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Acupuncture and Yoga for PCOS and Fertility

Acupuncture for PCOS and Fertility yoga for pcos

Welcome! Today we explore how acupuncture can help manage Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a condition that affects millions of women globally. PCOS often manifests with symptoms like irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, and insulin resistance, significantly impacting daily life. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture offers more than relief—it provides a holistic healing path. This approach not only uses thin needles placed along the body’s energy meridians but also incorporates herbal remedies and diet and life style advice to target PCOS at its roots, restoring the balance of Qi (energy). In my Auckland clinic, I’ve witnessed the powerful combination of acupuncture, herbs, and dietary changes dramatically improve the health and well-being of my clients. Join me as we look into how these ancient practices can form a key part of your strategy against PCOS.

Table of Contents

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder affecting women of reproductive age. It is characterized by a hormonal imbalance that can impact overall reproductive health and metabolism. The condition is named after the appearance of multiple ‘cysts’ on the ovaries, detected by ultrasound, although not all women with PCOS have these cysts.

Symptoms of PCOS

PCOS manifests through a variety of symptoms, which can vary widely from one woman to another. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Irregular Menstrual Cycles: Many women with PCOS experience fewer than nine menstrual periods a year. Some may have no periods, others may have very heavy bleeding.
  • Hirsutism: Excess hair growth on the face, chest, and back occurs in about 70% of women with PCOS due to elevated androgen levels.
  • Acne and Oily Skin: Hormonal imbalances can lead to severe acne, particularly on the face, chest, and upper back.
  • Thinning Hair or Hair Loss: This can occur on the scalp in a male-pattern baldness manner.
  • Weight Gain or Difficulty Losing Weight: Many women with PCOS struggle with obesity, particularly around the waist.
  • Darkening of the Skin: Particularly in skin creases such as the neck, groin, and under the breasts.

Causes of PCOS According to Western Medicine

The exact cause of PCOS is not fully understood, but several factors are thought to play a role:

  • Genetic Predisposition: PCOS tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic component.
  • Insulin Resistance: Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which means that their bodies can use insulin effectively, leading to higher insulin levels. This can increase the production of androgens (male hormones), which disrupt ovulation.
  • Low-grade Inflammation: Women with PCOS often have a type of low-grade inflammation that stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens.
  • Hormonal Imbalances: Imbalances in hormones such as androgens are hallmark features of PCOS. Elevated levels of androgens can prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg during each menstrual cycle and can cause extra hair growth and acne.

To learn more about PCOS according to western medicine click here. 

Causes of PCOS According to Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is viewed not as a single disease but as a manifestation of imbalances and blockages within the body that affect the organs and the flow of Qi (energy) and blood. The causes of PCOS according to TCM are rooted in the dysfunction of the Kidneys, Liver, and Spleen systems, leading to a variety of symptoms depending on the individual’s constitution and lifestyle.

Key TCM Patterns Causing PCOS:


  • Phlegm Dampness and Turbidity:

In cases where obesity is present in PCOS, TCM identifies this as phlegm dampness and turbidity. The Spleen is responsible for transforming and transporting fluids and nutrients throughout the body. When it is weak (spleen vacuity), it fails to manage these processes efficiently, leading to the accumulation of ‘dampness’ manifested as excess body fat.

This phlegm dampness can also obstruct the channels, affecting the flow of Qi and blood to the reproductive organs, contributing to ovarian cysts.


  • Liver Qi Stagnation and Heat:

Emotional stress and unfulfilled desires can lead to liver qi stagnation. The stagnation can generate heat over time, particularly when combined with a rich diet, which further affects hormonal regulation.

The liver is also responsible for the smooth flow of blood in the body. Stagnation and heat in the liver can lead to symptoms like hirsutism (excessive hair growth) and acne. This is because, in TCM, hair growth is linked to the surplus of blood and the theory that, unlike men, women typically expel more blood during menstruation, reducing hair growth.


  • Kidney Yang and Yin Vacuity:

The Kidneys in TCM are fundamentally involved in reproductive health. Kidney Yang vacuity can manifest as coldness, fatigue, and a slow metabolism, often seen in PCOS. Kidney Yin vacuity, on the other hand, might lead to insufficient cooling and moistening of the body, contributing to signs like absent or infrequent menstruation.

Both Yin and Yang deficiencies can disrupt the reproductive axis, affecting the regularity of menstrual cycles and overall fertility.


  • Blood Stasis:

In women with PCOS, blood stasis can be a significant issue, especially if there is severe menstrual pain or clots. Blood stasis implies that the blood is not flowing freely, which can be exacerbated by both Qi stagnation and internal dampness. This stagnation can lead to the formation of ovarian cysts and contribute to irregular menstruation.

Treatment of PCOS with Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a holistic approach to treating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), focusing on restoring balance and addressing the underlying causes of the symptoms. TCM encompasses several modalities, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Tuina massage, each contributing uniquely to managing PCOS.


Acupuncture is central to TCM and involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of Qi (energy). For PCOS, acupuncture targets points that help regulate the endocrine system, thus addressing hormonal imbalances that characterize PCOS. By enhancing blood circulation and normalizing the function of the ovaries, liver, and spleen, acupuncture can help reduce symptoms such as irregular menstrual cycles and ovarian cysts. Regular sessions are often recommended to achieve the best results, and some patients may notice improvements in their symptoms after a few treatments.

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine is another cornerstone of TCM, providing customized formulas tailored to the individual’s specific symptoms and constitution. For PCOS, herbs that clear dampness, reduce phlegm, and nourish the blood are commonly used. Examples include:

  • Gui Zhi – Known for its properties to improve blood flow and reduce insulin resistance.
  • Zao Jiao – Help to resolve dampness and phlegm 
  • Fuling  – Helps to resolve dampness and phlegm. 

These herbs are often combined into a formula that targets multiple aspects of PCOS, helping to enhance metabolic function and reduce symptoms like weight gain and acne.

Tuina Massage

Tuina is a form of Chinese therapeutic massage that involves specific hand techniques applied to areas of the body or along acupuncture channels. It is used to harmonize Yin and Yang in the body by manipulating the Qi in the acupuncture channels. In the treatment of PCOS, Tuina massage helps:

  • Enhance circulation and Qi flow to the reproductive organs.
  • Reduce stress and manage hormone-induced mood swings.
  • Improve metabolic function and assist with weight management.

Tuina can be particularly effective when combined with acupuncture and herbal therapy, providing a comprehensive treatment approach that addresses both physical and emotional aspects of PCOS.

Integrating TCM in PCOS Management

When treating PCOS with Chinese medicine, it’s crucial to have a holistic treatment plan tailored by a certified TCM practitioner. This plan often integrates acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Tuina massage with dietary recommendations and lifestyle changes to maximize health benefits and manage symptoms effectively. Regular follow-ups with the practitioner allow for adjustments in treatment based on the patient’s progress and response to the therapy.

This integrative and personalized approach not only helps manage the symptoms associated with PCOS but also enhances overall well-being and balance, which are fundamental to the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Can Chinese Medicine Effectively Treat PCOS?

Treating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) with Chinese Medicine presents certain challenges, especially in cases where amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation) is involved. PCOS is a complex condition that does not have a straightforward cure in any medical tradition, including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

The ability of TCM to cure PCOS is particularly difficult when amenorrhea is present. This symptom often indicates more severe hormonal and metabolic imbalances, which are harder to correct. In such cases, the condition is more resistant to treatment, as the absence of periods signifies deeper disruptions in the body’s natural rhythms and hormonal flows.

However, while a complete cure may be elusive, Chinese medicine can be effective in managing the symptoms of PCOS. TCM approaches the condition holistically, aiming to restore balance and address the root causes of the symptoms. Through a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary advice, and lifestyle adjustments, TCM can help regulate menstrual cycles, reduce symptoms like hirsutism and acne, and improve overall reproductive health.

Yoga for PCOS

Yoga is increasingly recognized as a beneficial practice for managing and alleviating symptoms associated with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Incorporating specific yoga poses can help address several key aspects of PCOS, such as stress reduction, hormonal balance, and weight management.

Benefits of Yoga for PCOS

  • Hormonal Balance: Yoga helps to regulate the endocrine system, which controls hormone production. Through various poses, especially those that involve the pelvic area, yoga can help stimulate and normalize ovarian function, thus promoting a more regular menstrual cycle.
  • Weight Management: Many yoga poses are effective in promoting weight loss and improving metabolism. Regular practice can help reduce body mass index (BMI), a significant factor for those with PCOS, as obesity can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Stress Reduction: Stress is a known exacerbator of PCOS symptoms. Yoga’s meditative and calming effects can lower stress levels, thereby reducing cortisol and potentially helping to balance other hormones indirectly linked to PCOS.

Different Styles of Yoga for PCOS

Yoga, akin to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), provides a holistic approach to health, emphasizing the integration of body, energy, and mind. Various traditional styles of yoga are deeply connected with different traditional medical systems, offering a wide array of therapeutic benefits, which are particularly beneficial for managing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

For those affected by PCOS, learning and practicing specific yoga styles can be highly beneficial. These styles are designed to remove energy stagnation and balance hormonal levels, making them ideal for those seeking effective relief from PCOS symptoms.

Traditional Yoga and Its Connections to Medicine:

  • Hatha Yoga and Ayurveda: Hatha Yoga, which is widely practiced in the West, is closely linked to Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicine system. This style of yoga focuses on physical postures (asanas) and controlled breathing (pranayama), which help in balancing the doshas (body types) and clearing physical and energetic blockages that contribute to PCOS.
  • Yantra Yoga and Tibetan Medicine: Yantra Yoga, the Tibetan Yoga of Movement, aligns with principles of Tibetan medicine. It involves movements that enhance bodily functions and energy flow. The practice includes sequences that are particularly effective in removing energy blockages, losing weight and promoting hormonal balance, crucial for managing PCOS symptoms.
  • Taoist Yoga (Yin Yoga) and Chinese Medicine: Yin Yoga, inspired by Taoist principles, closely corresponds with Chinese medicine. It focuses on passive holds that target the body’s deeper tissues, meridians, and energy pathways, helping to release both physical and emotional tension which can be beneficial for PCOS management.

Creating Personalized Yoga Therapy Plans for PCOS

To effectively address PCOS symptoms, personalized yoga therapy plans can be tremendously beneficial. These plans are designed to target the underlying causes of symptoms, informed by insights from the corresponding traditional medical systems. Here’s how different elements of yoga can work together to alleviate PCOS:


The Importance of Body Energy and Mind in Yoga for PCOS

  • BODY: Engaging in specific yoga asanas directly works with the physical body to alleviate stagnation and tension. Poses that focus on the abdominal and pelvic area can be particularly helpful in improving ovarian function and reducing PCOS symptoms such as menstrual irregularity and pelvic discomfort.
  • Energy: In yoga we work with the energy through Pranayama which are yogic breathing techniques. These are employed to manage the energy and emotional landscape. Complete yogic breathing and sheetali also known as Cooling Breath helps to calm the mind and can significantly reduce the hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS.
  • Mind: Incorporating mindfulness and concentration practices helps stabilize the mind and reduces stress, which is often exacerbated by PCOS. Focused practices also enhance overall well-being and contribute to more effective stress management and hormonal balance.

Important Considerations for Yoga Practice

When incorporating yoga into a lifestyle approach for managing PCOS, it is essential to consider individual health conditions and adapt practices accordingly. There are many practices in yoga that can make things worse. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a qualified yoga therapist can ensure that the chosen practices are safe and effectively aligned with your specific health needs.

Diet and lifestyle for PCOS

Effective Tips for Managing PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) demands a holistic management strategy that includes dietary adjustments, lifestyle modifications, and integrative therapies. Here are refined strategies to help alleviate PCOS symptoms and enhance overall health.


Dietary Adjustments:

  • Ayurvedic Principles: Understanding your Ayurvedic constitution can significantly aid in managing PCOS, which often aligns with Kapha-Pitta imbalances.  Kapha relates to phlegm in Chinese medicine and pitta fire. Tailor your diet to pacify Kapha and Pitta doshas by incorporating foods that are warm, light, and dry to counteract the heavy and oily qualities of Kapha, and cool and mild to soothe Pitta.
  • Foods to Favor: Increase your intake of fresh vegetables and fruits that reduce inflammation and insulin resistance. Favor low-glycemic index foods like leafy greens, and whole grains to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Spices such as turmeric can be particularly beneficial for their anti-inflammatory and insulin-sensitizing properties.
  • Foods to Avoid: Minimize or eliminate foods that exacerbate Kapha and Pitta imbalances, such as fried foods, processed meats, and high-fat dairy products. Also, reduce intake of refined sugars and carbohydrates, which can spike insulin levels and aggravate PCOS symptoms.

Lifestyle and Timing:

  • Cycle Syncing: Gain insight into your menstrual cycle to tailor your lifestyle choices accordingly, potentially easing PCOS symptoms by synchronizing your activities with the hormonal fluctuations of your cycle.
  • Herbal Support: Consider herbs like mint, which can help lower androgen levels, and cinnamon for its beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity. Always consult a healthcare professional to ensure these are appropriate for your specific health needs.

Yoga and Breathing Exercises:

  • Targeted Yoga Poses: Practice poses that particularly support hormonal balance and metabolic health, such as the Cobra Pose to stimulate the ovaries and adrenal glands, and the Butterfly Pose for improved pelvic circulation. The three preliminary practices of Yantra yoga the Tibetan yoga of movement are very good to help remove stagnation and to balance the bodies energy.
  • Pranayama Techniques: Regularly engage in breathing exercises complete breathing or sheetali pranayama.

Mindfulness and Relaxation:

  • Consistent Meditation: Incorporate meditation into your daily routine to help manage stress and emotional fluctuations associated with PCOS, improving mental clarity and overall emotional well-being.

Self-Massage and Acupressure:

Acupressure Application: Focus on specific acupressure points such as SP9, SP6 and CV6 to promote hormonal balance and menstrual regularity. Learn gentle self-massage techniques to activate these points effectively


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex health challenge affecting women’s fertility and metabolism. Though difficult to cure, effective management is possible through acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, dietary adjustments, and lifestyle changes, including yoga. These holistic approaches help correct the body’s energy flow and hormonal imbalances, improving symptoms like irregular menstrual cycles and insulin resistance.

For those dealing with PCOS or seeking to enhance hormonal health, adopting these therapies can offer significant relief and improve quality of life. It’s crucial to consult with healthcare professionals experienced in these treatments to customize a plan that fits your specific needs.

If you’re ready to manage your PCOS symptoms more effectively, explore these options. With the right support and determination, you can take proactive steps toward a healthier future. Reach out to a practitioner today and start your journey to better health.

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Dean Wickenden

Dean, holding a Bachelor of Health Science, is registered in Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, and Tuina Massage with the Chinese Medicine Council of New Zealand. With over 20 years of experience in yoga, he has earned a 1200-hour diploma in yoga and is a certified instructor of Yantra Yoga and the Tibetan Yoga of Movement.

Committed to natural health and healing, Dean takes a holistic approach in his practice, incorporating a wide range of therapeutic methods. His offerings include acupuncture, massage, dietary advice, myofascial release, herbal medicine, moxibustion, cupping, qigong, yoga, and meditation. He practices from his clinic in Auckland, New Zealand, dedicated to providing comprehensive care tailored to the individual needs of his clients