Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome. Researchers find acupuncture effective for normalizing hormone levels and improving the overall health of patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Scientific data demonstrates that acupuncture produces significant improvements in menstrual regularity, restores ovulation pattern regularity, increases pregnancy rates, regulates hormonal secretions, normalizes basal body temperature patterns, and increases embryo survival rates. Fertility enhancements provided by acupuncture apply to both natural conception and IVF (in vitro fertilization) patients.
Research published in the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion entitled Advances In Clinical Research On Acupuncture Moxibustion Treatment For Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome cites several clinical studies. Let’s take a look at the finings. Chen et al. applied stimulation with acupuncture at sacral plexus acupoints and paraspinal acupoints. Acupuncture treatment sessions were regularly administered over the course of three menstruation cycles. Upon completion of all acupuncture therapy, follow-up examinations (including ultrasound imaging) demonstrated significant improvements in menstrual regularity, ovulation frequency, and cervical mucus consistency. In addition, the pregnancy rate of patients in the study increased significantly.
The research published in the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture reviewed the work of Wang et al. That study demonstrated an 80.8% total effective rate for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome with acupuncture. The acupuncture points used in the study included the following acupoints:
Two additional acupuncture points were added, based on symptomatic presentations and differential diagnostic considerations: Taichong (LV3), Fenglong (ST40). In another investigation, Huang et al. combined moxibustion with traditional Chinese medicine massage (Tui Na) and medications. The controlled investigation demonstrated the ability of traditional Chinese medicine to regulate ovulation and secretion of sex hormones to normal levels when compared with the control group that received only drug therapy. Moxibustion was applied to the following: Sanyinjiao, Guanyuan, Zigong. The researchers conclude that moxa and Chinese massage enhance the efficacy of drug therapy for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Xie et al. combined traditional Chinese herbal medicine with acupuncture and achieved significant clinical results. Patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome had an 80% total treatment effective rate using the combined therapy protocol. An herbal pill (Zi Shen Yu Tai) was administered to nourish the kidneys and reinforce fertility. On the fifth day following menstruation, acupuncture was applied to the following acupoints:
The pattern of basal body temperatures significantly normalized using the herbal medicine combined with acupuncture therapy approach to patient care. In addition, hormone levels significantly normalized, including the following hormones: LH (luteinizing hormone), testosterone, FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone). The work of Xie et al. was published in the Guiding Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Qiu and Xu administered electroacupuncture to patients that had a combination of polycystic ovarian syndrome with obesity. Electroacupuncture was applied to body style acupuncture points. In addition, auricular (ear) acupuncture was added. Important clinical improvements were documented by the researchers. Patients had significant improvements in the reduction of polycystic ovarian syndrome symptoms, including improved menstruation regularity. In addition, many patients experienced a healthy reduction a bodily fat. The total treatment affective rate was 89.7%.The auricular acupuncture points used in the study were as follows: Zigong, Neifenmi, Pizhixia, Pi, Shen, Luanchao. Body style acupuncture points used in the study were as follows:
Li et al. administered acupuncture therapy to determine whether or not it is successful for the improvement of in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryo survival rates. Inclusion criteria for the study predetermined that all patients were of kidney deficiency type (according to Chinese medicine principles) and had a confirmed diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome. The results demonstrate significant clinical improvements, including higher embryo survival rates. The following acupuncture points used in the study were as follows:
In related research, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine researchers investigated ovulation and pregnancy rates for patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome. The study involved two groups. Group one received acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic exercises. Group two received drug therapy (cyproterone acetate / ethinylestradiol tablets and metformin). The acupuncture, herbs, and exercise group slightly outperformed the drug group.
The combination of acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic exercises produced higher rates of ovulation and pregnancies in PCOS patients, producing a 46.92% ovulation rate and a 32.16% pregnancy rate. The drug therapy protocol produced a 40.61% ovulation rate and a 30.16% pregnancy rate. The researchers concluded that drug therapy and Chinese medicine produce similar positive patient outcomes for patients with PCOS.
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Zheng HM, Lv GY, Wang YJ, Hou WG, Chen YL, Zeng YJ. (2013). Advances in Clinical Research on Acupuncture moxibustion Treatment for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 32(9).
Wang XY, Zhang YJ, Wu FD, Lu Y & Huang GQ. (2007). Acupuncture Treatment for 26 Cases of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Journal of acupuncture, moxibustion & Tuina. (05).
Chen D, Chen SR, Shi XL, Guo FL, Zhu YK, Li Z, Cai MX, Deng LH & Xu H. (2007). Needle pricking therapy in treating polycystic ovary syndrome. China Journal of Acupuncture & Moxibustion. (02).
Huang M, Lai H, Lv FB & Pan BQ. (2007). Moxibustion in treating polycystic ovarian syndrome. Massage methodology. (01).
Qiu HN & Xu J. (2006). Acupuncture, moxibustion and auricular point sticking in treating obese polycystic ovarian syndrome. Chinese Community Doctors. 8(14): 86-87.
Li J, Cui W, Sun W. (2009). Electroacupuncture in treating patients with kidney deficiency type of PCOS and receive IVF-ET. China Journal of Sexual Science. (07).
Bai, S. L., Jiang, X. H., Li, Y. L., Huang, W. Q., Wang, L. & Liu, X. Z. (2014). The effect of weight-loss herbal decoction combined with acupuncture and exercise on endocrine markers and pregnancy outcomes in non-obesity patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Chinese Journal of Family Planning. 22(8).
Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Papavassiliou AG. Molecular mechanisms of insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome. Trends Mol Med JT – Trends in molecular medicine, 2006, 12(7):324.
Sun, J., J. M. Zhao, R. Ji, H. R. Liu, Y. Shi, and C. L. Jin. “[Effects of electroacupuncture of” Guanyuan”(CV 4)-” Zhongji”(CV 3) on ovarian P450 arom and P450c 17alpha expression and relevant sex hormone levels in rats with polycystic ovary syndrome].” Zhen ci yan jiu= Acupuncture research/[Zhongguo yi xue ke xue yuan Yi xue qing bao yan jiu suo bian ji] 38, no. 6 (2013): 465-472.
Article Originated at
How Alternative Medicine Like Acupuncture Alleviates Menstrual Pain
Researchers find acupuncture combined with moxibustion more effective for the treatment of painful menstruation than ibuprofen. Across three independent studies, researchers made several important findings. Acupuncture plus moxibustion produces superior treatment outcomes to oral intake of ibuprofen. Acupuncture plus moxibustion is superior to using only acupuncture as a standalone therapy. Acupuncture improves blood circulation and hemorheological characteristics for patients with dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). Let’s take a look at the results.
Hubei University of Medicine researchers (Jiao et al.) conducted a controlled clinical trial and confirm that the combination protocol of acupuncture plus moxibustion produces superior outcomes to using ibuprofen capsules to control menstruation cramping and pain. Jiao et al. conclude that acupuncture plus moxibustion has a 96.8% total treatment effective rate for the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Ibuprofen sustained time release capsules achieved a 58.1% total treatment effective rate. Acupuncture plus moxibustion outperformed ibuprofen by 38.7%. This is consistent with the independent research of Zhao et al. finding acupuncture effective for improving blood hemorheological characteristics, regulating blood viscosity, and enhancing the microcirculation of blood in the uterus for patients with dysmenorrhea.
Jiao et al. had a sample size of 62 human female patients and conducted a clinical trial at the Acupuncture Division of Hubei University of Medicine. Patients were randomly divided into an acupuncture group and a medication group, with 31 patients in each group. The acupuncture group received a combination of acupuncture and moxibustion therapy and the medication group received ibuprofen sustained time release capsules. The primary acupoints selected for all patients were the following:
Additional acupoints were selected on an individual symptomatic basis. Acupoints selection was based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system of differential diagnosis by pattern differentiation. For qi and blood stasis, the following acupoints were added:
For depressed liver qi with dampness and heat, the following acupoints were added:
For liver and kidney deficiency, the following acupoints were added:
For poor qi and blood circulation, the following acupoints were added:
Treatment commenced with patients in a supine position. After disinfection of the acupoint sites, a 0.30 mm x 40 mm disposable filiform needle was inserted into each acupoint with a high needle entry speed. Manual acupuncture stimulation techniques for obtaining deqi including lifting, thrusting, and rotating. Once a deqi sensation was obtained, the needles were retained and moxibustion was conducted on the same acupoints.
Moxa cigar cuttings, each 2 cm long, were attached to each needle handle and ignited. Moxa was left in place to self-extinguish. One acupuncture session was conducted daily for 3 – 4 consecutive days during menstruation. Treatment was also conducted on the 2 days prior to the next menstrual cycle. The entire course of treatment comprised 3 menstrual cycles. Patients were also advised to avoid getting chilled and to keep warm during activities of daily living.
For the ibuprofen group, patients received 300 mg of ibuprofen sustained time release capsules starting 1 – 2 days prior to menstruation. Capsules were orally administered twice per day for 2 – 3 days until the symptoms were mitigated, for a total of 3 menstrual cycles. Vitamin B was administered additionally for patients who also experienced stomach discomfort. The results tabulated, the acupuncture plus moxibustion protocol provided greater pain relief than the ibuprofen protocol.
In an independent research trial, Lu Ying (Xianning Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine) investigated the treatment efficacy of triple acupuncture and mild moxibustion for primary dysmenorrhea patients. Lu Ying determined that triple acupuncture with mild moxibustion yielded better treatment results than conventional acupuncture. For primary dysmenorrhea, triple acupuncture plus mild moxibustion therapy achieved a 96.7% total treatment effective rate. Conventional acupuncture achieved a 90% total treatment effective rate.
A total of 60 patients were treated and evaluated in the study. They were randomly divided into a treatment group and a control group, with 30 patients in each group. The treatment group underwent triple acupuncture with mild moxibustion therapy while the control group received conventional acupuncture therapy. The primary acupoints selected for the treatment group were the following:
Additional acupoints were selected based on individual symptoms. For poor blood and qi circulation, the following acupoints were added:
For poor blood and qi circulation with blood stasis, the following acupoints were added:
For chills and dampness, the following acupoint received moxibustion but needling was not applied:
For dampness and heat in liver, the following acupoint was needled bilaterally:
Patients were instructed to urinate prior to treatment and subsequently rested in a supine position. Upon disinfection of the acupoint sites, a 0.30 mm x 50 mm filiform acupuncture needle was inserted into the acupoints. For Zhongji, the needle was inserted toward Qugu (CV2) with a high entry speed at an entry angle of 45°, to a depth of 5 mm, and until the needle stimulated a deqi response at the midpoint of the upper edge of the pubic bone.
Subsequently, two acupoints located 3 mm laterally to Zhongji were swiftly pierced to a depth of 5 mm and were then inserted to become parallel to the needle at Zhongji. The same deqi response was stimulated at these points, as was in the case of Zhongji. This is the triple acupuncture technique applied to Zhongji.
The remaining acupoints were pierced perpendicularly until a deqi sensation was achieved. The deqi sensation was defined as the patient feeling soreness, numbness, swelling, or aching towards the bottom part of the perineum or a slight electrical sensation. A needle retention time of 30 minutes was observed. During needle retention, the needles were each manipulated every 10 minutes with manual acupuncture techniques. Additionally, during needle retention, mild moxibustion was conducted at Zhongji, until the skin was flushed and moxibustion heat was transmitted downward into the skin.
For the control group, selected acupoints were identical to those of the treatment group. Primary and additional acupoints were perpendicularly pierced with a 0.30 mm x 50 mm filiform acupuncture needle. Needle manipulation techniques varied based on individual body conditions. The triple acupuncture threading technique was not applied, only perpendicular insertion was used. For poor blood and qi circulation, blood clotting, or chills and dampness, the Xie (attenuating) manipulation technique was applied. For poor liver health, heat, and dampness, the Ping Bu Ping Xie (attenuating and tonifying) manipulation technique was applied. For poor blood and qi circulation, the Bu (tonifying) manipulation technique was applied. A needle retention time of 30 minutes was observed. During needle retention, the needles were each manipulated every 10 minutes.
Both groups of patients received their respective treatments 5 days prior to menstruation. For one treatment cycle, treatment was conducted once daily for 5 consecutive days. Treatment was ceased during menstruation. The entire treatment course comprised 4 menstrual cycles. In addition, patients were advised to maintain a positive emotional state and avoid exhaustion and becoming chilled. The clinical results demonstrate that triple acupuncture and mild moxibustion produce greater therapeutic effects than conventional acupuncture in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea.
The average rate of dysmenorrhea in China is approximately 30% – 40%. During puberty, the rate is approximately 50%. Among all cases of dysmenorrhea, 10% – 20% are severe. The researchers provide a brief synopsis of the Traditional Chinese Medicine understanding of primary dysmenorrhea. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, primary dysmenorrhea falls under the Jing Xing Fu Tong class of disorders. TCM classifies primary dysmenorrhea into two major types based on the overall TCM pathology: deficiency and excess. Deficient primary dysmenorrhea is caused by weak qi and blood circulation, deficiency of the liver and kidneys, or qi and blood deficiency. Excess-type primary dysmenorrhea is exacerbated by emotional pressures, depressed liver qi, blood stasis, or poor qi circulation. Consuming cold drinks during menstruation also contributes to excess-type primary dysmenorrhea.
The researchers also provide some insight into TCM principles relative to the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. Regulating the Chong and Ren meridians improves blood and qi circulation to produce healthy, well regulated, and trouble-free menstruation. The Guanyuan acupoint significantly restores yuan (source) qi, improves blood and qi circulation, eliminates blood stasis, and relieves pain for patients with dysmenorrhea. Administering moxibustion at Guanyuan warms the meridians, expels chills, and regulates the Chong and Ren meridians. Guanyuan, Qihai, and Zhongji are acupoints which benefit yang and regulate the Chong and Ren meridians. Sanyinjiao is a central acupoint for the maintenance of liver, spleen, and kidney health and is therefore beneficial to patients with dysmenorrhea.
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Jiao FL, Liang YC & He M. (2014). Therapeutic Observation of Acupuncture-moxibustion for Primary Dysmenorrhea. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 33(5).
Lu Y. (2014). Therapeutic Observation of Triple Acupuncture at Zhongji (CV 3) plus Mild Moxibustion for Primary Dysmenorrhea. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 33(7).
Zhao NX, Guo RL, Ren QY et al. (2007). Acupuncture therapy in treating primary dysmenorrhea, treatment efficacy and hemorheology study. Zhejiang University of TCM Journal. 31(3): 364-365, 367
Researchers document that acupuncture produces higher pregnancy rates than fertility medications for women with hyperprolactinemia (HPL).
Acupuncture produces a higher rate of pregnancies than fertility medications with significantly less adverse effects. In a controlled clinical trial, researchers document that acupuncture outperforms bromocriptine and bromocriptine plus clomiphene for the treatment of infertility for women with hyperprolactinemia (HPL). Acupuncture produced a 43.3% pregnancy rate whereas fertility medications produced 20% pregnancy rate.
One important mechanism responsible for the fertility treatment success with acupuncture is hormonal regulation. Acupuncture more rapidly normalized levels of prolactin than fertility medications. In hyperprolactinemia, elevated levels of prolactin (PRL) hormone causes infertility by inhibiting gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) production. GnRH is responsible for stimulating gonadotropins (Gn), luteinising hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) production. As a result, hyperprolactinemia affects the overall function of the ovaries, ovulation, and corpus luteum formation because Gn, LH, and FSH play an important biological role in reproductive health.
The study (Hu et al.) confirms that acupuncture normalizes prolactin levels more rapidly than receiving bromocriptine or bromocriptine plus clomiphene. Patients receiving acupuncture averaged a normalization of prolactin levels within two weeks. Patients receiving bromocriptine or bromocriptine plus clomiphene experienced normalization of prolactin levels within four weeks. The research indicates that acupuncture produces a faster homeostatic response for prolactin production in women with hyperprolactinemia.
One significant advantage to acupuncture treatment for the treatment of fertility emerged; acupuncture did not produce a high adverse effect rate. Conversely, fertility medications produced a high adverse effect rate. Patients receiving bromocriptine or bromocriptine plus clomiphene had a 63.33% adverse effect rate.
Hu et al. (Mawangdui Hospital of Hunan Province) determined that acupuncture is a preferential fertility treatment option for women with hyperprolactinemia. Production of greater positive patient outcomes combined with a significantly lower adverse affect rate was the basis for the conclusion. Let’s take a look at the treatment protocols for both the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach and the pharmacological approach.
The investigation included 60 female patients with infertility due to hyperprolactinemia. They were randomly divided into two equal sized groups. Patients ranged from age 26 to 33. The duration of illness ranged from 2 to 8 years. Acupuncture group patients received only acupuncture. Medication group patients received bromocriptine or bromocriptine plus clomiphene. The clomiphene was added for patients with thermoregulation irregularities. The primary acupoints selected for acupuncture therapy were the following:
Therapy commenced on the 8th day of menstruation. A 0.30 mm x 40 mm disposable needle was used to administer acupuncture on all acupoints. For Qihai and Guanyuan, the needle was inserted in a slanted orientation and an upwards direction, thereafter manipulated with the Bu (tonify) technique. Zusanli was pierced perpendicularly for a depth of 1.5 inches, and the needle was manipulated with the Bu technique. Taichong and Ligou were both pierced for a depth of 0.5 inches, perpendicularly and horizontally respectively, then treated with the Xie (reducing) needle manipulation technique. For Taixi, the needle was inserted perpendicularly 0.5 inches deep and manipulated with the Bu technique. A needle retention time of 30 minutes was observed. During each menstrual cycle, one daily acupuncture session was conducted for a total of 10 days. The above treatment was administered for a period of 1 year.
For the fertility medication control group, an initial dosage of 1.25 mg of bromocriptine was administered twice per day after meals for 7 consecutive days. After that, the dosage was increased to 2.5 mg. Patients remained on the medication for a period of 1 year. In cases where the patient did not experience changes in dual-directional thermoregulation after 3 months of bromocriptine treatment, clomiphene was administered to facilitate ovulation. Bromocriptine is a synthetic drug and is an analogue of ergot alkaloids. It stimulates cortical dopaminergic receptors thereby inhibiting prolactin release. Clomiphene is a fertility drug that stimulates ovulation.
In hyperprolactinemia, women have unusually high levels of peripheral prolactin (PRL) and experience hypothalamic pituitary gonadal axis dysfunction. This often causes menstrual disorders, galactorrhea, reproductive dysfunction, and infertility. The rate of occurrence of hyperprolactinemia is 0.4% among healthy women and 7% – 9% for infertile women (Zhang, 2012). The authors focused on the benefits of acupuncture for promoting fertility. However, the normalization of prolactin levels may have additional benefits for the patients. Further studies to examine the more global effects of acupuncture on PRL normalization and bodily health are required to quantify and confirm these additional benefits.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, hyperprolactinemia results from a Chong and Ren meridian imbalance. The acupuncture point prescription chosen for the treatment protocol reflects this principle. The signature Zusanli acupoint is effective in promoting overall qi circulation. Together with Qihai and Guanyuan, these three acupoints consolidate yuan qi, revitalize the body, nourish body cells, and strengthen the reproductive system. Taichong and Ligou are acupoints located along the liver meridian, making them significant acupoints for promoting liver health. Taixi, being a kidney meridian acupoint, is ideal for promoting kidney health. Sanyinjiao is a powerful acupoint that maintains general bodily health and has proven efficacy in treating gynecological disorders. Acupuncture administered to Taichong, Ligou, Taixi, and Sanyinjiao has an overall effect of promoting qi circulation along the liver, spleen, and kidney meridians. Acupuncture on all of the aforementioned acupoints collectively promotes liver and kidney health, dredges liver qi, and benefits the Chong and Ren meridians.
As part of continuing education in the field of acupuncture and clinical research, additional studies using this acupuncture point prescription protocol with larger sample sizes will help to confirm the findings of Hu et al. It will also be interesting to see a third study group added to future investigations comparing acupuncture combined with medications to groups receiving medications or acupuncture only.
Rubin et al. conducted an investigation of acupuncture combined with medications. The research team consisted of investigators from the University of Washington, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, and Northwest Center for Reproductive Sciences. Their meta-analysis confirms that live birth rates increase when acupuncture is added to standard care protocols for women receiving donor egg IVF (in vitro fertilization).
Xu et al. conclude that acupuncture benefits fertility rates for women with anovulatory infertility. The Ruikang Hospital researchers had a sample size of 40 patients. The effective rate was 85% based on the pregnancy rates measured in follow-up examinations. Acupuncture normalized FSH, LH, and E2 levels. Additionally, the thickness of the endometrium and the follicle diameter increased. Zigong, CV4, and CV3 were the primary acupoints used in the treatment protocol supplemented by additional Ling Gui Ba Fa acupoints. Ling Gui Ba Fa (eightfold sacred tortoise method) employs the addition of acupoints from a selection from the eight confluent points based on the time of day.
Overall, there is wealth of information indicating that acupuncture is successful in promoting reproductive health. Pregnancy rates increase accompanied by measurable improvements in hormonal regulation. Additional research is warranted based on the evidence.
Hu J, Yan XL & Wang ZX. (2014). Acupuncture and Bromocriptine in the Treatment of Special HPL in Infertile Women. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 30(7).
Zhang P. (2012). Bromocriptine in treating hyperprolactinemia. Journal of Jingchu University of Technology. 24(7): 50-52.
Hullender Rubin, Lee E., Michael S. Opsahl, Lisa Taylor-Swanson, and Deborah L. Ackerman. “Acupuncture and In Vitro Fertilization: A Retrospective Chart Review.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2013).
Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2012 Feb;32(2):113-6. Effects of electroacupuncture on embryo implanted potential for patients with infertility of different symptom complex]. Kong FY, Zhang QY, Guan Q, Jian FQ, Sun W, Wang Y. Department of Reproduction, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Shandong University of TCM, Jinan, China.
Xu, Yin, and Miao Zhang. Efficacy observation on 40 cases of anovulatory infertility treated by acupuncture and moxibustion. World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion 23, no. 1 (2013): 40-43.
During our first three years, we have truly enjoyed working with so many in the Nashville area to achieve their health care goals. Every time a client leaves with less pain, or experiences better sleep or digestion, we remember exactly why we opened Affinity Acupuncture in the first place. We are thrilled with the great results that so many of you are getting with facial rejuvenation acupuncture, and look forward to celebrating with many more of you after successful fertility treatments. Your referrals and reviews honor us, and we look forward to many years to come.
For those of you curious about trying acupuncture or dry needling for the first time, we are offering a limited time Anniversary Special for new clients – just $49 for your first visit. We hope to help you reach the same success that so many others have found. Call us at 615-939-2787 with any questions that you have about acupuncture, and to schedule your first appointment. Be sure to mention this promotion when you do. We look forward to seeing you soon.