Can Acupuncture help with Polycystic ovary syndrome?

Written by Dr. Kate Zouev

Can Acupuncture help with Polycystic ovary syndrome?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a kind of endocrinal disorder, manifested as hyperandrogenism, insulin resistance, chronic anovulation and ovarian cysts. It is a common and extremely complicated endocrinal and glucose metabolic disorder and effects approximately 10% of women of reproductive age  (Cui et al, 2012). While we know it is linked with with infertility, obesity, excess hair, nowadays the range of symptoms is diverse and there is no general agreement on a definition(Maciocia, 2011). For many women symptoms start around puberty and manifest as menstrual symptoms such as irregular or infrequent periods which are heavy when the eventually arrive.

What causes PCOS?

There is no definitive answer around the cause of PCOS but the underlying cause seems to point to a  hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis) abnormality and lack of ovulation due to disturbed feedback from the ovarian hormones to hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Then it results in gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH) pulsatility disturbance  with subsequent increase in LH to FSH release.  Another theory is that thee is elevated sympathetic tone in the ovaries leading to hormonal hyper-responsiveness  (Lim & Wong, 2010).

Unfortunately PCOS increases the  risk of metabolic disturbances such as abdominal obesity, hyperinsulinaemia, and insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia, as well as hypertension which may lead to the development of other cardiovascular diseases (Stener-Victorin et al, 2009). Additionally, the infrequent periods over a long period of time can lead to an increased risk of endometrial cancer. This is due in part to the high levels of estrogen and the absence of ovulation which creates progesterone deficiency (Maciocia, 2011). Women with PCOS display reduced health-related quality of life as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression(Cui et al, 2012)

What are the treatment options for PCOS?

The treatment options are broad and range from lifestyle intervention (like exercise) to specific prescription medicine like the oral contraceptive pill. Pharmacological approaches such as the pill are helpful but have adverse effects. A more natural treatment option has been acupuncture, which involves the insertion of wire-thin, sterile acupuncture needles into specific points in the body. In 2012 the use of acupuncture among women visiting reproductive endocrinologist/fertility clinics was 22{65eb1a340d4e691135f239516f90628d846f56f52b167307daf5762de0c73870} in the United States, to 12.5{65eb1a340d4e691135f239516f90628d846f56f52b167307daf5762de0c73870} in Australia (Cui et al. 2012).

The natural, Traditional Chinese Medicine approach

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, there are many possible things that could be going on internally that could be the root of the issue. This is the beauty of Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment – it’s holistic! That means that every aspect of your health is looked at in determining why you are having the symptoms you’re having as part of PCOS. It is impossible to know how to treat someone without a thorough health history and some TCM diagnostic testing such as pulse-taking and tongue inspection. Possible TCM diagnoses for the symptoms you have may be what we call:

  • Damp-phlegm in the uterus
  • Kidney deficiency
  • Blood stagnation
  • Damp-heat in the liver
  • Blood deficiency
  • Liver fire

All of the above TCM patterns have a different treatment plan and include different acupuncture points to increase efficacy. Acupuncture conducted on  women with PCOS have been shown to provide long-lasting beneficial effects on endocrinological parameters and anovulation (those who do not ovulate) with no negative side effects  (cited in Stener-Victorin et al, 2009).

In fact, treatment using a special form of acupuncture that involves small electrodes, electroacupuncture, can result in a more regular bleeding pattern decreased abdominal adipose tissue (fat), which is very good news for PCOS sufferers.  In addition, acupuncture can help to stimulate the body’s own resources to help bring it back into alignment, which is effective not only for PCOS for overall health as well.


CUI, W., LI, J., SUN, W., & WEN, J. (2012). Clinical Research: Effect of electroacupuncture on oocyte quality and pregnancy of patients with PCOS undergoing in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. World Journal Of Acupuncture – Moxibustion2223-29. doi:10.1016/S1003-5257(12)60005-1

Lim, C. D., & Wong, W. F. (2010). Current evidence of acupuncture on polycystic ovarian syndrome. Gynecological Endocrinology26(6), 473-478. doi:10.3109/09513591003686304

Maciocia, G. (2011). Obstetrics and gynecology in Chinese medicine.

Stener-Victorin, E., Jedel, E., Janson, P. O., & Sverrisdottir, Y. B. (2009). Low-frequency electroacupuncture and physical exercise decrease high muscle sympathetic nerve activity in polycystic ovary syndrome. American Journal Of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative & Comparative Physiology66(2), R387-R395. doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00197.2009

Stener-Victorin, E., Baghaei, F., Holm, G., Janson, P. O., Olivecrona, G., Lönn, M., & Mannerås-Holm, L. (2012). Effects of acupuncture and exercise on insulin sensitivity, adipose tissue characteristics, and markers of coagulation and fibrinolysis in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: secondary analyses of a randomized controlled trial. Fertility & Sterility97(2), 501-508. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.11.010

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