Welcome to my blog
Fertility and acupuncture
My Guest blog articles and Reviews
Guest blog articles
Reviews and articles
Maggie Ju (2014) Current opinion in acupuncture on stroke rehabilitation
The Journal of Chinese Medicine And Acupuncture Volume 21 Issue 2 September 2014 P9
Maggie Ju. (2015) What Part Does Acupuncture Play in IVF?
The Journal of Chinese Medicine And Acupuncture Volume 22 Issue 1 March 2015 P21
Maggie Ju (2020) The Potentiality of COVID-19 Treatment with Chinese Herbal Medicine in the UK
The Journal of Chinese Medicine And Acupuncture Volume 27 Issue 2 November 2020 P9
Thursday, 31 July 2014
Acupuncture is called ancient art and has been used in Asia for centuries to treat many conditions and relieve pain. It is now being recognised in western countries, such as USA and European countries. It is used to ease back pain, nerve pain and other pain conditions.
If a pain last over 3 month, it is chronic. Chronic pain is a common condition. It can occur in many places such as low back pain, neck pain, headache, migraine and knee pain. Chronic pain in the muscles and joints can make life miserable. Many simple treatments like ice and heat, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and appropriate exercises can often ease the pain. If these methods don’t work, not everyone is able or willing to take pain medication every day, and not everyone can or should have surgery for painful conditions.
Chronic pain is very common and difficult to manage. Apart from pain killers, acupuncture is well accepted to treat chronic pain conditions. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) plays an important role to reduce pain and improve quality of life for those who suffer from chronic pain. A survey by MG Tan et al from Singapore studied the use of CAM in chronic pain patients in Singapore. They found that 84% of patients used CAM at some point of their life. 30% of patients used CAM for other reasons instead of chronic pain. 35% of patients used for both pain and non pain conditions. Acupuncture was the most utilised which is 49%, followed by Chinese herbs (18%), Tui Na (17%) and massage (16%). Many patients were on more than one form of the CAM. 72% patients thought that CAM helped with their pain. 26% patients used CAM because conventional medicine did not work. 38% thought it was safer and had fewer side effects. 24% of patients thought it was cheaper. 85% of patients were satisfied. Many patients did not discuss the use of CAM with their doctor, mainly because they thought that CAM is more natural and safe.
Acupuncture has little side effects and well tolerated. A survey from people accepted acupuncture treatment has shown that 46% said acupuncture helped greatly, 26% said it helped in some degree and 28% said there was little help. Research showed that lower back pain is the most common reason for visiting acupuncturists. Usage of acupuncture has increased enormously in recent 10 years.
Recently, Mao et al reviewed clinical research of a few chronic pain condition treatments with acupuncture including lower back pain, knee pain, neck pain and headache. Low back pain is the most common reason for visits to acupuncturists. Recent 10 years, using high quality randomized controlled trials study acupuncture has increased enormously. Most of them have shown that acupuncture treatment is effective to lower back pain and it is better than no treatment or equivalent to other conventional treatments. The situation of knee pain with acupuncture treatment is pretty similar to lower back pain which is acupuncture is better than no treatment. For neck pain treatment with acupuncture some controlled trials suggested that acupuncture is better than or equivalent to physiotherapy. Some study suggested that acupuncture is better than massage and dry needling in motion-related neck pain. In a study on headache, it showed that acupuncture reduced headache frequency and severity, and at the same time it also improves headache related quality of life. There is a review about acupuncture for chronic pain by Vickers AJ et al just published in Arch Intern Med (2012). They analysed 29 clinical randomized controlled trials involving in 17922 patients to investigate the effect of acupuncture for 4 chronic pain conditions: back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache and shoulder pain. In the primary analysis, including all eligible trials, acupuncture was superior for both sham and no acupuncture control for each pain condition. After exclusion of an outlying set of trials that strongly favoured acupuncture, the effect sizes were similar across pain conditions analysed. Patients receiving acupuncture had less pain. They concluded that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and it is more than a placebo. Acupuncture is clearly a treatment option.
It becomes general knowledge that acupuncture releases pain effectively. However the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain relief is still coming up for debate and there are always some clinical trials showing lack of effect compared with control. What is the reason for this? Macpherson et al analysed clinical trials involving patients with headache and migraine, osteoarthritis, and back, neck and shoulder pain. There were many different types of controls used in the trials including sham controls such as non-needle sham, penetrating sham needles and non-penetrating sham needles and non sham control such as non-specified routine care and protocol-guided care. They analysed the impact of choice of control on effect of acupuncture. They found that acupuncture was significantly superior to all categories of control group. For trials that used penetrating needles for sham control, acupuncture had smaller effect sizes than for trials with non-penetrating sham or sham control without needles. Large effects of acupuncture were seen after exclusion of outlying studies. In trials with non-sham controls, larger effect sizes associated with acupuncture vs. non-specified routine care than vs. protocol-guided care. From this study it can be seen that acupuncture is significantly superior to control irrespective of the subtype of control. Penetrating needles can have positive effects which should be avoided as a control in the study.
Recently a study analysed 29 clinical trials involved in 17922 patients with chronic pain treated with acupuncture. This study suggested that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain including back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, and chronic headache and acupuncture is a reasonable option. There is scientific evidence how acupuncture works. Many research suggested that acupuncture relives pain by affecting neurotransmitters, hormone levels, or the immune system.
Why can acupuncture be used to relive pain?
Acupuncture can act as a pain killer and it is used in many conditions and helps relieve pain. The mechanism is studied by modern research. Studies have shown that pressure pain threshold is increased after acupuncture treatment. The effect could be long-term and short-term. Studies have also shown that acupuncture reduced sensitivity to noxious thermal stimuli which could be mechanical (such as pinching or tissue deformation), chemical (such as exposure to acid or ittitant) or thermal (such as high or low temperature). Sensory threshold changes were equally frequent reported after manual acupuncture as after electroacupuncture. Acupuncture affects sensory perception. Results are most convincing for the pressure pain threshold, especially in pain conditions associated with tenderness.
Acupuncture for myofascial pain
Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) refers to pain and inflammation in the body’s soft tissues. This is a chronic condition that affects the fascia which is connective tissue that covers the muscles. Myofascial pain syndrome may involve either a single muscle or a muscle group. The person experiences pain either in the area where the pain originated or in other area where is far from the pain originated. Myofascial pain is mainly caused by injury such as injury to the muscles, excessive strain on a particular muscle or muscle group, ligament or tendon, or injury to muscle fibers. Other causes include repetitive motions or lack of activity. The symptoms of myofascial pain include pain with tender points. The pain can be worse with activity or stress. Pharmacological therapies include anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, and muscle relaxants. Acupuncture can help reduce pain and inflammation to treat myofascial pain. Acupuncture has been widely used for acute or chronic pain management.
Why can acupuncture treat myofascial pain?
Recent research has shown that acupuncture has analgesic effect. Acupuncture at one hand acupoint induced a gradual increase in skin pain threshold. Acupuncture induces endogenous opiates release from the pituitary gland into plasma and cause analgesia in the central nerve system. Acupuncture releases neuropeptides inhibiting the primary sensory neurons in the spinal cord. These substances also help reducing inflammation and reducing inflammation response.
Hopton A BMJ Open (2014) 4:e004964
Macpherson H et al PLoS One (2014) 9:E93739
Tan MG et al Ann Acad Med Singapore (2013) 42:133-7
Vikers AJ et al Arch Intern Med (2012) 10:1-10
Mao et al Prim Care (2010) 37:105-117
MacPherson et al PLOS ONE (2013) 8:e77438
J Am Board Fam Med (2013) 26:692-700
Aranha et al Rev Bras Fisioter (2011) 15:371-9
Chou LW et al Evid Based Complement Alternat Med (2012) 2012:705327
Wong Lit Wan D et al Eur J Pain (2015) Feb 17. doi: 10.1002/ejp.671. [Epub ahead of print]
Bastos JL et al J Acupunct Meridian Stud (2013) 6:163-8
Iannuccelli C et al Clin Exp Rheumatol (2012) 30:112-6
Baeumler PI et al PLoS One (2014) 9:e113731
Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian-axis dysfunction. This is caused by problems of hypothalamus or pituitary gland in the brain. As a result the hormones are not balanced which does not trigger ovulation and leads to infertility. The reasons that affect hormone balance include stress (see below); the other common causes are excessive exercises and/or underweight.
As we already known that subtle environmental changes may alter the menstrual cycle and cause anovulation. For example, summer camp menstrual disturbances and exam anovulation. Women in emotional stress could have no ovulation. This is temporary situation. If women get out of the stress environment, menstruation and ovulation could be returned. However if this situation is prolonged, anovulation could be persistent. Finding the causes of stress situation and avoiding the causes are the keys for ovulation to return. Many therapies could help reduce stress, such as psychological therapy, yoga and acupuncture etc.
Ovarian causes. If ovary does not respond to FSH and LH, this also causes ovulation problem.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is commonest cause of anovulation related infertility. It explained 70% of the cases. Women with PCOS have imbalanced hormone levels. This may produce multiple cysts in ovaries, irregular period cycle, anovulation, infertility, acne and excessive hair growth and other symproms.
Premature ovarian failure (POF). In women with POF, their ovaries fail to function properly before menopause occurs. The ovaries don’t respond to FSH and there is no ovulation. They have difficulty to get pregnant.
Treatments that reduce stress can be effective to improve ovulation. Acupuncture helps treating anovulation by stimulating nerve endings and correcting hormonal imbalance. Acupuncture is very effective treatment for anovulation. Acupuncture reduces stress by regulating response to stress and altering stress related chemical substances levels; improves hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis function and regulates blood hormone level. As a consequence, it improves ovulation and pregnancy rate.
Here are some clinical reports about the effectiveness of acupuncture on anovulation.
There was a control trial with acupuncture group and control group (treated with Clomephene). 25 cases in each group were given 6 cycles treatments. And then ovulation and pregnancy rate were compared between the two groups. Ovulation rate is not significantly different between the two groups. The pregnancy rate is higher (44%) in the acupuncture group than in the control group (16%).
There was a case report from a reproductive health institute center in Sichuan in China. They reported the effectiveness of acupuncture on women with anovulation. Ovulation rate was from 70-80% and pregnancy rate was from 40% - 60%.
Recently Yan and Liu summarised some case reports about effectiveness of acupuncture on increasing ovulation. They collected 21 papers which used acupuncture treated anovulation associated infertility.
Here are some typical cases.
Chen et al treated 42 patients with infertility associated with anovulation. 41 of them ovulated.
Kou et al used acupuncture treatment for 50 cases of anovulation associated infertility. 40 of 50 patients achieved pregnancy.
Chang et al used acupuncture for 32 patients with anovulation associated infertility. 9 patients achieved pregnancy during 1-3 month of acupuncture treatment. 22 patients achieved pregnancy over 4 months of acupuncture treatments.
Case report for effectiveness of acupuncture on infertility caused by anovulation
There was a study about effectiveness of acupuncture for infertility without ovulation. There were 50 women with infertility without ovulation. There women were divided into two groups: acupuncture group and control group. Control group was treated with clomiphere and injection of chorionic gonadotropin. The period of treatment was 6 cycles and ovulation rate and pregnancy rate were measured. The results showed that there was no difference in the ovulation rate between the acupuncture group and clomiphere group. However the pregnancy rate in acupuncture group was significantly higher (44%) than that for control group (16%). In addition the score of mucus and endometrial thickness was greater in acupuncture group.
This is a case report on effect of acupuncture treatment of infertility caused by ovulatory problems. 120 patients with infertility caused by ovulatory problems were divided into two groups: acupuncture group and clomiphene control group. 3 treatment cycles were applied. Result showed that similar ovulation rate was observed in both group, but pregnancy rate was higher and abortion rate was lower in acupuncture group compared to control group.
Yan and Liu Shanghai J Acu-mox, (2005) 24:40-42 (针灸促排卵临床概况)
Song FJ et al Zhongguo Zhen Jiu (2008) 28:21-23
Jiang and Ding Zhongguo Zhen Jiu (2009) 29:21-4
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Infertility affects about 1 in 6 of the couples of reproductive age1. The male factor is involved in 40% - 50% of infertility cases. The most common type of male infertility is unexplained infertility, which is unknown cause. Another common cause of male infertility is varicocele which is enlarged veins in testicles. 78% - 93% of cases varicocele is located on the left side. The left internal spermatic vein inserts into the left renal vein at a right angle which leads to an increase in the hydrostatic pressure of the left spermatic vein causing its dilation. Also internal spermatic veins lack functional valves, which can lead to regression of blood. Possibly there is a partial obstruction of the left spermatic vein due to the compression of the left renal vein between the aorta and the upper mesenteric artery . Varicocele causes elevated temperature of the scrotum possibly due to reflux of warm blood from the abdominal cavity. High temperature causes thermal damage of the DNA and proteins in the nucleus of spermatic tubules' cells and / or Leydig cells. The increased vein pressure can influence testicular blood flow, cause accumulation of toxic metabolites which leads to chronic vasoconstriction and subsequent dysfunction of the spermatic epithelium. Men with varicocele have high FSH level and low sperm counts. Surgical repair of varicocele has been shown to restore the temperature in both animals and humans. However fertility potential is not always improved after surgical repair of varicocele though semen parameters were improved.
Oxidant stress and male infertility
Half of all cases of infertility have male factor involved. Oxidant stress damage to sperm is a significant contributing pathology in 30–80% of cases. What is oxidant stress? In cellular metabolism, there are free radicals produced and they can damage cells and also there are antixodants against this damage. If balance between free radicals and antioxidants is broken, oxidant stress occurs. If oxidant stress occurs in sperm, it reduces the sperm's motility and ability to fuse with the egg by damaging the sperm membrane and sperm DNA. This may cause male infertility. Oxidant stress is not screened nor treated. The possible causes of oxidant stress come from many sources such as life style including smoking, drinking alcohol, stress, environmental factors including heat, pollutions, infections, autoimmune problems, chronic disorders etc.
Management of oxidant related stress include: change life style, reduce exposure to toxic environment, treat infections and inflammations etc. Taking some supplements such as vitamine C, B complex, and E may help reducing oxidant stress. Acupuncture may help reduce oxidant stress by improving blood circulation and taking toxic free radicals away.
Sperm is impaired by inflammation and acupuncture can help
Semen quality is affected by prostate and genital tract inflammation. There was a study on 382 voluntary male subjects who underwent the screening for prostate health. Sperm motility and prostate-related parameters were significantly impaired in patients with chronic prostatitis syndromes and lower urinary tract symptoms in comparison with controls. Elevated seminal markers of inflammation were in positive association with body mass index, prostate-specific antigen, and estradiol level in serum while in negative association with semen volume, total sperm count, and sperm motility. It was suggested that one of the possible pathways for impaired reproductive quality in male subjects >45 years could be related to infection and inflammation in the genital tract with subsequent (partial) obstruction and damage of prostate and other male accessory glands. Previous study has shown that acupuncture could improve sperm parameter in men with genital tract inflammation.
What is ICSI?
ICSI stands for intracytoplasmic sperm injection. This procedure can be used in male factor infertility with low concentration of sperm, low sperm motility and low sperm morphology. This procedure involves that individual sperm is picked up manually and injected into the inner part of the egg. The egg is obtained through the same egg retrieval procedure as IVF. This usually results in normal fertilization in about 75-85% of eggs injected with sperm of course depending on the clinics.
Do you know acupuncture can help increase sperm counts and improve sperm motility in men with varicocele?
Acupuncture may help male fertility by lowering scrotal temperature, reducing inflammation, improving circulation and improving sperm maturation.
Tremellen K Hum Reprod Update (2008) 14:243-58
Kantartzi PD et al Hippokratia. (2007)11: 99–104.
Ausmees K et al World J Urol (2013) 31:1411-25
Siterman S et al Asian J Androl (2009) 11:200-8
In the UK, there are 2 types of COVID-19 vaccine The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and The Oxford vaccine to be used once they are approved. They ...
Can acupuncture help patients with stroke? Stroke is a serious condition which blood supply to the brain is cut off. It is the second most...
Hemiplegia which is severer than hemiparesis is paralysis of one half of the body on the same side. Brain damage is one of the causes. The p...
Thigh is the area between the hip and the knee. There is only single bone in the thigh called fumar, but there are a few groups of muscles i...