Thinking of trying acupuncture for your PCOS symptoms and wondering if acupuncture can help with PCOS? Read our article to learn the latest research results.
- Can acupuncture help with PCOS? Available studies suggest it is effective for some symptoms, including weight loss and pain.
- Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method using thin needles placed at acupressure points of the body.
- There are promising studies on PCOS infertility treatments with acupuncture, especially in regulating menstrual cycles.
- Acupuncture can be combined with Western medicine or herbal treatments.
- A typical acupuncture treatment lasts anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.
- Search our provider directory to find an acupuncture provider near you.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is not easy to treat, and most people with PCOS find it hard to keep symptoms under control. Many people find that acupuncture helps to relieve their PCOS symptoms. In this article, we’ll look at what the science has to say about whether acupuncture can help with PCOS.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that we can stay healthy if our vital force, called qi, can flow freely in the body through channels called meridians. Practitioners insert very thin needles into the skin at the body’s energy points to enhance that flow.
Western philosophy has its own philosophy as to how acupuncture works, but for now, we have only theories. While research has shown that acupuncture is effective for some conditions, scientists aren’t sure why.
Acupuncture may stimulate neurotransmitters, release trigger points that cause myofascial pain, and release endorphins, or natural painkillers. Many people think the placebo effect may play a role as well, but more research is needed.
Many acupuncturists use a combination of Chinese and Western traditions in their treatment plans.
Can acupuncture help with PCOS?
Acupuncture shows efficacy in managing some PCOS symptoms, such as menstrual cycle regulation. In 2019, the World Health Organization made headlines by recognizing Traditional Chinese medicine, which includes acupuncture, in its international compendium.
Western researchers face language barriers when accessing and evaluating studies on acupuncture conducted in China. We also need more in-depth clinical trials to understand how the method works. Another thing to remember is that acupuncture treatments are tailor-made, which makes the methods difficult to codify.
Here’s a summary of the major studies on acupuncture for PCOS:
Acupuncture for PCOS weight loss
The studies we have so far suggest a positive influence of acupuncture on weight loss. A 2009 systematic review of randomized controlled trials reported significant improvements. However, higher-level research is still needed.
Another study on the effects of acupuncture on obesity pointed out that a mix of acupuncture and a low-calorie diet helped participants lose weight and reduce body fat. Moreover, positive effects lingered after acupuncture treatment ended.
Acupuncture for PCOS pain
Many people with PCOS complain about pelvic pain as a result of ovarian cysts (fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries). There are many anecdotal reports that acupuncture can reduce pain, but the research is still limited.
While there is no research specifically related to pelvic pain, a meta-analysis published in The Journal of Pain indicated positive effects of acupuncture on chronic pain. It reviewed studies conducted specifically for musculoskeletal pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain.
The study concluded that acupuncture is a reasonable treatment option for chronic pain patients.
There’s very little research into the use of acupuncture specifically for pelvic pain. However, a 2019 study concluded that acupuncture has shown positive results and is a reasonable treatment option, especially for those who are unresponsive or intolerant to standard therapies.
Acupuncture for irregular menstrual cycles
A systematic review of clinical trials concluded that acupuncture is effective at restoring regular menstrual cycles and reducing elevated hormone levels (Fh and testosterone) that are one of the hallmarks of PCOS.
Acupuncture for PCOS infertility
According to the evidence we have now, acupuncture can be a helpful complementary treatment for women who want to have regular cycles and correct hormonal imbalances.
We still need more quality studies to understand if and how acupuncture can impact PCOS fertility, especially ovulation frequency, conception, and live birth rates.
Combining acupuncture with Western medicine and herbal treatments
Do you need to ditch your prescription medication to reap the benefits of acupuncture? Certainly not! Western doctors who specialize in Chinese medicine say the two can be combined to deliver better healthcare.
Chinese medicine providers routinely combine acupuncture with herbal remedies for lasting results. Many types of Western medication are plant-based (think FDA-approved prescription CBD for seizures or quinine for malaria).
Herbal medicine gained worldwide recognition in 2015 when a Chinese researcher received the Nobel prize for creating an anti-malaria drug based on natural ingredients.
Though herbal medicine has been practiced in China and other parts of the world for centuries, here in the Western world, we need more high-quality trials to understand how herbal medicine works.
If you decide to try herbal remedies, make sure you work with an experienced and qualified herbalist who understands herb-drug interactions and how herbal remedies might interfere with Western treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.
What happens during an acupuncture session?
If you’ve never been to an acupuncturist, you may have lots of questions. You can always ask your provider before you meet, and many acupuncture clinics offer free or reduced-price consultations.
Your first session with an acupuncturist
- Prepare for a long intake interview. When you go to a Western medicine doctor, you fill out a questionnaire and answer some questions. After an examination, your provider may order tests. In acupuncture, the diagnostic interview is combined with the physical assessment.
- Diagnosis like you never had before. Don’t be surprised if the provider takes your pulse and asks you to show your tongue. They may also apply light pressure to various parts of your body.
Healthy digestion is an important marker of health in Chinese medicine. Expect some questions about your bathroom habits.
Subsequent acupuncture sessions
The provider will place thin, sterile needles into your body at locations called acupoints. This should not be painful; be sure to tell the acupuncturist if you feel any discomfort.
Once all needles are in place, you will be asked to relax and remain in position for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. The provider or assistant will check in on you regularly.
Acupuncture should not leave any marks or scars.
How many acupuncture sessions do you need?
Like many other complementary treatments, acupuncture is not a one-off treatment. Your practitioner will recommend you come in regularly, perhaps once a week for ten sessions. With more complex conditions, treatment may take longer.
Finding an acupuncture provider
Finding an experienced acupuncturist is key to whether acupuncture can help with PCOS symptoms. Sound Cycle can help you find one. Visit our provider directory to search for a certified acupuncturist near you.
SoundCycle can also help you make informed decisions about your holistic health. Follow our blog for more information on complementary and alternative therapies, and visit our provider directory to find a practitioner near you.