Acupuncture for PCOS
Many women with polycystic ovarian syndrome use multiple medications to help with their PCOS symptoms. While these can be helpful, the range of side effects can be tiresome. This is why some women have turned to alternative medicines to treat their symptoms. One such alternative medicine that is proving to be effective at regulating periods in women with polycystic ovary syndrome is acupuncture.
What is Acupuncture?
Originally practiced in China, acupuncture therapy has been used for more than 3,000 years, although there is evidence to suggest that it may have been around as long 5,000 years and used in Europe before being practiced in China. Acupuncture operates on the understanding that the body has pathways (also known as meridians) along which travels energy, or "Qi." Each meridian is connected to certain internal organs and physiological systems. However, if the energy along one of these pathways becomes blocked, you will notice it in the form of pain, illness, or dysfunction.
In order to get your body back in balance, special acupuncture needles are inserted into the correct points along the afflicted meridian. There are hundreds of acupuncture points all over your body and, when stimulated, each has its own predictable healing effect. Using the long, thin needles along the acupuncture meridians, blocked qi is able to flow freely again, restoring the balance of your body and easing your discomfort.
Despite the fact that acupuncture has been used for so many centuries, precisely how or why it works remains a mystery. While Eastern, or Chinese, medicines accept the idea of being able to stimulate qi running along pathways throughout the body, Western ideology does not. Instead, practitioners of Western medicine theorize that acupuncture works by blocking our pain receptors and increasing our levels of endorphins. It has been found that acupuncture does increase the body’s levels of beta-endorphin, endomorphin-1, serotonin, and encephalin, all of which help reduce pain symptoms.
How is Acupuncture Done?
If this is your first time getting acupuncture, your acupuncturist will go over your medical history to better understand your ailment. Once she knows just which symptoms to treat as well as what other treatments or medications you are using, she will be ready to begin the acupuncture.
During the session, a number of needles will be inserted at different points along the appropriate meridians for your symptoms. Since acupuncture pathways run all over our bodies, the needles may be inserted close to the area that is bothering you or not. Acupuncture needles will remain in place for anywhere between 20 and 45 minutes.
Because needles are being inserted into your body, many people worry that acupuncture will be painful. When done correctly by a properly trained professional, there should not be any pain. However, some people may feel warmth, tingling or a slight pinching as the needle goes in. As the session progresses, you should find yourself feeling very relaxed and possibly even sleepy. When the session is over, some individual’s feel much more energized while others continue to feel deeply relaxed and sleepy. Few side effects are associated with this treatment and may include mild bruising and soreness at the site of needle insertion.
Although some problems can be resolved after just one treatment, many patients require a series of acupuncture sessions to fully help them heal. Just how many sessions you will need will be established by you and your acupuncturist.
How Acupuncture Helps PCOS
The biggest benefit acupuncture seems to have for PCOS sufferers is helping them regulate and manage their periods. However, it has also been shown to aid in weight loss and reducing headaches as well as improving patients moods and outlook.
Women with PCOS will have needles placed along the acupuncture meridians related to the reproductive system. This will help stimulate the organs, improve blood flow to the area, contribute to normalizing hormone levels and promote the proper functioning of your reproductive system.
Studies on Acupuncture
Because it is only in the last 20 years or so that acupuncture has started to be widely practiced in the West, few studies have been performed on women with PCOS receiving acupuncture.
One very small study involving just five women receiving acupuncture found that all five women had regular periods by the end of the study. Additionally, some reported having small weight loss and one woman even became pregnant. Most of the women also noticed an improvement in their mood.
A slightly larger study done in 2000 by researchers at Göteborg University in Sweden involved 24 women with PCOS who received acupuncture for two to three months. At the end of the study, 9 women (38%) had regular ovulation. However, the study also found that those women with more severe PCOS cases, particularly those participants who had high testosterone and insulin levels, and were obese, did not have any luck with the acupuncture treatment.
Acupuncture can offer some help in certain women with PCOS looking to regulate their periods. If you are interested in trying this treatment, speak with your health care provider or contact the British Medical Acupuncture Society to find a practitioner in your area.