Can Acupuncture Help Treat Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

acupuncture needles( — Acupuncture and physical exercise benefit women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder involving an excess of male hormones. It affects up to 10% of women of childbearing years, and symptoms may include severe pelvic pain, acne, weight gain, patches of darkened skin and excess hair growth. Women with PCOS frequently experience infertility, and long-term complications can result in type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and endometrial cancer.

The Western Vs. Eastern Solutions To PCOS

Western medicine’s treatment of the disease may involve prescribing hormone treatments, such as contraceptive pills to make menstrual periods more regular. Depending on the symptoms a patient presents, doctors may also suggest medication to lower insulin levels. For women who have difficulty conceiving, physicians may recommend laparoscopic ovarian drilling, an outpatient procedure in which the surgeon punctures on the outer layer of the ovary with an electrode to decrease androgen production and increase the chances of ovulation.

However, there seems to be an alternative medicine solution. Hormone levels and menstrual bleeding patterns in women with PCOS improved in study groups which either received acupuncture treatments or exercise three times a week, compared with a control group which received no intervention. Lead researcher Elisabet Stener-Victorin notes “Of the two treatments, the acupuncture proved more effective.”

The recent Swedish study suggests that acupuncture and exercise may help women with PCOS avoid the drugs and surgery route. Mary Helen Lee, acupuncturist and herbalist at the White Moon Healing Center in Chicago, notes that in her 19 years of practice she has “had really good results for treating PCOS.”

Why This Alternate Treatment Works

Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, operates by looking at diseases and conditions as a manifestation of imbalances and blockages of the chi or vital life force energy as specifically connected to one of the seven organ systems: liver-gallbladder; heart-small intestine; kidney-adrenal-bladder; spleen-pancreas-stomach; lung-large intestine; and pericardium-triple warmer.  These organ systems comprise energetic partnerships in the body. The chi flows through the body through pathways called meridians in a way somewhat similar to the circulatory system. Those who have studied TCM address any imbalance as an interaction between these systems.

Lee points out that “From a Chinese medicine point of view; any condition of the reproductive system is related to kidney chi so we balance that through using specific acupuncture points and herbs connected to the kidney. In PCOS, the adrenals are often over-stimulated, and experiencing the fight or flight response, which can result from a constant state of low-grade stress.  Also, the liver chi and blood tend to be stagnant, which can cause a deficiency in the chi of the spleen/pancreas.”

“We prescribe specific traditional Chinese herbal formulas for ovarian cysts,” Lee continues, “as well as helping clients detoxify their systems. We make suggestions about doing that through diet, as well as looking at factors like EMF radiation and emotional issues which can have an impact on a person’s overall health.”

Lee also observes that, from a Chinese medicine point of view, the western medical practice of prescribing hormones can actually be counterproductive: “In the long term, what the pill does is worsen the Chinese pathologies associated with PCOS.” She cautions that other commonly used products can also have a negative impact, potentially exacerbating a hormone-related condition such as PCOS. “Pesticides can act like a synthetic hormone, throwing the body off balance,” she states.

Get Moving

While the Swedish study compared acupuncture and exercise as treatments for PCOS, Lee emphasizes that both are important. “I have seen the best results occur with women who are willing to augment the treatment they receive here by making the necessary lifestyle changes in order to take care of themselves. Acupuncture in and of itself helps but you need more to maintain your health. Exercise, like acupuncture and herbs, is a way to get the stagnant chi and the blood moving.”

By Julia Bower, BDO Contributing Writer

Julia Bower is a certified yoga teacher as well as an experienced freelance writer specializing in alternative health topics. As a yoga teacher, she adaptive yoga, making yoga accessible to all people, regardless of age and body type, as well as on using yoga to heal specific mind-body health challenges.   In future weeks, she will provide write more about yoga, as well as various alternative healing modalities, including herbal healing, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and more.