Acupuncture for vaginal, vulvar and pelvic problems in women

Acupuncture is a non-invasive body treatment that can be effectively used for vaginal, vulvar or pelvic complaints. Acupuncture can be used as supportive therapy or on its own as the main therapy, depending on the condition. 

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles into acupressure points around the body. Other traditional therapies such as moxibustion may be included in a treatment session, which involves the burning of Artemisia vulgaris dried herb close to the skin. Massage may also be included. 

These treatments are designed to stimulate qi or chi, which is ‘vital force’ in Chinese medicine. This vital force moves throughout our meridian system, which is a sort of energy pathway throughout our body. 

Acupuncture can be done the traditional way with needles, or more modern techniques use lasers or electricity to stimulate the points. The latter may be referred to as ‘medical acupuncture’. 

Acupuncture is enjoying greater acceptance and use by the western medical system. Acupuncture is currently used in UK hospitals applied by trained nurses, as a good example. 

While just about anyone can be trained in basic acupuncture, typically treatments are applied by a highly trained acupuncturist. 

Vulvovaginal or pelvic conditions acupuncture can help manage or treat:

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture is thought to stimulate the meridian system, effecting positive change in the body for many conditions. 

The meridian system is at present a theoretical network of energy systems throughout the body, sort of like an energy highway. You push on the pressure point, and energy flows from the outside through the superhighway to the intended area being treated. 

Learning about acupuncture is a worthwhile activity, and what you make of the whys and hows is going to be up to you, since scientific research can’t really find a plausible reason why acupuncture works – but it does. 

Acupuncture is quickly becoming a recognised therapy for many different types of disease, particularly those associated with chronic pain. Acupuncture is a great tool that is widely available. 

Unfortunately, you can’t do acupuncture remotely, so you do have to be physically present for these treatments. 

What acupuncture can’t do

Acupuncture is extremely useful, but there are certain things it cannot be expected to achieve. You can support healing and wellbeing, and in some cases see what appear to be miracle cures, but acupuncture cannot cure cancer, treat serious infections, or repair anatomical abnormalities. 

Spontaneous healing is not uncommon when the body is stimulated in the right ways and this happens with all kinds of therapies, including drug treatment. 

Acupuncture can produce some incredible results, but it can also produce no discernable results. Each person is a bit different in their needs, so an attentive, thorough acupuncturist is important for best results. 

‘I had acupuncture and it didn’t do anything’

Don’t think that if you can’t feel it that it’s not doing anything. You may have been treated in ways you can’t feel, like strengthening your immune system or adjustments to your hormones, which happen slowly and with repeat treatments. These treatments may not have been enough to effect change in your condition.

You need more treatments to feel the effects. Sometimes acupuncture isn’t the treatment or therapy you need, and you would benefit from trying something else either as well as or instead of acupuncture. 

How to find a good acupuncturist

A good acupuncturist will be someone who has trained and has a qualification. You may want to find an acupuncturist who has experience in treating your specific problem, in which case you may have to hunt them down. 

Women’s health specialist acupuncturists are around, so try a natural fertility treatment centre or another integrative medical clinic. Ask around for referrals from friends or from support groups online. 

How much does acupuncture cost and health insurance rebates

Acupuncture costs will depend on the clinic and your practitioner. Most treatments cost from between $50-$100, but some clinics at the higher end of town may charge more. 

Paying more does not mean better treatment, so find someone you trust and form an ongoing relationship with that person. You can use acupuncture for just about anything in life, so having a good acupuncturist on hand who knows your medical history is only a benefit. 

Acupuncture is considered a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) or natural therapy, and in some places is not recognised for subsidies. 

Ask a local acupuncturist if there are health insurance rebates available for their services and if that exists for any acupuncturist. 

Scientific studies into acupuncture and vulvovaginal/reproductive/pelvic disorders

Acupuncture and chronic pelvic pain and infertility caused by pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

This small study looked into chronic pelvic pain caused by acute PID, and the role, if any, that acupuncture may play. Researchers had low expectations of any benefit due to the difficulty PID presents. 

The study participants were patients with chronic pelvic pain caused by PID. 

Patients were treated with antibiotics two weeks before acupuncture, with any women whose symptoms did not resolve excluded from the study. This meant that any acute infection was not present, but the pain was, and it would be easier to figure out if the chronic pain could be helped with acupuncture treatments. 

‘Success’ of the treatments was to be defined by a physical examination to see if the pain had changed, with a ‘response’ to the full treatment of antibiotics plus acupuncture defined as complete resolution of the pelvic pain, and no new attacks within six months of acupuncture therapy. 

Traditional Chinese acupuncture was used at two visits per week for six weeks. 

Study results 

Thirty patients were included in the final results out of 33 (three lost to follow-up), with the average age being 32 years old. 

Seven of these women had been actively trying to conceive for a year prior without success. 

Overall, 29 of the 30 patients responded to the acupuncture treatment and pelvic pain was completely eradicated. 

All seven of the women trying to get pregnant were pregnant within six months. 

The researchers concluded that the use of acupuncture in PID, while currently uncommon, could be a useful tool in eradicating chronic pelvic pain associated with PID. 

Acupuncture may also be useful for secondary infertility caused by PID. A further study is planned. 

Complications with acupuncture

Acupuncture is understood to be a very safe therapy, however, every therapy comes with risks. These risks can be heavily reduced by having an experienced practitioner who takes a thorough case history. 

Part of an acupuncturist’s training is medical, and so helps to prevent problems with acupuncture treatments. An example of one problem may be that acupuncture may increase liver detoxification rates, which may sound good, unless you are on certain medications that rely on your liver detox being regular. 

This increased detoxification speed could mean the drugs leave your system faster, leaving you without a required drug for longer than is good for your drug treatment. 

You may also faint, get a small reaction or bruise at the needle insertion point, or other unexpected reactions. 

Those who should be cautious when using acupuncture

  • Those on anticoagulants
  • Those with prosthetic or damaged cardiac valves
  • Those with a pacemaker considering electroacupuncture
  • Acupuncture performed on the thorax
  • Those immunosuppressed – lots of benefits, but sanitation of insertion points is critical

References​1,3​

  1. 1.
    Ozel S, Arslan H, Tufan ZK, Uzunkulaoğlu T, Akarsu D, Seven A. Acupuncture in the Treatment of Chronic Pelvic Pain Secondary to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Acupunct Med. Published online December 2011:317-318. doi:10.1136/acupmed-2011-010080
  2. 2.
    Ning S, Liu S, Chen X, Wang J. Acupuncture modification treatment for female sexual dysfunction: A meta-analysis. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. Published online December 2023:29-33. doi:10.1016/j.ejogrb.2023.09.026
  3. 3.
    Zhang J tan, Ma L, Gong X, Luo S, Zhao S. Clinical Study on the Use of Acupuncture for the Treatment of Female Sexual Dysfunction: A Pilot Study. Sexual Medicine. Published online June 20, 2022:100541-100541. doi:10.1016/j.esxm.2022.100541


Original price was: USD $9.95.Current price is: USD $0.00. ex GST/VAT/TAX
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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
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