from acupuncture treatment.(3)
In 2014, a systematic review included a total of four RCTs that evaluated acupuncture in comparison with placebo treatment, sham-acupuncture treatment, no treatment, or herbs treatment. It found that acupuncture improve sperm motility and sperm concentration. No adverse events were reported in all the trials. Acupuncture increased the percentage of sperm with rapid progression (mean difference – 6.35, 95% confidence interval (CI): 4.38–8.32, P< 0.00001) and sperm concentration (mean difference – 6.42, 95% CI: 4.91–7.92, P< 0.00001). Although these outcomes were heterogeneous among the studies, it showed potential benefit and directions for future researchs about acupuncture treatment for men infertility (5).