Acupuncture for menopausal hot flashes: Study

According to a new study, women who suffer from hot flashes and other uncomfortable symptoms of menopause may be able to find relief through acupuncture. These symptoms plague menopausal women and usual therapy for it is hormone replacement therapy but that has its own problems including an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and breast cancer.

Turkish researchers recruited 53 postmenopausal women and assigned 27 of them to a five-week course of acupuncture (twice a week for 20 minutes at a time) and 26 of them got sham treatments that they thought were real. The real acupuncture group got pierced with the needles at 10 acupuncture points while the sham group got poked with blunted needles that did not penetrate the skin.

Results showed that at the end of the study period, the women who got acupuncture showed more relief from their symptoms compared to their counterparts who got the fake treatment. Their hot flashes were less severe (there was no change for women who got the sham treatment). Both groups had improvements in their psychological symptoms (as measured by the Menopause Rating Scale), though the benefit was much greater for women who got acupuncture. In addition, estrogen levels were significantly higher for the women in the treatment group compared to the controls. There were no differences between the two groups in terms of vaginal dryness and urinary tract infection. Had there been more than 10 sessions, the benefits of acupuncture might have been even greater, the researchers said. The results were published online March 7th in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine.

The beneficial effects of traditional acupuncture, according to the researchers, did not appear to be associated with changes in levels of hormones that trigger menopause and its associated symptoms. Though the researchers acknowledged that they did not monitor how long symptom relief lasted, they suggested that traditional acupuncture may offer an alternative for women who cannot or do not want to use hormone replacement therapy to ease menopause symptoms.

Larger study

Another study on the similar lines included more than 260 postmenopausal women experiencing, on average, seven or more hot flushes per 24 hours during seven consecutive days. These women were also divided into two groups - with the acupuncture group given 10 acupuncture treatment sessions and advice on looking after themselves. The second group solely received advice on keeping well.

Results showed that frequency and severity of hot flashes fell in the treatment group. Women kept a diary of the number and severity (on a 0 to 10 scale) of hot flushes they were experiencing. It was noted that the number of hot flashes fell by 5.8 per 24 hours in the acupuncture group and 3.7 per 24 hours in the control group. Hot flash intensity decreased by 3.2 units in the acupuncture group and 1.8 units in the control group. The acupuncture group also experienced better sleep and better physical well-being.

The study was also carried out by experts at the National Research Centre in Alternative and Complementary Medicine in Tromso, Norway. The study was also published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine and was conducted by experts from the Ankara Research and Training Hospital in Turkey.

Researcher Terje Alraek said, “After menopause, 10 to 20 per cent of all women have nearly intolerable hot flashes…The promising results of the Acuflash study suggest that acupuncture may be able to provide an alternative to long-term use of hormone replacement therapy.”

Mark Bovey, of the British Acupuncture Council, added, “Our members have for many years successfully helped patients suffering from various menopausal symptoms…At a time when the body is undergoing numerous physical and emotional changes, an acupuncturists' approach of treating the individual, rather than the illness, can help smooth the transition, providing relief from symptoms as well as an improved sense of well-being.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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