Women who suffer from hot flashes and other uncomfortable symptoms of menopause may be able to find relief through acupuncture, according to a new study.
The idea of having to lie still for 20 minutes with needles sticking out of you may not appeal to everyone. On the other hand, hormone replacement therapy – often employed to make menopause more bearable – has some problems of its own, including an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and breast cancer.
So Turkish researchers recruited 53 postmenopausal women and assigned 27 of them to a five-week course of acupuncture (twice a week for 20 minutes at a time) and 26 of them got sham treatments that they thought were real. Women in the treatment group had needles inserted at 10 acupuncture points (bilaterally at ST36, LI4, KI3 and LR3, and also at EX-HN3 and CV3); women in the placebo group were treated with blunted needles that didn’t penetrate the skin.
At the end of the study period, the women who got acupuncture showed more relief from their symptoms compared to their counterparts who got the fake treatment. Their hot flashes were less severe (there was no change for women who got the sham treatment). Both groups had improvements in their psychological symptoms (as measured by the Menopause Rating Scale), though the benefit was much greater for women who got acupuncture. In addition, estrogen levels were significantly higher for the women in the treatment group compared to the controls.
Had there been more than 10 sessions, the benefits of acupuncture might have been even greater, the researchers said. The results were published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine.
This isn’t the first study to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture for hot flashes. In prior studies, results have been mixed. (Click here for a nice roundup.) But from what I hear about hot flashes, some women are willing to try anything.