Health Alert: Acupuncture

NATIONAL - Acupuncture uses needles to try to stimulate body functions and restore balance. Researchers are now studying whether they can help regulate women's hormone levels.

When Heather Powell signed up for an acupuncture study at the University of Virginia, she was skeptical.

"I just wasn't sure that, you know, needles or acupuncture would really help with ovarian problems," she said. The 30-year-old has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

PCOS leaves tiny cysts in the ovaries and is a leading cause of infertility.

Dr. Lisa Pastore says "these women basically are not ovulating regularly. They have hormonal imbalances. They often have some, some metabolic issues."

There's no cure for PCOS, only medications to control symptoms. But the drugs have side effects and don't work for everyone.

Said Dr. Pastore, "My working hypothesis is that acupuncture will be successful in providing a non-drug intervention for women with PCOS so they can become ovulatory, have regular periods and get pregnant if they want to."

Dr. Pastore says if acupuncture works, it will give birth to many more questions.

"These women want to know, do I need to essentially, kind of get a booster treatment of acupuncture in another six months, in another two years? What will it take? How long will the effect last? I'd love to be able to answer that for women."

Heather says she sees some positive signs so far, turning her skepticism to optimism, "I think there may be a benefit to it. I think it might be something that needs further research."

She'll be 'sticking' around for the results.

This study is only being done at the University of Virginia. For more information, call 434-982-6657 or e-mail