Q. I am in my early 50s and starting to get hot flashes. Are there any Eastern remedies that might prevent them?
A. Hot flashes, or night sweats, are a common symptom of hormonal changes that occur in the years leading up to menopause. Hormone replacement therapy is the usual treatment to help minimize symptoms. However, since results of the large Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) trial revealed an increased risk of stroke in some women, many women have sought more ‘natural’ (and presumably less risky) treatments. While there are plenty of natural aids available, there is no evidence that they can completely prevent menopausal symptoms. A new study, however, suggests that acupuncture — an Eastern method used to improve energy balance in the body — might help.
A 2011 study in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine tested 53 post-menopausal women who reported having menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes. Half the women were given acupuncture treatment that lasted 20 minutes twice a week for 10 weeks. The needles were inserted, then left in place without any further manual or electrical stimulation.
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The other half were given ‘sham’ acupuncture. This is meant to provide a study control group where the subjects undergo the same acupuncture experience as those actually receiving acupuncture, but without receiving the specific energy-manipulating effects of the needles. So, special blunted needles are placed on the skin at the acupuncture points, but they are designed to not penetrate the skin. The study participants feel like they’re receiving acupuncture, even though they are not. In acupuncture, needle insertion is not always felt because the needle is so fine and is not inserted deep into the skin.
By the end of the 10-week treatment, the group of women who received acupuncture reported having significantly fewer hot flashes as well as hot flashes that were less severe when they did get them. No significant differences were found in hormonal levels between the two groups. Typcially, it is believed that hormonal changes cause the hot flashes, so this is somewhat surprising, and the authors suggest that the hormonal fluctuations were not considered to be the reason for the improvement in menopausal symptoms.
Should you go get acupuncture? Maybe. But is it the acupuncture that works the wonders, or the act of you thinking you are receiving an effective treatment? The authors note that other studies have found that sham acupuncture has also been found to improve symptoms, perhaps suggesting a placebo effect.
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- Surviving Menopause: The 7 Most Frustrating Problems and How to Fix Them
- Bing: Menopause and Weight Gain