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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

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What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS for short, is a complex hormonal condition that affects women in their fertile years.

PCOS causes multiple cysts to form from partially formed follicles (a sac filled with fluid), on the ovaries, which contains an egg. These follicles rarely produce fertile eggs, or grow to full maturity.

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What is happening?

PCOS is a common, but poorly understood, condition, with the development suspected to be as a result of a number of factors.

While there are several theories as to what can trigger PCOS, all theories lead to the same outcome: an increase of ovarian androgens ( a group of hormones that play a role in male traits and reproductive activity), and no release of an egg during ovulation.

Some of these theories include:

  • Defects in insulin action, leading to increased levels of insulin, and insulin resistance

  • Cortisol metabolism alteration, leading to enhanced adrenal androgen (male hormone) production

Women who are overweight, or already suffer from diabetes, are also at a greater risk of developing PCOS, in addition to putting a greater strain on their pre-existing conditions. There is also a family history component, and lifestyle factors that are suspected to be related to PCOS

What are the signs?

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PCOS produces a wide range of symptoms in women, with many women displaying only some symptoms, while others may display all.

Symptoms include:

  • Irregular periods

  • Painful periods

  • Trouble falling pregnant

  • Excessive hair growth on your face, chest, stomach or back

  • Weight gain

  • Thinning of hair on head

  • Acne

  • Mood changes e.g. depression or anxiety

  • Abdominal pain (dull ache or a sharp jolt), suspected to be as a result of ovarian cysts

How am I diagnosed?

As around 70% women with PCOS are believed to be undiagnosed. If you start experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is a good idea to get yourself to your GP, as early detection can help with the management of the condition.

Once seeing your doctor, they may send you off for some tests including:

  • Blood tests to assess hormone, cholesterol, and glucose levels

  • An ultrasound scan to look at your ovaries to check for the presence of multiple cysts

How is it treated?

The treatment for PCOS often takes a multifaceted approach, and will depend on what your main symptoms are.

The less invasive approach often includes a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.

Your doctor may recommend weight loss, through a low-calorie diet, combined with exercise, as a reduction in weight may not only help with your condition, but can also have an effect on the effectiveness of any medication you may be prescribed for PCOS.

Medications, such as birth control pills and progestin therapy, may be used to regulate menstrual cycles. It may also be used to help moderate other symptoms or co-morbidities, such as, diabetes, excessive hair growth and acne.

TCM, allied health (such as osteopathy) and complimentary medicine may also be used to address the symptoms associated with PCOS.

Where necessary, surgery may be considered.

PCOS and Osteopathy

You may be wondering, why are we interested in PCOS?

We are glad you asked.

Part of the training our osteopaths undergo at University includes orthopedic, osteopathic and medical diagnosis. Serious conditions can masquerade as musculoskeletal complaints, and it is our job to identify if the best course of treatment falls within our scope, or if the presenting complaint requires further investigation.

PCOS is the perfect example of a condition that may be contributing to the reason why a patient has presented in the clinic, and early intervention can make a huge difference to the patient's quality of life.

If you would like more information get in touch with us. Appointments can be made over the phone or online, via our website.


Retrain Health is based in the Northern Rivers, NSW. From our Byron Bay and Ballina clinics, our team provides a range of quality healthcare services and products.

Retrain Health offers osteopathy, remedial massage and strength and conditioning, and PT sessions, with qualified practitioners.

If you are interested in finding out more information or would like to book an appointment, please contact the clinic by phone (02) 6680 7447, send us an email or click here to book an appointment online.

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