Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels. Acupuncture has been considered an alternative treatment for PCOS, especially for improving ovulation frequency. This article will discuss the results of a study published in The American Journal of Physiology that examined the effects of acupuncture on ovulation in women with PCOS.

Study Overview


The study included 32 women who met the inclusion criteria. They were divided into the acupuncture group with 16 participants, and the attention control group with 16 participants. Some participants dropped out during the study, resulting in a final analysis of 28 women: 12 in the attention control group and 16 in the acupuncture group.


Participants in the acupuncture group received an average of 19.1 treatments, while those in the attention control group received an average of 20.2 treatments. Acupuncture treatments were done with manual and electrical stimulation.


Ovulation Frequency

The study found that ovulation frequency was higher in the acupuncture group than in the attention control group (0.76 vs. 0.41 ovulations per month, P=0.002). This suggests that acupuncture treatments effectively improved ovulation frequency in women with PCOS.

Hormone Levels and Other Factors

The study also examined hormone levels, such as luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and various sex steroids. Although some baseline differences were observed between the two groups, the acupuncture treatment significantly reduced most circulating estrogens, androgens, and other related hormones.

Interestingly, the study did not find any significant changes in LH or cortisol pulsatility after treatment, suggesting that the effects of acupuncture may be primarily at the peripheral level rather than through central hormonal regulation.

Correlations with Ovulation Frequency

An analysis of correlations between ovulation frequency and end-of-treatment measurements revealed that lower estrogen levels, free testosterone, and certain other hormones were associated with higher ovulation frequency. This suggests that reducing sex steroids may be necessary for promoting ovulation in women with PCOS.


The results of this study indicate that repeated acupuncture treatments with manual and electrical stimulation can improve ovulation frequency in women with PCOS. The study suggests that the effect of acupuncture is primarily at the peripheral level, possibly through reducing circulating sex steroids and other hormones. Acupuncture may represent an alternative or complementary therapy to standard pharmacological or surgical treatments for PCOS. However, more clinical trials are needed to compare acupuncture to other treatments to determine its effectiveness.

Potential Mechanisms

Although this study suggests that acupuncture could be an effective alternative treatment for PCOS, the exact mechanisms through which acupuncture improves ovulation frequency are not yet fully understood. Some theories include:

  1. Acupuncture may help regulate insulin resistance and glucose metabolism, which are known to be associated with PCOS.
  2. Acupuncture may help reduce inflammation, as chronic low-grade inflammation is often observed in women with PCOS.
  3. Acupuncture may improve blood flow to the ovaries and the uterine lining, which can promote the growth of follicles and the maturation of eggs.

Further research is needed to understand these potential mechanisms better and determine the optimal treatment protocols for acupuncture in women with PCOS.


In conclusion, this study provides preliminary evidence that acupuncture may improve ovulation frequency in women with PCOS. Acupuncture could be a viable alternative or complementary therapy to conventional treatments for PCOS, particularly for women seeking non-pharmacological or non-surgical options. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings and to establish the most effective treatment protocols for acupuncture in this population.



If you are looking for a Denver acupuncture clinic for help with fertility, or need help with your digestive problems, headaches, pain, psychological conditions, or women’s health issues, contact us today at (720)285-6251 or book an appointment online.