Acupuncture is a 4,000 year-old revered healing art that originated in China. It has been used for the treatment of a wide range of conditions including female reproductive conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Along with acupuncture treatment for PCOS, acupuncturists and Chinese medicine practitioners may recommend nutraceutical or pharmaceutical treatments as well as exercise and diet modifications in order to cure the condition or at least mitigate its symptoms.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of PCOS?
Acupuncture for the treatment of PCOS can be a strong and extremely effective choice of treatment. Acupuncturists/Chinese medicine practitioners evaluate PCOS symptoms that may include male pattern baldness, excess growth of hair, absent or irregular menstruation, or acne. Acupuncture gets to the root of the problem then works to heal it and also the symptoms. Usually, Chinese herbal medicine is combined with acupuncture to resolve any hormonal irregularities in the body.
In general, conventional Western Medicine exclusively treats the symptoms and not the problem causing the symptoms. For example, if PCOS causes you to be overweight, your doctor may prescribe Metformin to address the weight gain. The weight gain symptom is what’s targeted not the reason for the weight increase; so we see that the root of the problem, which in this case is PCOS, is never cured by Western medicine.
Consulting with your Acupuncturist
Your first visit to your acupuncturist may last an hour to an hour and a half. During that time, he/she will evaluate your current state of health; your acupuncturist will ask you a series of questions about your health and the symptoms you are currently experiencing. He/she will also ask you about you and your family’s medical history for PCOS, and your daily routine, among others. This helps the practitioner determine what part of your body will the needles be inserted. The main problem for people wanting to undergo acupuncture is their fear of the needles. But since these needles are very small and thin, they don’t generate any painful sensations at all. You will be placed in a quiet and peaceful room. Your acupuncturist will tell you to lie down and be as relaxed as possible. The needles are then inserted at corresponding acupuncture points and left there for around 20 to 45 minutes.
The Causes of PCOS
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is divided into two sub classifications: Blood stasis, liver stagnation with heat and abundance of phlegm and dampness and deficiency of spleen qi, kidney yin, and kidney yang. The most common manifestation of PCOS is dampness and/or phlegm in the body. Phlegm and dampness excess complicated by excess and deficiency patterns is the most commonly discovered disharmonic pattern that causes PCOS. sufferers usually tend to ovulate late in their cycle.
Women with Yang Qi deficiency tend to abundantly produce phlegm because they lack the fluids to properly move Qi. The fluids tend to stagnate and condense causing dampness in the body. From the examination of the patient, the acupuncturist may be able to differentiate the pattern of disharmony ailing the patient and thus be able to cure the underlying root of the PCOS. During the course of the treatment women in ovulation should start seeing signs of ovulation after being treated for a couple months. Women delayed in ovulation may start to experience their ovulation coming earlier and earlier until their ovulation becomes a normal cycle.
In the United States, about 7.5% of women of childbearing age suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome. One particular research done about acupuncture’s capacity to treat PCOS involved the participation of 85 women all suffering from PCOS. They were divided into three groups. One group was treated solely with low pulse electro acupuncture, the other group was put on exercise therapy and the third group received no treatment at all.
At the end of 4 months, the group treated with electro-acupuncture had lower levels of male sex hormones and their menstrual flow cycle improved as well. The exercise group also achieved lower male sex hormone levels in their bloodstream and had improved menstrual cycles albeit in lesser degrees compared to electro-acupuncture group. The no treatment group achieved no significant improvement in either the lower of male hormones or the improvement in their cycle.
The conclusion was that electro-acupuncture and physical exercise are effective in lowering hyperandrogenism and boosting menstrual frequency more effectively than no treatment for sufferers of polycystic ovary syndrome.
The conductors of the study also stated that acupuncture treatment plays a huge role in treating polycystic ovary syndrome by: helping treat anorexia in women with PCOS, helping lower weight, lowering levels of cortisol, insulin and blood glucose, controlling hyperglycemia by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin, decreasing ovarian cysts and volume, and boosting blood circulation to the ovaries.
Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine
Effectiveness of Acupuncture on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Another study done by Italian and Swedish doctors and published in the Biology of Reproduction Journal, involved female rats who were injected with estradiol valerate that induced them to a state of polycystic ovaries. The rats experienced increased production of adrenal glands s well as increased concentrations of nerve growth factor in ovaries due to the heightened activity of their sympathetic nervous system.
After a couple of months, the rats developed polycystic ovaries. Another group of rats that were induced to a state of PCOS were designated as control group and were not given any treatment. The rats that were administered with acupuncture treatments manifested improvements that led to the normalization of their ovaries and a decrease in the size of the polycystic ovaries.
The researchers conducted another study of the same kind but this time with women already suffering from PCOS. At the end of the study, the researchers stated that repeated electro acupuncture treatments helped reestablish regular ovulations in women suffering from PCOS. They also saw that acupuncture helped reduce concentrations of male sex hormones and balanced FSH/LH ratios. This study was able to show the underlying hormonal basis for PCOS, how PCOS can be artificially induced and the role stress plays in the increase of the activity of the sympathetic nervous system that can trigger the development of PCOS. The studies have shown the ability of acupuncture to stop this pathologic process by lowering the level of response of the sympathetic nervous system and helping relax the neuroendocrine system.
Christina Prieto is an Orlando acupuncturist, a certified Yoga instructor and the founder of Harmony Wellness center in central Florida.