Tiny needles, big impact

Acupuncture has the potential to help many women. Photo: Natalie Boog

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, The Age Paula Goodyer 8th June 2013

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is finding its way into the press often these days. This is because it is occurring more and more frequently especially among young women. It is one of the main causes of infertility in younger women…

Can traditional Chinese medicine help women with polycystic ovary syndrome?

PCOS plays havoc with female hormones, often disrupting ovulation. But some researchers think that acupuncture may help and recent Swedish research indicates it may improve ovulation in some women with the syndrome.

If acupuncture proves effective, it has the potential to help a lot of women. In Australia, 12 to 18 per cent of women of reproductive age are thought to have PCOS.

Its cause is a mystery but likely to involve genes and lifestyle. A family history of type 2 diabetes increases the risk.

So how can tiny needles inserted under the skin have an impact on a woman’s ovaries?

“We don’t know for sure how it works, but one theory is the needles act on the sympathetic nervous system, which, in turn, affects the hormones that control ovulation,” says Jane Lyttleton, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner who uses acupuncture in her Sydney clinic.

“It’s still early days, but some researchers think that acupuncture and, in particular, electro acupuncture, may have a part to play – electro acupuncture involves passing a low-frequency electric pulse through fine wires attached to acupuncture needles.”

Underlying the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, which include excess hair and acne as well as disrupted ovulation, is a rise in levels of male hormones produced by the ovaries.

This is caused by insulin resistance, common in women with the syndrome, which often increases testosterone production. Although researchers think that acupuncture shows promise in improving ovulation, there’s little research on its effects on other symptoms such as acne and excess hair.

Johansson J et al, American Journal of Physiology, 2013 May 1;304(9):E934-43
Zheng YH et al, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine , 2013 Sep;19(9):740-5.


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Acupuncture Pregnancy Clinic