Acupuncture for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Woman about to receive acupuncture.
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For women with polycystic ovary syndrome, (often referred to as "PCOS"), there's some evidence that undergoing treatment with acupuncture may be helpful. It's thought that the needle-based healing technique may help promote ovulation in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, as well as treat the hormonal imbalances associated with this condition.

The most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age, polycystic ovary syndrome is also a common cause of infertility.

Many women with polycystic ovary syndrome seek treatment with acupuncture in order to increase their odds of becoming pregnant.

Why Is Acupuncture Sometimes Used to Treat PCOS?

There are many theories on how or why acupuncture may help manage polycystic ovary syndrome. For example, some preliminary research indicates that undergoing acupuncture may help increase blood flow to the ovaries and eliminate ovarian cysts.

Preliminary studies also suggest that acupuncture may benefit women with polycystic ovary syndrome by working to keep their insulin levels in check. Often found in excess in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome, insulin may trigger the overproduction of other hormones when it occurs at abnormally high levels. For instance, elevated levels of insulin may boost production of androgens (a class of male hormones that affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation).

In addition, there's some preliminary evidence that acupuncture may help control polycystic ovary syndrome by reducing levels of cortisol (a stress hormone found at elevated levels in women with this condition).

Acupuncture may also benefit patients by helping with weight maintenance, which is considered a key factor in the management of polycystic ovary syndrome.

The Research on Acupuncture for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

For a report published in the journal Gynecological Endocrinology in 2010, researchers reviewed four previously published studies testing the potential benefits of acupuncture in treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome.

Although they found some evidence that acupuncture may help regulate levels of certain hormones commonly found in excess in patients with this condition (including androgens), the report's authors concluded that further research is needed to determine acupuncture's effects on polycystic ovary syndrome.

In a more recent research review (published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2011), scientists sized up the available research on acupuncture and polycystic ovary syndrome but found a lack of properly designed clinical trials on this subject. 

The most recent clinical trials on the use of acupuncture among women with polycystic ovary syndrome include a small study published in the American Journal of Physiology in 2013. For the study, 32 women with polycystic ovary syndrome were split into two groups: the first group received acupuncture twice a week for up to 13 weeks, while the second group attended twice-weekly meetings with a physical therapist for the same time period.

Study results revealed that women treated with acupuncture experienced a greater increase in ovulation frequency (compared to those who met with a physical therapist). The study also demonstrated that treatment with acupuncture was associated with a significantly greater decrease in levels of a number of hormones found to play a key role in the development of polycystic ovary syndrome.

Caveats

It's important to consult your physician for guidance in incorporating alternative therapies such as acupuncture into your treatment regimen. Since polycystic ovary syndrome is closely linked to health issues such as insulin resistance (a risk factor for major illnesses like diabetes and heart disease), improper treatment of this condition may greatly impair your health. 

Beyond Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Other Benefits of Acupuncture

Along with possibly aiding in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome, acupuncture may help manage women's health issues such as menstrual pain, menopausal symptoms, and endometriosis.

Sources

Johansson J1, Redman L, Veldhuis PP, Sazonova A, Labrie F, Holm G, Johannsson G, Stener-Victorin E. "Acupuncture for ovulation induction in polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial." Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2013 May 1;304(9):E934-43.

Johansson J1, Stener-Victorin E. "Polycystic ovary syndrome: effect and mechanisms of acupuncture for ovulation induction." Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:762615.

Lim CE1, Wong WS. "Current evidence of acupuncture on polycystic ovarian syndrome." Gynecol Endocrinol. 2010 Jun;26(6):473-8.

Lim DC1, Chen W, Cheng LN, Xue CC, Wong FW, O'Sullivan AJ, Liu JP. "Acupuncture for polycystic ovarian syndrome." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Aug 10;(8):CD007689.

Stener-Victorin E1, Jedel E, Mannerås L. "Acupuncture in polycystic ovary syndrome: current experimental and clinical evidence." J Neuroendocrinol. 2008 Mar;20(3):290-8.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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