Menopause: How Acupuncture Can Help With Symptoms
If you’re looking for an effective safe and natural alternative in the treatment of menopausal symptoms, you’re not alone. Most women are concerned about the risks associated with HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). This is when you discover acupuncture.
The principles behind acupuncture get their roots in traditional Chinese Medicine, a holistic therapeutic system used for thousands of years as an effective natural way of dealing with several issues, including those arising from the menopause. The main idea is to create a balance throughout the body unblocking stagnant energy in order to activate your natural healing inner sources to correct imbalances in your systems.
In Chinese Medicine, menopause is seen as a true change in life from motherhood and fertility to enlightened and wise being. In particular – as experts from Acufinder.com remarks – that occurs when a woman’s body begins to preserve blood and energy in order to sustain her vitality and allow for the maximum available nourishment for her body, especially her kidneys. The kidney is the organ Chinese Medicine sees as the root of life and longevity. Therefore, the body, in its wisdom, reserves the flow of a channel in the centre of the body which sends blood and energy down to the uterus. Instead, blood and essence from the kidneys are conserved and cycled through the body to nourish the woman’s spirit and extend her longevity.
Is there any evidence of Acupuncture effectiveness?
Although some people are still sceptical about acupuncture, it clearly appeals to many and now, a small study published in BMJ Open and conducted by the department of public health at the University of Copenhagen suggests it may be worth considering it whether you experience hot flushes, anxiety or mood swings.
As reported by BBC News, researchers recruited 70 women with moderate-to-severe menopause symptoms. This group was then split in two. The first group received no acupuncture until week six of the study. The second one received weekly acupuncture treatments from experienced local doctors. Each participant then completed a questionnaire to self-evaluate their symptoms at three and six weeks. By six weeks the women in the acupuncture group recorded moderate improvements in all symptoms compared with the group having no acupuncture.
We can’t explain the underlying mechanism behind acupuncture, nor determine how much of the effect is caused by placebo – said Prof Frans Boch Waldorff – But this was a safe, cost-effective and simple procedure, with very few side-effects reported by the women. Women seeking acupuncture treatment for menopausal symptoms should be informed of the current evidence, and its limitations, so they can make a decision.
Further research has been also carried out in the past by scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The study was designed to examine different patterns of responses to acupuncture. Participants included 209 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women ages 45 to 60 who had on average at least four hot flashes or night sweats per day. Women were randomised to receive up to 20 acupuncture treatments within six months or to a control group. The outcome was quite promising: of the 170 women who received acupuncture, a small group of women (11.9%) had an 85% reduction in hot flashes by the eighth week of the study.
A randomized controlled pilot study of acupuncture for postmenopausal hot flashes has been also conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine. The results found Acupuncture as a way to significantly reduce the severity of nocturnal hot flashes compared with placebo.
How acupuncture works
The classical Chinese explanation for acupuncture is that our bodies contain channels of energy – called meridians- that run in regular patterns throughout our body and over its surface; like rivers flowing through our body, they irrigate and nourish our tissues. These meridians lines can become obstructed by emotional or physical trauma much like a landslide that obstructs the flow of a river. The aim of acupuncture is to understand the nature of the imbalance.
Acupuncture points are selected carefully as part of an individualised treatment plan to correct it, helping to relieve symptoms and promote improvements to health and wellbeing (a session may also include discussion about nutrition and lifestyle). The length, number and frequency of treatments may vary. They usually 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.
Does it hurt?
There seems to be little sensitivity to the insertion of acupuncture needles. Occasionally, there is a brief moment of discomfort as they penetrate the skin, but once they are in place, most people relax and even fall asleep for the duration of the treatment.
Choosing a practitioner
If you’re considering acupuncture, take the same steps you would do when choosing a doctor:
- Ask people you trust for recommendations.
- Check the practitioner’s training and credentials.
- Interview the practitioner. Ask what’s involved in the treatment, how likely it is to help your condition and how much it will cost.
- Find out whether your insurance covers the treatment.
Tell your family doctor you’re considering acupuncture. He or she may be able to tell you about the success rate of using acupuncture for your condition or recommend an acupuncture practitioner.
Find an acupuncturist
- The British Acupuncture Council is the UK’s main regulatory body for the practice of traditional acupuncture by over 3000 qualified acupuncturists. It is the UK’s largest professional/ self-regulatory body for the practice of traditional acupuncture.
- Acufinder.com (a searchable directory of licensed acupuncturists and health professionals who provide proof of credentials to legally practice acupuncture)
- American Society of Acupuncturists (links to practitioner directory pages on state association websites)
- NCCAOM (a searchable voluntary directory of NCCAOM certified practitioners)