The American College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) has partnered with Baylor College of Medicine and the Center for Women's Sexual Health in Houston, Texas for a pilot study to evaluate the effects of acupuncture in treating low sexual desire in women. The study, which is currently in the recruitment stage, will include up to 10 women initially, and will lay the groundwork for a larger, federally funded trial in the future.
"Women's sexual health and female sexual dysfunction are complex, dynamic processes requiring multiple avenues for both evaluation and treatment," said Dr. Christopher Jayne, lead investigator of the pilot study and founder of the Center for Women's Sexual Health. "Certainly alternative techniques should be considered as a potential treatment option."
Sexual dysfunction refers to a problem that occurs during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents an individual or couple from experiencing satisfaction from sexual activity. It can be caused by physical or psychological issues, and usually affects people in their early adult years and after age 65.
Sexual dysfunction is also far more common than most people think; the Cleveland Clinic Health System estimates that up to 43 percent of all women, and 31 percent of men, experience some type of sexual problem or dysfunction at some point in their lives. In women, the most common problems related to sexual dysfunction include lack of desire, inability to become aroused, anorgasmia, and painful intercourse. Because it is quite personal in nature, however, both women and men are reticent to discuss their sexual problems with others.
Under the guidelines of the study, participants will undergo a screening process at the Center, which consists of a series of sexual health questionnaires. Based on the results of the questionnaires, the women will then be designated to ACAOM for care.
Patients will receive acupuncture treatments twice a week for six weeks, for a total of 12 sessions. Treatment will be delivered by Yaping Zhang, LAc, an ACAOM faculty member and the lead investigator at the college; ACAOM interns may also be involved in providing care. Each woman will receive acupuncture at a predetermined series of points, consisting of Ren 4, Ren 6, Spleen 9 (left), Spleen 6 (right), UB 23, Du 3, UB 32, LV 13 (right), LV 3 (left), and the extra point zi gong xue (three cun from the point Ren 3). In addition, the uterus point (right) on the patient's ear will be stimulated.
At 3- and 6-week intervals, the patients will complete the same series of questionnaires they were given at the initial screening process. Responses to the questionnaires will be analyzed to measure any statistical or clinical significance. If the researchers determine that acupuncture provides significant benefits related to sexual health, the results from the pilot study will be used in a federal research grant proposal to the National Institutes of Health, with the hope of conducting more extensive trials with a larger patient base.
"Our goal is to do a major research study to help more females," said John Paul Liang, LAc, ACAOM's director of development and planning, who is acting as liaison between ACAOM and Baylor. "Once we determine that there's a benefit from acupuncture to the patients, then we'd like to do something larger and more statistically significant."