Women who suffer with hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause may find relief from acupuncture. A new study published in the March issue of Acupuncture in Medicine reports on the success of this alternative treatment for menopause symptoms.
Menopause can bring many disquieting symptoms
Not every woman experiences symptoms of menopause, but among those who do, the discomfort and complaints can be significant and disruptive, physically, emotionally, and sexually. Among the more common symptoms associated with menopause are hot flashes, mood swings, increased irritability, anxiety, vaginal dryness, loss of libido, night sweats, vaginal itching, acne, weight gain, fatigue, memory problems, changes in skin texture, abnormal hair growth on the face, and the need to urinate more frequently.
Researchers at the Ankara Training and Research Hospital in Turkey explored the effect of acupuncture on menopausal symptoms and whether hormone levels changed as a result of treatment. Fifty-three postmenopausal women were enrolled in the study and assigned to receive either acupuncture or sham acupuncture (practitioners used blunt needles that did not penetrate the skin).
Before and after the five weeks of treatment (two treatments per week, total of 10 sessions), the investigators measured the women’s estrogen and other hormone levels. The women were also questioned about the severity of hot flashes, urinary tract symptoms, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and other symptoms.
At the end of the ten sessions, women who had received traditional acupuncture had significantly lower scores regarding menopause symptoms when compared with women who received sham acupuncture. Specifically, both hot flashes and psychological symptoms significantly declined in the active treatment group.
When hormone levels were examined, women in the active treatment group had significantly higher estrogen levels and significantly lower luteinizing hormone levels than women in the sham treatment group. Differences in the severity of urogenital symptoms such as vaginal dryness, vaginal itching, or urinary frequency were not significant between the two groups of women.
One explanation for the positive results seen in this study may be that acupuncture stimulates production of the body’s natural pain killers, endorphins, which may also stabilize the body’s temperature control system. Another recent study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Oct. 2010), also found acupuncture to be helpful in relieving hot flashes in women being treated for breast cancer.
The findings of this latest study suggest traditional acupuncture may be helpful in reducing hot flashes and psychological symptoms associated with menopause. Acupuncture is a safe treatment that can be used along with other therapies for menopause symptom relief.
Sunay D et al. Acupuncture in Medicine 2011; 29:27-31