Millions of women suffer from a lack of sexual desire, difficulty reaching orgasm or painful intercourse.
However, researchers believe they may have found an effective treatment in acupuncture.
The treatment – derived from ancient Chinese medicine – helped improve libido in every woman it was administered to.
Academics claimed it could offer a “relatively inexpensive, safe and readily available option” to women who are struggling to get in the mood.
24 volunteers were recruited for the study.
They all suffered from female sexual dysfunction, the medical term for persistent problems with sexual intercourse.
Experts at the Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital of Zaozhuang in Shandong believe acupuncture could help women suffering from lack of sexual desire, difficulty reaching orgasm or painful intercourse
What is acupuncture and what can it treat?
Acupuncture is a treatment method from ancient Chinese medicine. Fine needles are inserted at specific points in the body for therapeutic or preventive purposes.
It is used in many NHS GP surgeries and most pain clinics and hospices in the UK.
How does it work?
Western medical acupuncture is the application of acupuncture following a medical diagnosis. Sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles are stimulated.
This causes the body to produce natural substances like pain-relieving endorphins.
It is likely that these naturally released substances are responsible for the beneficial effects of acupuncture.
What does it treat?
Currently, NICE only recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for:
- chronic (long-term) pain
- chronic tension type
- Headache migraine
Acupuncture is also often used to treat other musculoskeletal (bone and muscle) disorders and pain conditions, including:
- joint pain
- postoperative pain
However, the evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture compared to other treatments is unclear.
One in six women in the UK lives with female sexual dysfunction, while in the US it affects up to 40 per cent, 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 estrogen and psychotherapy, or with antidepressants.
Experts at the Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital of Zaozhuang in Shandong conceded that it is not clear how acupuncture can work to increase libido.
But they speculated that the treatment might have been effective because it boosted 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, suggesting that acupuncture can only relieve symptoms, not cure them.
The study, published in the journal Sexual Medicine, ran from October 2018 to February 2022.
Needles were inserted at the crown, abdomen, over the ovaries, below the knee, ankle, foot, and lower back.
They completed two to three sessions per week, each lasting about 30 minutes.
All women had regular sexual partners and recent intercourse at the time the study began.
They were asked what bothers them sexually, citing pain during intercourse or listlessness as their biggest problems in bed.
The volunteers were then grilled about six key aspects of their love lives: sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain.
dr Jun tan Zhang and colleagues totaled her a score out of 36 possible points, with the total representing her “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 taken after treatment ended to see if acupuncture might have helped.
After treatment, all women saw an improvement in their FSFI scores.
Eleven out of 24 had their scores at “normal levels,” with the average going from 18.5 to 26.3 — a 42 percent increase.
The greatest improvement came in pleasure (54.6 percent), arousal (45.8 percent), and pain (43.1 percent).
Sexual satisfaction has changed the least with an increase of 35.7 percent.
The team wrote in the journal: “This acupuncture treatment for FSD is extremely effective.
However, relatively few participants showed improvement over ‘normal’ FSFI domain scores, suggesting that treatment is likely to aid, but not fully resolve, these issues.
“In addition, all participants with FSD showed significant improvement, which may be due to the small sample size.
“As the sample size increases, the effective rate of improvement may decrease.”
The experts didn’t compare the results to a control group that didn’t receive acupuncture, and it’s not clear if the treatment would hold up in larger studies.
Evidence for this is already mixed with the NHS only recommending it for chronic pain, tension headaches and migraines.