Acupuncture to Improve Sperm
Sperm problems in men are now thought to account for at least a third of all cases of infertility. The main causes for this decrease in the quantity and quality of sperm is probably due to an increased exposure to pollutants in our environment as well as an increase in oestrogens in the water supply. Poor nutrition, alcohol, cigarette smoking, recreational drug intake, caffeine, and stress are other factors along with tight underwear, excessive cycling, and hot baths, which can increase the temperature of the scrotum and impair the sperm. Mobile phones and laptops could also be detrimental.
A history of undescended testicles as a child, sexually transmitted diseases (chlamydia or gonorrhoea), prostatitis (which can lower sperm count and motility) or trauma to the testicles can all be factors.
Problems with sperm include:
- Low volume (should be greater than 1.5ml)
- Low sperm count (should be at least 15 million per ml)
- Poor motility (should be at least 50%)
- Poor morphology (i.e. abnormalities - should be at least 4% normal forms)
- Liquefaction problems (the semen remains too coagulated so that sperm is not release sufficiently after ejaculation.
- Varicocele (abnormal dilation of the veins within the testes)
- Problems with the head of the sperm that can prevent it from penetrating the egg
- Anti-sperm antibodies
- Presence of other cells and identification of leukocytes
- DNA sperm fragmentation
- Retrograde ejaculation
Treating male infertility with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine:
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are able to significantly improve the sperm count, morphology, motility and liquefaction, and can successfully treat varicoceles, retrograde ejaculation and anti-sperm antibodies. Research studies show that both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine effect hormone levels and testicular blood flow, thus promoting the production of healthy sperm. Certain herbs improve liquefaction time by stimulating the secretion of important enzymes into the prostatic fluid.
Sperm takes approximately 100 days to form, so treatment should be continued for several months. As in the case of female infertility, Dr (TCM) Angelo D’Alberto will devise a natural healthcare programme of acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition in order to improve the patient’s overall health, and the quantity and quality of the sperm.
In a trial by Kucuk et al (2016), 30 men with a varicocele and an abnormal semen analysis either had acupuncture twice a week for 2 months or had a varicocelectomy. Sperm concentration and motility improved in both groups but increases in sperm concentration was highest in the acupuncture group. (Click here for the abstract).
Chen et al (2011) tried to identify how acupuncture improves sperm quality and found that levels of an important enzyme in the semen increased along with the sperm motility after acupuncture treatment. (Click here for the abstract).
A study by Siterman et al (2009) discovered that the success of acupuncture in improving sperm concentration was associated with a drop in the temperature of the scrotum. (Click here for the abstract).
A small clinical trial published in the journal Fertility & Sterility by Dieterle et al (2009) randomised 57 patients who had extremely low sperm counts and low sperm motility to receive either acupuncture or placebo acupuncture. After receiving acupuncture twice weekly for 6 weeks the motility of the sperm was found to increase significantly but not the actual count. The authors concluded that the results of the study support the significance of acupuncture in male patients with severe oligoasthenozoospermia. (Click here for the full text article).
A Chinese study by Lu et al (2006) examined the effects of a Chinese herbal medicine prescription for the treatment of male immune infertility and compared it to steroid (prednisolone) treatment. They found that the herbal medicine worked more effectively and that it could improve the antisperm antibody (AsAb) reversing ratio (Click here for the abstract).
A similar study by Fu et al (2005) examined the clinical effects of acupuncture and herbal medicine on patients with immune infertility and high AsAb. This treatment had a greater effect reducing AsAb levels than the group receiving steroids (prednisolone). (Click here for the full text article).
Sun et al (2006) used a different herbal prescription to compare against prednisolone in treating 100 cases of male immune infertility and found that those receiving the herbal medicine had lower AsAb levels, higher sperm density and motility, and higher pregnancy rates. (Click here for the full text article).
Wang et al (2008) compared the effects of electroacupuncture, herbal medicine and combined electroacupuncture and herbal medicine in 231 patients with a low sperm count and low motility. All treatments were effective but the combined electroacupuncture and herbal medicine group more so. (Click here for the abstract).
A group of infertile men who had pathological semen analyses according to WHO criteria, were treated with acupuncture twice a week for 5 weeks (Pei et al, 2005). 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 could benefit from having acupuncture. A general improvement of sperm quality, specifically in the ultrastructural integrity of spermatozoa, was seen after acupuncture. (Click here for the full text article).
Just as electroacupuncture can increase blood flow to the ovaries and uterus so it can to the testicles. A study by Cakmak et al (2008) demonstrated that electroacupuncture can increase the blood flow through the testicular artery, which could be an important finding for patients with a varicocele. The authors noted 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. (Click here for the abstract).
A small study carried out in the UK by Tempest et al (2005) looked at the effect of Chinese herbs on sperm quality. The incidence of chromosomal abnormality in all 6 patients who took the herbs was significantly reduced. (Click here for the abstract).
Gurfinkel et al (2003) examined the effects of acupuncture and moxibustion in men with semen abnormalities and found it significantly increased the percentage of normal sperm. (Click here for the abstract).
Zhang et al (2002) examined the effects of acupuncture in male patients with infertility due to an unknown cause who had also had a failed ICSI cycle. After acupuncture twice a week for 8 weeks the motility and normal sperm ratio had significantly improved along with higher embryo fertilisation rates. The embryo quality also improved but not significantly. (Click here for the abstract).
A group of infertile men with abnormal semen analysis were randomly divided into 2 groups; one group was given 10 acupuncture treatments over 5 weeks, and the other group, no treatment (Siterman et al 1997). Significant improvements (p < 0.05) were demonstrated in the acupuncture group compared to the control group, in particular improved motility and morphology. (Click here for the abstract).
Kucuk et al. Randomised clinical trial comparing effects of acupuncture and varicocelectomy on sperm parameters in infertile varicocele patients. Andrologia 2016;48(10):1080-1085
Chen et al. Effect of acupuncture-moxibustion therapy on sperm quality in infertility patients with sperm abnormality. Jnl Acup Tuina Sci 2011;9:(4)219-222
Siterman S et al. Success of acupuncture treatment in patients with initially low sperm output is associated with a decrease in scrotal skin temperature. Asian J Androl 2009;11(2):200-8
Dieterle et al. A prospective randomized placebo-controlled study of the effect of acupuncture in infertile patients with severe oligoasthenozoospermia. Fertil Steril 2009;92(4):1340–3
Lu et al, Zhonghua Nan Ke Xue. Clinical study on the treatment of male immune infertility by Huzhang Danshen Yin. 2006;12(8):750-5
Sun Z, Bao Y. TCM treatment of male immune infertility - a report of 100 cases. J Tradit Chin Med. 2006 Mar;26(1):36-8.
Pei J et al. Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility. Fertil Steril. 2005;84(1):141-7
Cakmak et al. Point- and frequency-specific response of the testicular artery to abdominal electroacupuncture in humans. Fertil Steril. 2008;90(5):1732-8
Tempest HG et al. Significant reduction of sperm disomy in six men: effect of traditional Chinese medicine? Asian J Androl. 2005;7(4):419-25
Gurfinkel E et al. Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities. Asian J Androl. 2003;5(4):345-8
Zhang M et al. Influence of acupuncture on idiopathic male infertility in assisted reproductive technology. J Huazhong Univ Sci Tech Med Sci.2002;22(3):228-30
Siterman S et al. Effect of acupuncture on sperm parameters of males suffering from subfertility related to low sperm quality. Arch Androl. 1997;39(2):155-61