What are menopause and hot flashes?
Menopause is a natural, permanent ending of your period when the ovaries start to produce less oestrogen. I know this can be very challenging for you.
Hot flashes are a common menopausal symptom, that may be accompanied by rapid heartbeat, sweating and anxiety or nausea. Hot flushes can suddenly produce an uncomfortable feeling of intense heat. This is caused by the dilation of blood vessels in the skin and is linked to hormone imbalances but this is still not fully understood.
When severe, they can interfere with your lifestyle, disturb your sleep and prevent you from enjoying your usual daily activities. In addition to leaving you feeling irritable and tired.
Hot flushes may also be caused by early menopause caused by surgical removal of your ovaries or chemotherapy. This can be made worse by anti oestrogen hormone treatment. Feeling overwhelmed and anxious may also trigger hot flashes.
Does acupuncture relieve hot flashes?
Acupuncture cannot slow down or stop the natural process but there is evidence from studies that acupuncture may reduce hot flushes. A clinical trial showed that combining acupuncture with dietary modifications, exercise and psychological support resulted in the reduction of symptoms by 50-70%. Other relaxing techniques such as yoga, meditation or tai-chi also showed a decrease in frequency and severity.
A study published in the Journal of Menopause by Nancy Avis PhD, suggests that acupuncture may reduce the frequency of symptoms during menopause. The study compared menopausal women who did not receive treatment with those that did, resulting in a reduction of symptoms by over a third. This benefit lasted for at least 6 months after stopping the treatment.
Prof Nancy Avis said that “there are a number of non-hormonal options for treating hot flushes and night sweats that are available for women. None of these options seem to work for everyone, but our study showed that acupuncture from a licensed acupuncturist can help women without any side effect. Our study also shows that the maximum benefit occurs after eight treatments”.
A study by Avis et al (2016), funded by the National Institute of Health, included 209 women aged 45 to 60 who had not had a menstrual period for at least three months and had on average at least four hot flushes or night sweats per day.
Participants were randomised to one of two groups. Hot flushes and night sweats treated by acupuncture reduced by 30% per day which lasted for 6 months after the treatment was stopped. The study also shows that receiving acupuncture from a qualified acupuncturist has no side effects and with maximum benefit occurring after eight treatments.
Another study done by Grille (1989) where 45 hospitalised menopausal women were divided into 3 groups; one on HRT, one receiving acupuncture treatments and the third group were not treated.
All of them complained of troublesome symptoms in particular hot flushes, sweating, tachycardia, palpitation, anxiety, insomnia and headache.
The basic points for the group receiving acupuncture used were: REN 4, SP6, KID3, SP9 with another point added as appropriate to the individual patient.
Women treated with acupuncture and HRT had comparable changes in the level of hormones. But blood tests showed that women treated with acupuncture had increased level of other hormones, including thyroid stimulating hormone, TSH, testosterone, and cholesterol compared to the other groups.
Over to you:
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Have you ever tried acupuncture for hot flushes and found it helpful? How big was the difference? Would you add anything that you have tried and found really useful? Leave your comments below.
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- Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) Hormone Therapy and Breast Cancer booklet https://www.calvarycare.org.au/public-hospital-mater-newcastle/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2018/06/Hot-flushes-and-accupuncture.pdf
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre
- lesi et al.JCO 2016