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Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that is now popularly practiced around the world as an alternative medical therapy. It’s a process that involves placing very thin needles on specific parts of the body to heal ailments. Acupuncture may help manage certain conditions or provide symptom relief; the conditions that have the most research to support acupuncture as a treatment include back and neck pain, stress and anxiety, osteoarthritis, and headaches.
But what about acupuncture and fertility? Some research suggests a positive connection between acupuncture and male fertility, and we’ll dive into that here. However, it’s important to understand that the high-quality research around acupuncture is extremely limited, and the scientific findings aren’t conclusive.
Let’s jump into the science behind acupuncture and male fertility.
In general, the research around acupuncture and male fertility is limited, with many small
A small 2005 study examined the changes in sperm quality after acupuncture, comparing the semenanalysis results of a group who received acupuncture twice a week for five weeks to a control group. The researchers couldn’t find a specific connection between acupuncture and a condition that causes male infertility. However, they did observe improvements to sperm quality after treatment, especially in sperm morphology.
A later scientific review found that acupuncture treatment was associated with a significant improvement in sperm motility and sperm concentration. However, there was no research to support a significant impact on pregnancy rates of couples experiencing male-factor infertility after acupuncture. Another review also found that, while acupuncture has been correlated with increased sperm motility and sperm concentration, there is no evidence that suggests acupuncture has an impact on pregnancy rates.
Both reviews explain that while there is positive data that suggests acupuncture can improve sperm quality, the overall evidence is inconclusive, with some conflicting results. Many of the studies were conducted with small sample sizes and may not be truly representative of the connection between acupuncture and male fertility. Some studies lacked detailed descriptions of testing methodology and procedures, which means there’s also a risk of bias due to possible selective outcome reporting.
The bottom line? While some studies suggest that acupuncture can improve sperm quality — and it certainly doesn’t seem to hurt — more research needs to be done. There’s no concrete evidence that shows acupuncture can help improve pregnancy outcomes.
Studies say that acupuncture may improve sperm quality, but what are the therapeutic mechanisms that cause the improvement?
Acupuncture treatments have been shown to potentially reduce stress. There is some evidence that suggests stress can negatively impact male fertility and sperm health, so treatments that help provide stress relief may also help improve fertility.
One review suggests that acupuncture may help regulate the reproductive endocrine system. It cites studies that claim acupuncture may regulate luteinizing hormone (LH) levels, increase testosterone levels, and regulate follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels — all hormones that drive male fertility.
Another review proposes that acupuncture may also aid in thyroid function. Thyroid conditions, like hypothyroidism, can negatively impact fertility.
Acupuncture works by stimulating areas of the body that are referred to as acupuncture points. It’s thought that by stimulating various systems, acupuncture can help relieve pain, and provide other benefits such as improved sleep, digestive function, and general well-being.
The most common reason why people try acupuncture is to find relief for chronic pain, like arthritis, headaches, and neck, knee, or back pain. However, there are many other potential benefits of acupuncture, like:
It’s important to note that while there is some evidence that suggests acupuncture can provide these benefits, there is still more research needed to make a definitive claim. High-quality research on acupuncture is very limited.
As you can see, acupuncture as a fertility treatment is still controversial. Although there isn’t enough evidence to make a strong claim about acupuncture’s effect on male fertility, it is a generally safe procedure that may work for you.
If acupuncture sounds appealing to you, keep these tips in mind:
Whether or not you decide to try acupuncture, there are many other steps you can take to try to improve your sperm quality and overall fertility.
For more actionable tips and advice, check out our sperm improvement guide.
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