New Study Finds Acupuncture May Curb Severity of Hot Flashes

New study finds traditional Chinese therapy can reduce menopause symptoms.

March 7, 2011, 11:48 AM

March 7, 2011 — -- Many women are willing to try anything to get rid of the dreaded hot flashes and mood swings associated with menopause.

A new study out today offers an alternative to the herbal remedies and hormone replacement therapy so many turn to: traditional Chinese acupuncture.

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The study, conducted by the Ankara Training and Research Hospital in Ankara, Turkey, concluded that acupuncture, which treats patients by inserting and manipulating needles in the body, curbs the severity of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, largely related to mood.

The authors based their findings on the experience of 53 postmenopausal women. The participants measured their symptoms using a 5-point scale before and after treatment.

Twenty-seven of the women received traditional Chinese acupuncture for 20 minutes, twice a week for 10 weeks. The rest thought they were given acupuncture treatment, but the needles didn't actually penetrate the skin.

The women who received real acupuncture showed significant drops in the severity of their hot flashes -- and that's not just true of women in this study.

Jacqui Danilow said she turned to acupuncture to ease her hot flashes that would come on with no warning.

"Suddenly, you are very warm and you think the thermostat has gone up inside your body and you never know why it happens or what causes it," she said.

Weekly acupuncture treatments "were like a miracle," Danilow said. She rated the severity of her hot flashes at a "10" before her treatment -- after four months, they were a "3."

Dr. Arya Nielsen from the Beth Israel Medical Center Department of Integrative Medicine said acupuncture, which she has been performing for 35 years, is effective for women who are having menopausal symptoms -- and can help provide relief.

"I think women experience fewer hot flashes and less intensity when they have hot flashes, so it returns the quality of life," she said. "This is very significant."

Acupuncture May Provide Relief for Menopause Symptoms

Nielsen said that after a series of treatments, women experiencing menopausal symptoms generally "start to feel much more relaxed -- the anxiety is also associated with hot flashes."

By the second or third treatment, she said, patients come in and say, "Actually I'm not hot flashing during the day anymore, maybe a couple at night, and then that starts to decline as well."

Menopause is the latest use of the 2,000 year-old Chinese tradition -- it's already being used to reduce symptoms related to arthritis, back, neck, knee and shoulder pain, and anxiety.

At the Mayo Clinic, acupuncture is part of the standard of care for all patients in the Joint Replacement Center. Doctors there are also involved in their own trial of the benefits of acupuncture for hot flashes.

Researchers suggest the reason why acupuncture may work for women suffering from hot flashes is that the treatment is able to boost the production of endorphins and that could help stabilize body temperature.

Authors of this study caution that their sample size was very small, and they did not follow up with patients after treatment, so they do not know if the positive effects of acupuncture continue.

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