Millions of women suffer from a lack of sexual desire, difficulty reaching orgasm or pain during intercourse.
But researchers believe they have found an effective treatment in acupuncture.
The treatment – derived from ancient Chinese medicine – has helped improve the libido of every woman it has been given.
Academics have claimed it could offer a “relatively inexpensive”, safe and readily available option for women who struggle to get in the mood.
Twenty-four volunteers were recruited for the study.
All had female sexual dysfunction, the medical term for persistent problems with intercourse.
Experts from Zaozhuang Maternal and Child Health Hospital in Shandong think acupuncture could help women with lack of sex drive, difficulty reaching orgasm or pain during sex
What is acupuncture and what can it treat?
Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine. Fine needles are inserted into certain areas of the body for therapeutic or preventive purposes.
It is used in many NHS GP surgeries, as well as most pain clinics and hospices in the UK.
How it works?
Western medical acupuncture is the use of acupuncture following a medical diagnosis. It involves stimulating the sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles.
As a result, the body produces natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins.
It is likely that these naturally released substances are responsible for the beneficial effects of acupuncture.
What does he treat?
Currently, NICE only recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for:
- chronic (long-term) pain
- chronic tension type
Acupuncture is also often used to treat other musculoskeletal (bone and muscle) conditions and painful conditions, including:
- articular pain
- dental pain
- postoperative pain
However, the evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture compared to other treatments is unclear.
One in six women in the UK live with female sexual dysfunction, while up to 40% in the US are believed to have the disease, which can cripple relationships.
The condition can be caused by a variety of medical issues, including low estrogen levels and anxiety or depression.
But cancer and other serious illnesses can trigger some of the telltale symptoms.
Current treatments tend to address this variety of causes, including with estrogen and psychological therapy or with antidepressants.
It is unclear how acupuncture may work to boost libido, admitted experts from Zaozhuang Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital in Shandong.
But they speculated that the treatment might have been effective because it increased estrogen.
Previous research suggests it may help stimulate blood flow to the ovaries, where the hormone is produced.
And the team acknowledged that “relatively few participants” achieved “normal” sexual function, indicating that acupuncture can only help symptoms, not cure them.
The study, published in the journal Sexual Medicinetook place between October 2018 and February 2022.
Needles were inserted into the top of their head, stomach, above their ovaries, under their knee, ankle, foot and lower back.
They underwent two to three sessions per week, each lasting about 30 minutes.
All of the women had regular sex partners and recent sex when the study started.
They were asked what bothers them sexually, with pain during sex or lack of desire being their biggest problems in bed.
The volunteers were then asked about six key aspects of their love life: sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain.
Dr. Jun tan Zhang and colleagues scored them out of a potential 36 points, with the total representing their “Female Sexual Function Index” (FSFI).
The FSFI is a recognized way of measuring how pleasurable and satisfying sex is for women.
The same quiz was conducted after the treatment ended to assess whether acupuncture might have helped.
After treatment, all women saw an improvement in their FSFI scores.
Eleven out of 24 saw their scores reach a “normal level”, with the average rising from 18.5 to 26.3, an increase of 42%.
The greatest improvement concerns desire (54.6%), excitement (45.8%) and pain (43.1%).
Sexual satisfaction saw the smallest change, with a 35.7% increase.
Writing in the journal, the team said: ‘This acupuncture treatment for FSD is extremely effective.
“However, relatively few participants showed improvement in ‘normal’ FSFI domain scores, indicating that treatment is likely to help but not completely resolve these issues.
“Furthermore, all participants with FSD showed significant improvement, which could be due to the small sample size.
“As the sample size increases, the effective rate of improvement may decrease.”
The experts did not compare the results to a control group that did not receive acupuncture, and it is unclear whether the treatment would hold up to larger trials.
The evidence for this is already mixed, with the NHS only recommending it for chronic pain, tension headaches and migraines.