Medical Research

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Acupuncture

Kristen Sparrow • April 18, 2011

There is a review article in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Physiological Endocrinology looking at Complementary Medical methods of approaching Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The authors postulate that acupuncture is useful through its “modulation of the activity in the somatic and autonomic nervous system may modulate endocrine and metabolic functions in PCOS.” As readers of this blog are aware, the autonomic nervous system is of utmost interest to me, so am always heartened when other researchers and practitioners acknowledge the autonomic nervous system’s role in acupuncture effectiveness. They were wary of endorsing herbal treatment for PCOS, because they were unstudied and unproven.
I was also directed to a study from 2008 concerning the evidence and physiology behind acupuncture and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome by the same author Elisabet Stener-Victorin. Stener-Vitorin has established herself as an authority on OB GYN and Acupuncture. (I shared a cab with her after the last Society for Acupuncture Research meeting a year ago and we shared our enthusiasm for the “Girl with the Dragon Tatoo” series. In Swedish the name of the first book is “Men Who Hate Women” instead of “Girl with the Dragon Tatoo.” She mused that Swedes are quite realistic and dark compared to Americans. Apparently so, since would guess very few Americans would pick up a book called “Men who Hate Women.”)
Excerpts from the two studies follow.
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The Physiological Basis of Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Apr 12. [Epub ahead of print]
Raja-Khan N, Stener-Victorin E, Wu X, Legro R.
1Penn State College of Medicine.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder that is characterized by chronic hyperandrogenic anovulation leading to symptoms of hirsutism, acne, irregular menses and infertility. Multiple metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors are associated with PCOS, including insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, inflammation, and subclinical atherosclerosis. However, current treatments for PCOS are only moderately effective at controlling symptoms and preventing complications. This article describes how the physiological effects of major complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments could reduce the severity of PCOS and its complications. Acupuncture reduces hyperandrogenism and improves menstrual frequency in PCOS. Acupuncture’s clinical effects are mediated via activation of somatic afferent nerves innervating the skin and muscle, which via modulation of the activity in the somatic and autonomic nervous system may modulate endocrine and metabolic functions in PCOS. ..
Acupuncture in polycystic ovary syndrome: current experimental and clinical evidence.
J Neuroendocrinol. 2008 Mar;20(3):290-8.
Stener-Victorin E, Jedel E, Mannerås L.

Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden.
This review describes the aetiology and pathogenesis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and evaluates the use of acupuncture to prevent and reduce symptoms related with PCOS. PCOS is the most common female endocrine disorder and it is strongly associated with hyperandrogenism, ovulatory dysfunction and obesity…The syndrome is associated with peripheral and central factors that influence sympathetic nerve activity. Thus, the sympathetic nervous system may be an important factor in the development and maintenance of PCOS. Many women with PCOS require prolonged treatment. Current pharmacological approaches are effective but have adverse effects. Therefore, nonpharmacological treatment strategies need to be evaluated. Clearly, acupuncture can affect PCOS via modulation of endogenous regulatory systems, including the sympathetic nervous system, the endocrine and the neuroendocrine system. Experimental observations in rat models of steroid-induced polycystic ovaries and clinical data from studies in women with PCOS suggest that acupuncture exert long-lasting beneficial effects on metabolic and endocrine systems and ovulation.