Needles and Sperm

July 20th, 2011 § 0 comments

Acupuncture chart 300px

A reader recently asked whether acupuncture helps sperm.

I have to admit I’m a Western thinker, but that doesn’t mean that I automatically dismiss anything Eastern. It does mean that, as is true of any treatment, I will want to see evidence of effectiveness before I believe that it works. The most compelling proof will include:

  • A comparison of those patients who are treated and those who are not,
  • Patients (and preferably doctors) who don’t know which patients are being treated and which are not,
  • Statistics that demonstrate the chances that the conclusion is wrong,
  • More than one study that says it is right.

A number of published studies report how sperm fares with acupuncture.  One, published in Fertility and Sterility in 2009, described the use of a special device that either performed acupuncture or just looked like it did, so that patients did not know whether or not they were being treated. Comparing men who were actually treated to those who weren’t, the authors could say with around 95% confidence that motility after acupuncture increased about 10%. The authors didn’t observe an increase in sperm count, and semen volume decreased a little.

If effective, acupuncture would be a great treatment for men who need to improve motility. But first,  I’d like to see a study similar to the one done in 2009, but from different investigators and showing similar results. Until then,  I’d say acupuncture looks promising but needs a bit more study.

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