Can PCOS be treated with acupuncture?

Can PCOS be treated with acupuncture? Woman getting acupuncture
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It’s not uncommon to try other therapies and before wondering if your PCOS can be treated with acupuncture. But here’s why you may want to make it one of your first stops when dealing with this condition.

How acupuncture helps you restore wellbeing

Acupuncture has been around and used for nearly 3,000 years, and Western medicine is recognizing its benefits more and more. Acupuncture draws on the theory that life energy (also known as qi) travels along channels, or pathways, in the body. Any blockages or interruptions of that qi throw the body out of balance, create symptoms, and lead to disease.

Along these channels, there are more than 365 acupuncture points–specific places that stimulate the central nervous system. Based on your symptoms and your assessment, an acupuncturist determines where blockages of qi are occurring. Then, we insert small needles into specific acupuncture points to help decrease any blockage. This allows neurotransmitters (which communicate with your brain) and hormones flow freely through the body.

One of the best benefits of acupuncture is that it’s holistic. It helps your body recruit and use its natural resources to try to heal on its own. Many times, women come to me after they’ve dealt with symptoms and hormone imbalances for a long time. They’ve tried medications and a variety of supplements. Even if those therapies have solved some of their symptoms, sometimes a vicious cycle has been created. New issues have popped up as a side effect or another imbalance has occurred.

How we evaluate your type of PCOS and how we treat PCOS with acupuncture

A common misconception is that acupuncture is mostly good for pain. This myth means many women who could benefit from acupuncture don’t come as early as they should. With PCOS, acupuncturists tend to look for two distinctions: what we call “classic PCOS” or if the root cause of PCOS is mainly a liver issue.

Eastern medicine considers classic presentations of PCOS to be a spleen root issue. (The spleen has cells that influence insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.) Women dealing with this type of PCOS have problems with insulin and even sometimes feel fatigued after eating because of it. PCOS commonly goes undiagnosed in Western medicine. Women who don’t present with classic symptoms of PCOS, as well as women who are lean, get overlooked. In these instances, PCOS’ root cause tends to be a liver issue.

The liver-adrenal-PCOS connection

The liver performs more than 600 functions in the body and any blockages dramatically influence how we feel. We see liver sluggishness and adrenal dysfunction or fatigue go together, and this creates a lot of symptoms in PCOS. Life today has constant stimulation, and our central nervous system is in fight or flight mode more than nature intended. Our adrenal gland over-functions for awhile to keep up, creating more cortisol. More cortisol means our bodies demand glucose constantly for cell energy. It overworks the liver to provide glucose to the body through process called gluconeogenesis.

Once that rise in blood glucose is achieved, your pancreas then have to secrete insulin to bring it down. But your cells ignore insulin’s message because your high cortisol is telling it otherwise. We start to see insulin resistance and other hormone dysfunction, like elevated testosterone and estrogen and hypothyroidism.

Based on what type of PCOS a woman presents with, we determine which organ systems to focus on with acupuncture treatment and what lifestyle modifications and supplements may be needed. Many times, women begin to feel better after a series of sessions, with more regular ovulation and periods.

When your labs are in a normal range and you’re told you’re “fine” but you have symptoms

We see women who have been told their labs are “in range” and that nothing’s wrong. Labs are only one part of the picture. Okay, so your levels on a test look good. But what if your receptors–what your hormones bind to–are blocked or not receiving those messages? Your numbers can seem great, but you’ll still experience problems. It’s important to rely on more than labs. When we treat PCOS (or any other condition) with acupuncture, we rely on a comprehensive assessment.

What to expect when conditions like PCOS are treated with acupuncture

At Lotus Acupuncture and most offices, we offer free 15-minute consults. You can decide if we’re a good fit and we can answer questions you have about acupuncture. From there, you can set up an appointment for an intake consultation and treatment. What we’re treating, your goals, and your body determine how often you’ll need to come.

Some people stress about the needles in acupuncture, but they are not painful. Close your eyes for the first few treatments, if it helps. Acupuncture treats almost everything, and it relaxes you. Once we talk about what acupuncture points we’re using and why, you get to take a peaceful little “acu-nap.” Slow your mind and rest.

For some conditions, I do recommend coming in for maintenance and re-balancing–even if we’ve already treated your PCOS with acupuncture and you’re feeling well. Other patients don’t need to return unless an issue starts.

Laura Puckett, LAc., MSAc.
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