Do I need surgery for uterine fibroids or polyps?

Well that depends.. how many are there and what size? How much do they protrude into the uterus? Are you trying to conceive? If so when do you ideally want to conceive? If not, are you in an emergency situation from continuous bleeding or severe pain? 

The answers to these types of questions and the information in this article will help inform your decision making. This article does not replace a medical diagnosis or recommendation, so speak with your GP, specialist and Chinese Medicine Doctor before making any decisions.

Chinese Medicine (CM) is over 2000 years old and has a long history of addressing women’s health issues and fertility. CM showed an in-depth functional understanding of the fascia, microbiome, circulation, hereditary disease, gaseous neurotransmitters and the link between emotions and internal imbalances long before modern medicine was born. It still has much to offer in the modern world.

What are fibroids and polyps?
In CM, fibroids and polyps are described as the result of Blood Stagnation and/or Phlegm accumulation (microcirculation blockages) leading to the formation of growths in the uterus. Biologically they are non-cancerous tumours made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue that grow within the walls of the uterus, inside the uterine cavity or on the outside of the uterus.

What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of fibroids are heavy or irregular periods, but many women experience no symptoms at all. Staggeringly, over two thirds of Australian women will experience fibroids in their lifetime though many will never know. One third of them will likely experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Heavy periods
  • Irregular periods
  • Prolonged periods
  • Bleeding between periods or breakthrough bleeding
  • Pain or a feeling of pressure in the pelvic area
  • Period pain
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation or difficult bowel movements, or
  • Difficulty urinating or frequent urination

As many as 20-50% of women aged 35-50 have them. Those are staggering statistics. What’s worse is that somewhere between two thirds to half of all hysterectomies performed annually in western countries are due to fibroids! Plus over 50% of those women have their ovaries removed as part of the hysterectomy. This procedure commonly initiates instant menopausal symptoms no matter the persons age, which is a major life transition and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

If you have a wholistic view of your health it is highly likely that you will have strong resistance to the idea of having an organ removed without attempting to resolve undesirable symptoms naturally.

In my personal opinion the fact that two thirds of women with fibroids can live symptom free suggests that undesirable symptoms in many cases can be resolved without invasive and permanent procedures. Having said that, there are times when surgery may be necessary and it’s important to be informed around those choices.

Impact of fibroids and polyps on fertility:
Growths from Blood stagnation can have a negative impact on the nature and quality of the endometrium, which you can think of as a garden bed. If the endometrial layer is the fertile soil, then quality blood circulation is the water and nutrients.

A fertilised egg, like a seed or plant, needs a safe place to be planted in which to sink its roots, with enough space and nutrients to thrive. If the garden is crowded with rocks just below or above the surface, then suitable planting sites are limited, especially when the rocks can grow!

Objects such as large polyps (approaching 2cm) and fibroids that protrude into the uterine cavity can take up a lot of space. They can have an intrauterine device (IUD) effect by contributing to uterine inflammation, impairing embryo implantation and leading to miscarriage.

When a fertile egg is implanted, the front and back walls of the uterus gently press together like hands pressing down the soil around a newly planted seed/seedling to help hold it there until it can get established. If fibroids or polyps protrude enough into the uterine cavity, they can actually prevent this from happening effectively.

It’s not only conception and early pregnancy that is at risk. Late stage miscarriages can be attributed to failure of placental development due to obstruction by fibroids as well if there isn’t enough space in which to grow.

How fibroids and polyps are treated:
So what are your options to prepare your endometrial garden for new life? Or if you have no intention of being a gardener but are suffering from negative symptoms, what then?

Large polyps discovered with ultrasound will usually be removed surgically before attempting conception. Hysteroscopic polypectomy is a straight forward procedure, carrying little risk compared to improvements in successful conception in women undergoing ART 1. This is a simpler and more effective approach than CM, which has limited success removing pedunculate polyps.

How you address fibroids will depend on whether the type of fibroid is operable, your personal values, your pregnancy goals and timeframes.

Specialists will often recommend surgical removal in severe cases of fibroids prior to attempting pregnancy if they are large and numerous. This is major surgery with long recovery times, however in a young healthy woman, will often improve fertility and reduce the likelihood of miscarriage.

Should you wish to avoid surgery and time is on your side, then masses can be addressed with CM 2. In the case of large submucosal fibroids where surgery is not appropriate, CM may also be a good option.

The results from CM can be mixed, but in a woman with a strong constitution, with abundant Qi and Blood, CM could be used to reduce the size of fibroids. A strong Blood-moving herbal formula and supporting acupuncture treatments can be used to encourage fibroid necrosis and shrinkage.

It is equally important to be aware that in early stage pregnancy the sudden changes in hormones are likely to cause a rapid increase in fibroid size, and potential risk to pregnancy. This requires consistent management with acupuncture and herbs to slow the growth initially and reduce the size in mid to late stage pregnancy according to case studies 3.

If you are considering Acupuncture and CM it is important to note that you cannot attempt conception during treatment with strong blood moving herbal formulas like the ones used to reduce fibroid size.

If surgical removal is looking like the most likely solution, it makes sense to try to reduce the size of large fibroids prior to removal if time is on your side. The larger the fibroids the more tissue has to be removed. When more tissue is removed more scar tissue forms after their removal; another hard surface in your garden that can impede blood flow. For many women without private health, surgery wait times could be more than 6 months, this is ample time to actively attempt to reduce their size through acupuncture and patented Chinese herbal formulas.

Similarly, if your main concern is not fertility but reducing/improving symptoms, this is something that CM has a long history of addressing. In particular, if you have a long wait period before surgery, or want to avoid surgery, you may be able to greatly improve symptoms and your quality of life and possibly achieve all of your health goals with CM.

A relatively new type of treatment for fibroids is called a Fibroid Embolisation. A non-surgical procedure aimed at blocking the blood supply to the uterus in order to stop the growth of fibroids. A substance is injected into the artery that feeds blood to the uterus in order to block the blood flow and starve the fibroid.

Fibroid Embolisation may be a good option for inoperable fibroids. Using logical thinking, if it starves the fibroid then it also starves at least part of the uterus. This is worth considering. The risks include possible infection from tissue death (due to loss of blood supply), damage to other organs due to unintended loss of blood supply and, possible problems with future pregnancies.

This likely sounds like an undesirable option if you are still planning to have children as pregnancy relies heavily on a good blood supply to the uterus. However scar tissue from surgery can have a similar impact on blood supply so take this into consideration when weighing up surgery. As always talk to your doctor about the risks and be wary if they dismiss them.

To wrap up this lengthy article, in cases of substantial Blood stagnation like large polyps or fibroids, it makes good sense to remove them with surgery (or reduce their size with strong herbal treatment) BEFORE trying to fall pregnant.

Timing is important, so get clear on your fertility goals and timeframes if they’re a consideration.

Remember that removing large fibroids is major surgery.

Hysterectomy is also huge and will likely trigger menopausal symptoms, which brings with it a whole host of new undesirable symptoms. These may be brushed aside by saying that there are hormone replacement therapies or drugs that regulate hormones. Yet in my experience these are rarely as effective as patients would like. If you are close to natural menopause already then it’s not such a big issue. If your doctor or specialist dismisses your concerns you may want to get a second opinion.

If you want to fall pregnant as soon as possible, then several months of Acupuncture and herbs is not going to fit your timeline. However, if you are happy to wait, or pregnancy is not part of your plans, then a natural alternative to invasive techniques might suit you. Keep in mind that treatment with acupuncture and CM takes months. Above all consult with your specialist, your CM doctor and do your own research. We hope this article has helped to inform you.

If you would like to find out if Acupuncture treatment could benefit you, book an Initial Consultation with Dr Scott Baker (BHSc Acu) at Allied Acupuncture Gold Coast in Burleigh Waters by calling 0755221691 or book online at


1. Robker RL, Alison LK, Bennett BD, er al. Obese women exhibit difference in ovarian metabolites, hormones, and gene expression compared with moderate weight women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2009;94(5):1533-40.

2. Maclean W, Lyttleton J. Abdominal masses. Clinical Handbook of Internal Medicine. ;Vol 3 Sydney: Pangolin Press; 2010;6(2):271-83.

3. Lyttleton J. Treatment of infertility with chinese medicine, 2nd ed. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, London 2013:126-7.

Acupuncture Relieves Sciatic Pain – Changes Brain Functional Connectivity Related To Pain Relief

A 2012 study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed that Acupuncture causes important changes in brain functional connectivity related to pain relief. 

The study also indicated that Acupuncture produces significant decreases in the frequency of sciatica pain and pain intensity.

MRIs showed that Acupuncture triggered changes in the functional state of the brain, providing patients with greater resting states.

A total of 10 Acupuncture treatments were received by the participants in the study: twice a day, three times a week for a little under 2 weeks.

Participants in the study all had pain consistent with chronic sciatica diagnostic criteria for over 3 months: radiating pain over the sciatic nerve innervation area (e.g. buttocks, posterior upper leg, posterior lateral lower leg, lateral top of the foot).

Researchers in the study determined that Acupuncture regulates the default mode network (DMN), which correlated to significant reductions in sciatica pain. 

The DMN is at its peak activity level when the brain is at rest and consists of a complex of  interconnected activated and deactivated brain regions. This research reported that sciatica pain disturbs the normal DMN pattern, and that Acupuncture was able to restore it.

“..(Acupuncture) raises negative activation in the brain’s default mode network (DMN) of chronic sciatica patients, especially in the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex.” (1)

The frontal cortex and cingulate cortex are involved in pain-related subjective cognition and perception, emotional responses, memory and attentional responses (2).

Raising negative activation in the DMN is associated with decreased pain, it is a form of functional connectivity present during the resting state of the brain (3).


  1. Li J, Dong JC, Le JJ, et al. Effects of acupuncture on default mode network images of chronic sciatica patients in the resting network state [J]. Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, 2012, 32(12):1624-1627.
  2. Vogt BA, Derbyshire S, Jones AK. Pain processing in four regions of human cingulate cortex localized with co-registered PET and MR imaging [J]. Eur J Neurosci, 1996, 8 (7): 1461 – 1473.
  3. Raichle ME, MacLeod AM, Snyder AZ, et al. A default mode of brain function[J]. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2001, 98(2): 676 – 682.

Acupuncture Plus Antidepressants: A More Effective Treatment For Depression

Depression and mental health as a whole is a major topic in today’s society that features regularly in mainstream news and affects many Australian families. 

In recent research Acupuncture has been shown to be a safe, positive and cost-effective adjunct therapy for treating depression, chronic pain related to depression, and also showing positive outcomes for major depressive disorder; improving sleep, mood and quality of life 1,2,3.


The information above is based on recent research from 2015. However it should be noted that major national bodies in the USA and Australia who influence national treatment approaches vary in their recommendations. The USA Dept. of Veteran Affairs using evidence from Jan 2005 – Mar 2013 supports the use of Acupuncture in the treatment of depression giving it a ‘potential positive effect’ rating, the second highest rating it offers 4. However Australian Veteran Affairs says that there is ‘insufficient evidence’ to recommend Acupuncture for depression, based on less recent evidence from Sept 2005 – Sept 2010 5.

The findings of more recent top tier research have reflected positively on the use of Acupuncture as a treatment for depression and major depressive disorder.

A 2015 systematic review of 13 randomised controlled trails found that Acupuncture plus antidepressants (SSRIs) was superior to SSRIs treatment alone, concluding that Acupuncture showed ‘potential positive effect’ as an adjunct treatment for depression 1.

The above systematic review also stated that Acupuncture showed an early onset of effectiveness and Acupuncture treatment was deemed safe and well-tolerated by the study participants. Electro-Acupuncture (EA) was shown to be marginally more effective than manual Acupuncture.

A 2015 review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses concluded that Acupuncture was effective and safe in the treatment of major depressive disorder; showing ‘promising evidence’ and in particular improving sleep, mood and quality of life 2. This is the highest level of research evidence.


The mechanism of action for Acupuncture’s effectiveness for major depressive disorder is the modulation and normalising of the brain’s limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network (LPNN), as well as the default mode network (DMN) 2.

In addition to providing the benefits mentioned above, Acupuncture is a cost-effective treatment for depression when compared to the cost of counselling or usual care according to a 2015 review of one randomised control trial 3. However patients should shop around for the most suitable option available to them in their area as prices for these services vary.

Antidepressants are still considered the standard treatment for depression and consultation with you General Practitioner (GP) is always recommended if you believe you may have depression or you desire to change you current antidepressant prescription. You should not stop taking antidepressants without consulting your prescribing doctor first.

If you are currently taking antidepressant medication and want to do more to improve your mental health, contact your local registered Acupuncturist.

For a list of free mental health services that you can call to receive valuable advice and support please click here.

Dr Scott Baker is a registered acupuncturist practicing in Burleigh Waters, Gold Coast. To find out if he may be able to assist with pain, fertility, digestion, hormones, sinus, allergies or other conditions call and book a consultation today or book online at

Allied Acupuncture Gold Coast, 2 Executive Drive, Burleigh Waters. 07 5522 1691.



  1. Chan Y-Y et al. “The benefit of combined acupuncture and antidepressant medication for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis” Journal of Affective Disorders. 2015 May;176:106-117
  2. Bosch P, Van Den Noort M, Staudte H, Lim S “Schizophrenia and depression: a systematic review of the effectiveness and the working mechanisms behind acupuncture.” Explore. 2015 Jul-Aug;11(4):281-291
  3. Spackman E et al. “Cost-effectiveness analysis of acupuncture, counselling and usual care in treating patients with depression: the results of the ACUDep trial.” PLoS ONE 2015; 9(11):e113726.
  4. Hempel S, Taylor SL, Solloway MR, Miake-Lye IM, Beroes JM, Shanman R, et al. VA Evidence-based Synthesis Program Reports. Evidence Map of Acupuncture. Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs; 2014.
  5. Biotext. Alternative therapies and Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold and White Card arrangements. In: Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs, editor: Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs; 2010.
Tags: ibs, constipation, digestive issues, women’s health

Doctors Advised to Refer Low Back Pain Patients for Acupuncture

For patients with acute or sub-acute low back pain Medical Doctors have been advised not to prescribe potentially harmful drugs or expensive, unnecessary tests wherever possible and to refer patients for non-drug therapies including Acupuncture 1.

Acupuncture is one of a small handful of treatments that have been recommended as part of the evidence-based clinical practice guideline published in February 2017 by the American College of Physicians.

The American College of Physicians is a highly esteemed and influential medical body in the USA, whose medical model Australia follows very closely.

Low back pain happens to be one of the most common reasons behind visits to Medical Doctors. Approximately 25% of the population report having experienced low back pain recently and it can be a debilitating condition that severely decreases quality of life.

According to the president of the ACP “Physicians should avoid prescribing unnecessary tests and costly and potentially harmful drugs, especially narcotics, for these patients.”

The ACP recommends Medical Doctors first refer patients for non-drug therapy, including Acupuncture, spinal manipulation, mindfulness-based stress reduction and even motor control exercise. Movement based activities such as tai chi and yoga could be beneficial also.

The guidelines also showed that systemic steroids were ineffective at treating low back pain, as was the commonly prescribed medication acetaminophen.

Opioid-based pain killers (narcotics) are advised as a last resort. This recommendation is likely related to the Centre for Disease Control’s declaration that opioid-based pain killers have become an “epidemic” and that the number of deaths associated with these drugs and risk of addiction is too high.

The ACPs guidelines reflect a growing body of evidence in support of Acupuncture for pain management due to its effectiveness and safety.

Dr Scott Baker is a registered acupuncturist practicing in Burleigh Waters, Gold Coast. To find out if he may be able to assist with pain, fertility, digestion, hormones, sinus, allergies or other conditions call and book a consultation today or book online at

Allied Acupuncture Gold Coast, 2 Executive Drive, Burleigh Waters. 07 5522 1691.Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, McLean RM, Forciea MA, for the Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017;166:514-530. doi: 10.7326/M16-2367