“Acupuncture” is derived from a Latin word “acus” meaning needle and “punctura” (puncture).

It is an alternative treatment and is one of the oldest and forms a substantial part of traditional Chinese medicine.

According to historians, gold and silver needles found in the tomb of emperors around 100 BC are the earliest evidence of the existence of acupuncture.

The concept of life force energy called “qi” was believed to flow in the primary organs of the body to the superficial tissues through the meridians.

The needles are directed to the locations of the meridians, with designated a site called “A-shi” points, aiming to equilibrate the disharmony and imbalance of energy.

In recent years, the interest in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine has gain enormous popularity.

The excitement has probably gain momentum following endorsements from many celebrities and sports personalities.

It is believed to be effective in relieving pain and muscular skeletal conditions such as headache, migraine, arthritis and allergy.

The interventions have now been used for other illnesses such as cancer, asthma, obesity, drugs and alcohol dependency.

How much of this is real science or pseudoscience has been opened to scrutiny.

This week, we look into the desire of a patient to reject the conventional medicine and intention to embrace the alternative form of intervention to deal with his sexual dysfunction.

How robust is the evidence is opened to scientific scrutiny and is of interest to many.

Dear Dr G,

I am a 52-year old man who is also a diabetic.

I have recently been diagnosed as having erectile dysfunction.

I went to see a doctor who told me that long-term high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking had worsened my erectile dysfunction.

He also said that being overweight and having high cholesterol added to my sexual problems.

The doctor had referred me to a urologist. He said my condition was not curable and would require the blue pills to “start the engine”.

I have nothing against modern medicine, but I seriously consider my blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol problems, borderline and under controlled.

Besides, I also do not think I smoke that much.

I am fearful that too much western medicine will be harmful to my kidneys and if I accept the treatments now, I will run out of options in the future.

The urologist prescribed me the blue pills for sexual activities. I am reluctant also for the above reasons.

My neighbour also has the same risk factors and incidentally smokes more than me. But he does not have any problem with his sexual health.

He recommends that I should see a Chinese practitioner who specialises in acupuncture.

I am keen on this as it is more natural and risk free.

He also said the treatment will resolve my lifelong problems of premature ejaculation.

I value your opinion before embarking on this treatment. Please help.


Classically, the insertion of thin needles in the skin at the meridian points is based on the philosophy and intuition and not on scientific basis.

The session entailed five to 20 needles left in placed for 10 to 20 minutes.

Such intervention is believed to cause “micro-injury” that is equivalent to heat, pressure or laser application.

In traditional acupuncture, the therapist decides which points to treat by observing and questioning the patient. Such variability often poses a challenge for scientific consistency.

It is also difficult, but not impossible to design rigorous research trials for acupuncture.

The main challenge in comparative trials is to design an appropriate sham control group to eliminate the placebo effect.

In most research, the sham group using non-penetrating needles or needling the non-acupuncture points have been attempted to optimal clinical trials.

A recent study was conducted in Austria on 13 men with an average age of 42.

The men are split into two groups – one received actual acupuncture for impotency and the other received acupuncture for other unrelated conditions.

This is to observe the placebo effect, in which the men have relief just thinking they are receiving treatment.

At one point, the groups were switched, and crossed over effects were observed.

In this study, eight men were “cured”, with two-thirds of the participants reported good results in erectile function. And the other one-third reported some improvement in sexual function.

Although the initial results were encouraging, this twice a week intervention for 10 weeks are still opened to scrutiny, as the sustained efficacy is largely unreported.

Many experts and scholars are not surprised by the results as the psychological and emotional improvement of the participants is noted.

The 10-week treatment from the practitioners is also believed to play a part in making the men feel sharper, relaxed, with better well-being.

Although it is encouraging to see the ancient medical intervention is now opened to modern day examination, only the consistency of the efficacy can stand the test of time.

With out reader’s health problems, it does not take a genius to work out that no amount of blue pills or acupuncture needles is going to solve the problem except through lifestyle discipline.

Dr G’s advice is “finding the solution of ED in the acupuncture needles has fewer odds than finding the needle in the haystack”.

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