Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a chronic hormonal disorder that affects almost 20% of young women across Australia. The symptoms can vary from irregular menstrual cycles to extreme pain and even going as far as affecting their fertility. Due to the hormonal nature of the problem it can also impair their physical health and emotional well being leading to such problems as obesity and depression.
The underlying cause of PCOS in Western Medicine is largely unknown, often it is diagnosed through scans of the ovaries which shows tiny black spots which are eggs which have failed to be released from the ovaries. Instead they attach onto the ovaries and form tiny cysts. The condition can often only be managed in the hope that it resolves itself or begins to disappear as the woman reaches menopause. In Acupuncture Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome can have several different diagnoses depending on the range of symptoms.
Many women I see with PCOS are born with predispositions to developing this disharmony, which is often confirmed through discussing their family history. In Chinese Medicine the cysts on the ovaries can develop for several different reasons but it all comes down to stagnations. There is often the presence of dampness/phlegm (which comes from an impaired digestion). Since damp/phlegm is a yin pathogen, it tends to sink. This is also how UTIs and thrush are explained in an Acupuncture framework. This dampness can combine with other pathogens such as heat, cold or blood stagnation which form into physical masses presenting in this pathology as cysts on the ovaries. As stated in the Western Medical diagnosis, PCOS shows as eggs which haven’t moved out of the ovary, showing that the Liver’s Qi is stagnant and not help move the egg out of the ovary, hence turning from an energetic stagnation into a physical one that actually shows up on scans. The kidneys also play a key role here, which is why these long term stagnations can eventually lead to fertility issues in some women.
Because PCOS can be a result of so many different pathologies, it’s reflected in the large array of different symptoms women experience. The beauty of Acupuncture here is its strong diagnostic framework, we can work through your symptoms to find the root cause of your PCOS disharmony. This allows me to tailor a treatment plan specific to your pattern and thereby work on correcting it.
Chinese Medicine Causes of PCOS
Stress – Excess emotions like worry, frustration and being overworked taxes your reserves. This causes your Qi to become stagnant and prone to becoming blockages. This stagnant manifests as follicles which fail to develop, hence stagnate in their early stages, forming cysts on the ovaries.
Poor Diet – Eating too much sweet food, or oily/fatty foods causes the formation of dampness and heat, which translates into inflammation and swelling in Western terms. This can cause impair follicular development causing cysts.
Poor Lifestyle – Working long hours, poor sleep and doing too much exercise can weaken your constitution, resulting in a weakening of your vital energy. This means there isn’t the surplus of Qi and Blood needed to drive ovulation and follicles to develop properly.
Obviously many cases are a combination of all three, though emotional strain is the most common cause I see in clinic.
How I use Acupuncture for PCOS
The primary use is to help ease the pain and associated symptoms that occur with PCOS. Many women can have extended periods of PMT symptoms such as breast distension, bloating, cramps and headaches. As discussed on the Dysmennorhea page, Acupuncture works to remove the obstructions that are stopping Qi/Blood from flowing which results in pain.
A journal paper from 2016 which reviewed 9 studies on the effects of Acupuncture on PCOS concluded: “Acupuncture appears to significantly improve the recovery of the menstrual cycles and decrease the levels of BMI and LH in women with PCOS. However, the findings should be interpreted with caution due to the limited methodological quality of included RCTs.” – This means that although studies showed positive results, The methods they used for the studies are considered low and need to be interpreted cautiously. These studies show potential but cannot be qualified as providing evidence of effectiveness. Hopefully higher quality studies will be performed in the future.
If you would like to discuss this further, or any other health concerns, feel free to call the clinic on 9796 2388