Women’s Health

Happy Woman

Frequently Asked Questions

Tracey has used acupuncture to help many gynaecological disorders.  Women seek treatment to regain their periods, regulate erratic cycles or control heavy bleeding and pain. Acupuncture helps hormonal and nervous system balancing in endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome.  Pre-menstrual and menopausal symptoms can be reduced and sometimes relieved with regular treatment.

Tracey works closely with other complementary practitioners who specialise in women’s health through the NEST London network. For menstrual difficulties consideration will be particularly given to Chinese Medical advice regarding diet, western nutrition and supplements and hypnotherapy where considered to be beneficial. This offers a holistic and sustainable approach.

An increasing weight of evidence from Western scientific research is demonstrating the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating a wide gynaecological conditions. From a biomedical viewpoint, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system, influencing the production of the body’s communication substances – hormones and neurotransmitters. The resulting biochemical changes activate the body’s self-regulating homeostatic systems, stimulating its natural healing abilities and promoting physical and emotional wellbeing.

Some commonly treated conditions are are mentioned below, but if yours is not, contact Tracey to see if she can help. You should always consult your GP if you have any concerns or talk to Tracey before booking an appointment.

For some conditions links to fact sheets written by the British Acupuncture Council have been provided. They provide accurate and unbiased summaries of research and how acupuncture may be beneficial.

Endometriosis is a fairly common condition in which cells that usually line the uterus are found elsewhere in the body. These uterine cells (endometrium) can occur in several places in the body, most commonly including the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the bladder, the bowel, the intestines, the vagina and the rectum. These endometrial cells behave in the same way as those that line the uterus, so every month they grow during the menstrual cycle and then shed blood, although some do not bleed. As there is no way of this endometrial tissue leaving the body it is ‘trapped’ which leads to pain (endometrialgia), swelling and bleeding wherever the tissue is and emotional distress. Research suggests that oestrogens and prostaglandins probably play key modulatory roles in endometriosis and endometrialgia. Consequently many of the current medical treatments for the condition include oral drugs, like non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, contraceptives, progestogens, androgenic agents, gonadotrophin releasing hormone analogues, as well as laparoscopic surgical removal of the endometriosis lesions. Surgery can lead to scar tissue formation that can reduce fertility and also it is often difficult to remove all the tissue. Management of pain in women with endometriosis is currently inadequate for many.


The type and length of the treatment will depend on the nature of the endometrial tissue: type, location and extent. A Chinese medical diagnosis will look at underlying influences and address these in the treatment plan. In some cases, surgery will be the best form of intervention. Bulky endometrial tissue can impair the function of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes by causing blockages and distortions. This can contribute to infertility. Acupuncture can help prepare the pelvic area for surgery through regulating blood circulation and then if required, afterwards a course of treatments can be given to promote fertility and facilitate recovery.


A useful summary of research into acupuncture and endometriosis can be downloaded from the British Acupuncture Council website: Get Endometriosis Factsheet.

An illustrative study is presented here: A research study in China compared the therapeutic effects of acupuncture and western medicine for the treatment of endometriosis. 90 patients were randomly assigned to either two acupuncture groups or a western medicine group to be treated with oral administration of Danazol. Clinical symptoms and signs, tumour marker serum CA125 values and adverse effects in the groups were investigated before and after treatment. The results showed that a particular combination of acupuncture points (Shu-Mu point combination) was found to be the most effective at improving the symptoms caused by endometriosis including: dysmenorrhoea, irregular menstruation, and lumbago.

Reference: Sun YZ, Chen HL. (2006) Controlled study on Shu-Mu point combination for treatment

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition associated with multiple cysts in the ovaries. Ovulation often does not take place. The production of hormones is also often unbalanced, particularly with raised levels of testosterone. PCOS is now recognised as the most common cause of ovulation failure, leading to infertility in women who have not yet reached the menopause. Despite extensive research, little is known about the cause of PCOS. The syndrome is associated with peripheral and central factors that influence sympathetic nerve activity (your fight or flight part of the nervous system). Thus, the sympathetic nervous system may be an important factor in the development and maintenance of PCOS.  This can be triggered by both emotional and physical (poor diet/lifestyle) stresses. Acupuncture acts by reducing sympathetic nerve activity and balancing hormone levels, in addition research shows that acupuncture can reduce the number of ovarian cysts, stimulate ovulation, enhance blastocyst implantation and regulate the menstrual cycle in women with PCOS (Refer to Stener-Victorin 2000, 2008, 2009, Zhang 2009 in the British Acupuncture Factsheet – link is in the research section that follows).

A combination of acupuncture, dietary and lifestyle changes are the most effective method of treatment. Consequently you may be advised to consult a Nutritional Therapist while undergoing your acupuncture treatment plan. The aims of the treatment will be to balance your hormones and regulate your menstrual cycle, to promote ovulation and regulate your periods. Stener-Victorin and Jedel research-validated protocols will be incorporated into your treatment prescription. Their research has shown that initially twice weekly acupuncture sessions are most effective in the first month, then decreasing frequency with treatment lasting 4 months (Jedel 2011)(1). Where a higher frequency treatment plan is recommended, the treatment duration of each session may be reduced.

Reference

  1. Jedel E et al. Impact of electro-acupuncture and physical exercise on hyperandrogenism and oligo/amenorrhea in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2011; 300: E37-45.

A useful summary of research into acupuncture and PCOS can be downloaded from the British Acupuncture Council website: Get PCOS Factsheet.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or Tension (PMT) is a combination of physical and emotional disturbances that occur after a woman ovulates and ends with menstruation. Common PMS symptoms include depression, irritability, crying, oversensitivity, and mood swings. For some women PMS symptoms can be controlled with medications and lifestyle changes such as exercise, nutrition, and a family and friend support system.

A more severe form of PMS, known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), also known as late luteal phase dysphoric disorder) occurs in a smaller number of women and leads to significant loss of function because of unusually severe symptoms. Women with PMDD may experience drastic mood swings, anger, depression, irritability, tension, sleep and appetite changes, fatigue, and physical problems such as pain or bloating. PMDD affects an estimated 5 to 10% of women of reproductive age.

The cause of PMDD (and PMS) is not certain but appears related to hormonal changes that accompany the menstrual cycle. Some evidence suggests a connection between PMDD and the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter (a chemical in the body that helps the brain transmit information).

Treatment will normally be given over three menstrual cycles. In addition, advice will often be given about lifestyle and diet to help to alleviate the symptoms and also to prolong the benefits of the treatment. Results can be very effective bringing enormous relief to the woman enabling her to function properly in her everyday life.


A useful summary of research into acupuncture and PMT/PMS can be downloaded from the British Acupuncture Council website: Get PMT/PMS Factsheet.

An illustrative study is presented here:

A study in 2002 investigated the effectiveness of acupuncture at treating the PMS and found it was 78% successful compared with 5.9% of women who were in the placebo group.

The women chosen for the study suffered a range of PMS symptoms: anxiety, mastalgia, insomnia, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, phobic disorders, premenstrual headaches and migraines. The researchers noted that in the acupuncture group, nine women stopped having PMS symptoms after two treatments, eight women stopped having them after three treatments and one woman stopped having them after four treatments. In four women from the acupuncture group and 16 women from the placebo group, PMS symptoms appeared during the following period (cycle) or continued even after four treatments. There was a statistical and relevant reduction in PMS symptoms with the acupuncture treatments in the first group (P less than 0.001), whereas their reduction was irrelevant in the placebo AP group (P>0.05). The success rate of acupuncture in treating PMS symptoms was 77.8%, whereas it was 5.9%. in the placebo group.

The researchers suggested that the positive influence of acupuncture in treating PMS symptoms can be ascribed to its effects on the serotoninergic and opioidergic neurotransmission that modulates various psychosomatic functions. They comment, “The initial positive results of PMS symptoms with a holistic approach are encouraging and acupuncture should be suggested to the patients as a method of treatment.”

Reference: Habek D, Habek JC, Barbir A. (2002) Using acupuncture to treat premenstrual syndrome. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics Nov;267(1):23-6.

Most painful periods occur in the absence of any underlying pathology. Common symptoms include cramping lower abdominal pain, often radiating to the back and legs, sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea, vomiting and extreme tiredness. The pain can be so severe that some women faint. The most commonly prescribed medications for period pain are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, (e.g Mefenamic Acid), the oral contraceptive pill and medication to control the bleeding (e.g. tranexamic acid); these all carry the risk of side effects. Period pain is a common gynaecological problem with many women have to take at least one day off work a month; this has far reaching consequences for the economy as well as the woman’s personal finances, and daily life activities.

Patients will normally be given treatment over three menstrual cycles. In addition, patients will often be given lifestyle and dietary advice to help to alleviate the symptoms and also to prolong the benefits of the treatment.


A useful summary of research into acupuncture and painful periods can be downloaded from the British Acupuncture Council website: Get Painful Periods Factsheet.

Menopause usually begins sometime between 45 –55 and is the result of the fall in the number of eggs in the ovaries. Ovulation becomes less frequent and eventually stops so periods are no longer experienced. During this time the reproductive hormones change. Oestrogen levels fall so that there is virtually none secreted by the ovaries, progesterone levels also fall. This stimulates the brain (via the pituitary) to produce high levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Luteinising Hormone. Blood tests to determine if a woman is going through menopause test the concentration of these hormones. Although the type of oestrogen responsible for the menstrual cycle is no longer produced, there is still a form of active oestrogen produced after menopuase. Now the ovaries and adrenals produce androstenadione which is changed to oestrone (a type of oestrogen) in the fat cells of the body. Many women put on weight after menopause possibly in an attempt to produce enough of this oestrogen. Even if other forms of oestrogen are given as treatment after menopause, the body rapidly changes this oestrogen to oestrone.

The medical profession has adopted the attitude that menopause is a disease requiring treatment. The assumption is made that when the ovaries stop producing oestrogen all women must necessarily be deficient in oestrogen and require replacement hormone therapy. Implicit in the idea of oestrogen deficiency is the notion that women need the same level of oestrogen after menopause that they needed in the reproductive years, and that for one third of their lives the body is malfunctioning. But a woman whose body is no longer preparing for pregnancy each month does not need the same high levels of oestrogen that went with the reproductive cycle. Another theory used to explain the physical symptoms of menopause is the rate theory i.e. the symptoms are a temporary reaction to the relatively sudden fall in total oestrogen levels; a withdrawal similar to a drug withdrawal. So rather than a hormonal deficiency it may be more reasonable to talk of menopause as a period of adjusting to changing levels and types of sex hormones which adversely affects some women a great deal, some women not at all, and the majority of women in a mild and transient way. (Lyttleton J, Topics in Gynaecology Part One. Journal of Chinese Medicine May 1990).

During in this period of hormone adjustment and stabilization, women can experience a range of symptoms:

  • Hot flushes and sweating (occur in 70-80% of menopausal women).
  • Headaches.
  • Palpitations.
  • Pain in the joints
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Insomnia.
  • Psychological disturbances (anxiety, irritability, nervousness, and moodiness).
  • Vaginal atrophy

Chinese Medicine with its emphasis on balance can help smooth the way in times of adjustment. Acupuncture can relieve the most common symptoms of menopause primarily by regulating the drastic changes in hormone levels women experience during menopause. This leads to a significant decline in hot flushes and an increase in energy, appetite and sense of wellbeing without the harsh side-effects of hormone replacement therapy. Treatment length will depend on the symptoms and disharmonies presented.


A useful summary of research into acupuncture and the menopause can be downloaded from the British Acupuncture Council website: Get Painful Menpause Factsheet.

An illustrative study is presented here:

Research: Can acupuncture ease the symptoms of menopause?

In a randomized, 2-group clinical study, acupuncture was used for the relief of menopausal hot flushes, sleep disturbances, and mood changes. The experimental acupuncture treatment consisted of specific acupuncture body points related to menopausal symptoms. The comparison acupuncture treatment consisted of a treatment designated as a general tonic specifically designed to benefit the flow of Ch’i (energy). Results from the experimental acupuncture treatment group showed a decrease in mean monthly hot flush severity for site-specific acupuncture. The comparison acupuncture treatment group had no significant change in severity from baseline over the treatment phase. Sleep disturbances in the experimental acupuncture treatment group declined over the study. Mood changes in both the experimental acupuncture treatment group and the comparison acupuncture treatment group showed a significant difference between the baseline and the third month of the study. Acupuncture using menopausal-specific sites holds promise for nonhormonal relief of hot flushes and sleep disturbances.

Reference: Cohen SM, Rousseau ME, Carey BL. (2003) Can acupuncture ease the symptoms of menopause? Holistic Nursing Practice Nov-Dec;17(6):295-9.

Amenorrhoea – absent periods

Sally sought treatment to help restart her periods which had stopped 2 months ago.  Prior to her periods stopping she had experienced two unusually prolonged cycles.  She was very stressed and had noted her hair was falling out and her sleep was disturbed.  We agreed a treatment of three times per month and arranged key times when I would use acupuncture to mimic the dynamics of a menstrual cycle.  Sally found the treatment very relaxing and after two sessions she had a period.  We continued treatment over the next two menstrual cycles to ensure regularity of her cycle.  Though her work levels remained high, she had been able to change her thinking and was no longer so stressed.  Her work colleagues had even commented on how calm she looked.

Endometriosis/PMS/Painful Periods

Kristin was concerned about her period.  She suffered various PMS symptoms prior to the bleed: mood changes, cold sores, diarrhoea, restless legs, shooting pains in her nipples, acheyness.  The bleed was clotty and very painful.  After taking her medical history there were a number of imbalances identified.  I advised her on changes to her diet.  After 4 cycles, the period pain was reduced. Her symptoms were now less frequent and less severe, but many still remained and she had difficulties following the dietary advice.  I suspected a dairy/gluten intolerance and advised her to see a nutritionist.  This was confirmed.  Dietary changes were made and supplements taken. The menstrual cycle continued to gradually improve with both acupuncture and nutrition intervention. Notably her PMT, ovulation and period symptoms lessening significantly over 6 months. Extensive endometriosis was however diagnosed and surgical removal recommended after which she became pregnant. 

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