More and more women are looking for alternative treatments for the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, fogginess of the mind, and irritability. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have become quite popular for women who cannot take traditional hormones due to their ability to detect energetic changes that occur in the body and quickly relieve symptoms.
Evidence that Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine have been used for women’s health can be found in early medical literature dating back to 3AD.
Traditional Chinese Medicine does not recognize menopause as one particular syndrome. Instead, it aims to treat the specific symptoms that are unique to each individual using a variety of techniques such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, bodywork, lifestyle/dietary recommendations and energetic exercises to restore imbalances found in the body. Therefore, if 10 women are treated with Oriental medicine for hot flashes, each of these 10 women will receive a unique, customized treatment with different acupuncture points, different herbs and different lifestyle and diet recommendations.
How Acupuncture Works
The basic foundation for Oriental medicine is the life energy flowing through the body termed Qi (pronounced chee).
This energy flows through channels known as meridians connecting all the major body organs. According to Chinese medical theory, illness arises when the cyclical flow of Qi in the meridians becomes unbalanced. Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points located near or on the surface of the skin which have the ability to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to achieve the desired effect.
A recent research study published in Acupuncture in Medicine suggests acupuncture boosts the production of endorphins, which may stabilize the boy’s temperature controls. Thus, women experienced reduced severity of hot flushes.
The Acupuncture Treatment
Acupuncture points to treat the emotional and physical effects of menopause are located all over the body. During the acupuncture treatment, tiny needles are placed along the legs, arms, shoulders, and perhaps even the little toe!
The needles used are extremely thin and there seems to be little sensitivity to the insertion of acupuncture needles. Occasionally, there is a brief moment of discomfort as the needle penetrates the skin, but once the needles are in place, most people relax and even fall asleep for the duration of the treatment.
The length, number and frequency of treatments will vary. Typical treatments last from five to 30 minutes, with the patient being treated one or two times a week. Some symptoms are relieved after the first treatment, while more severe or chronic ailments often require multiple treatments.
Studies on Acupuncture and Menopause
From 1997 to 1999, one of the first studies in the United States to explore the effectiveness of acupuncture in alleviating hot flashes, insomnia and nervousness, conducted by Dr. Susan Cohen, D.S.N., APRN, associate professor of the University of Pittsburgh, it was found that during the course of acupuncture treatments, hot flashes decreased by 35% and insomnia decreased by 50%. A follow-up study revealed hot flashes significantly decreased in those receiving acupuncture, compared to those receiving routine care.
A 2002 pilot study in England found that acupuncture reduced the frequency and severity of hot flashes in women being treated with tamoxifen for breast cancer.
While these results are promising and the United Nations World Health Organization has approved acupuncture as a treatment for symptoms associated with menopause, further clinical trials with larger samples are currently underway.
A 2003 study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, involves a larger number of participants than previous studies. Participants will be divided into three groups; one will receive menopause-specific acupuncture, one will receive non-menopause-specific acupuncture, and one will receive usual care.
Stanford Medical Center researchers are now studying whether acupuncture can help alleviate hot flashes. During the one-year, placebo-controlled study at Stanford, volunteers may receive 10 treatments over an eight-week period.
Find an Acupuncturist
Today, acupuncture is an acknowledged and respected field of medicine which requires formal training and certification in order to practice. Acupuncturists are licensed and can be found through reputable sites such as acufinder.com