Acupuncture may reduce the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes, night sweats, and aches and pains. These symptoms occur due to hormonal changes in your body, and can have an effect on your life and work. Acupuncture can offer relief from these symptoms and help you get your life back to normal.
While acupuncture is an ancient medicinal practice, it offers therapeutic benefits and has very few side effects, making it safe to use for most women. In fact, studies have proven the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of menopausal symptoms in women.
The Australian Menopause Centre recommends that acupuncture be used to complement Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy treatment, and not as an alternative treatment option.
What is acupuncture and how does it work?
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique. The acupuncturist inserts thin sterile needles through the skin at specific points on the body where qi, or vital energy, runs. These points are called “acupuncture points”, such as Guanyuan Ren-4, Quchi LI-11, and Sanyinjiao SP-6. The needles are placed and kept on these points for about 20 minutes to stimulate energy. Endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers may be released as well.
Acupuncture can not only control pain, it can also increase blood flow and bring the energy flow back into balance, which maybe useful for alleviating symptoms of menopause.
Which menopausal symptoms can acupuncture relieve?
Acupuncture can relieve the following symptoms of menopause:
- hot flushes
- night sweats
- mood swings
- headaches and migraine
- pain (low back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis/knee pain).
Studies that prove the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment
Study 1: hot flushes
Di Concetto (1989) treated 100 patients who had menopausal hot flushes using the following acupuncture points: Guanyuan Ren-4 with strong stimulation and moxibustion, Quchi LI-11 with electroacupuncture, and Sanyinjiao SP-6 with acupuncture alone. Patients received treatment two times a week for two to three weeks, then once a month for a year, and then every two to three months. They were followed for two years.
The outcome was that 20 patients experienced a total reduction of symptoms, 65 experienced a reduction of symptoms via monthly treatment, and 85 experienced “satisfactory” results.
Study 2: anxiety and depression
Limarti and Ricciarelli (1989) followed 25 patients who had menopausal symptoms such as anxiety and depression for a year. Patients were treated with acupuncture and moxibustion using slanted insertion and manipulation where the patient felt Deqi (the excitation of qi or vital energy at the acupuncture points). Moxa sticks or moxa on the needles were used to warm the points, with sessions lasting around 20 minutes. Patients were treated two times a week for four to six treatments, then once a week for another four to six weeks, and then once a month for maintaining results.
The outcome was that 10 patients experienced complete relief from symptoms and stopped taking their medication, while the other 15 experienced a noticeable reduction of symptoms and decreased their intake of antidepressants or sedatives.
Study 3: joint pain
Sotte (1989) reported an analysis of the case notes of 300 patients who received individualised acupuncture treatment for their menopause-related joint problems. 238 of these patients were followed for two years. Patients were treated two times a week for three weeks, then once a week for another three weeks, then once a month for six months, and then on a seasonal basis.
The outcome was that 122 patients experienced total relief from symptoms, 62 experienced a noticeable reduction in their symptoms, 30 experienced a reasonable decline of their symptoms but they reoccurred without treatment seasonally, 24 experienced a small reduction in symptoms, and 11 continued with the treatment while experiencing an increase in their physical well-being. The authors also stated that “anxiety and depression associated with joint problems at menopause were resolved completely in nearly all cases”.
Study 4: hormonal levels
Grille et al (1989) randomly chose 45 menopausal women from two hospital clinics and put them into three groups. For one of the groups, 15 of the women received acupuncture treatment for their symptoms, such as hot flushes, tachycardia, anxiety, headaches, sweating, palpitations, and insomnia.
The outcome was that acupuncture treatment resulted in changes in hormone levels, including a rise in the oestrogen oestradiol, the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), testosterone, and cholesterol. But the effects of the acupuncture treatment wore off, so monthly treatment was needed to maintain benefits.
Study 5: hot flushes
Wyon et al (1994) followed 24 menopausal women who had hot flushes. They were put into two groups, with one group being treated with electroacupuncture, and the other group treated with superficial needling. They received treatment two times a week for two weeks, and then weekly for six weeks.
The women recorded the frequency of the hot flushes in a logbook, which showed a reduction of over 50% in both groups. The outcome measures used were:
- the psychological well-being index (it didn’t change significantly in both groups)
- self-rated general menopause symptoms (it showed a significant reduction in the electroacupuncture group)
- the Kupperman Menopausal Index (the women assessed the severity of their own symptoms and the result was a decrease in scores in both groups)
Study 6: effect on endorphins
In a study published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, researchers from Turkey looked at 53 menopausal women. 27 of these women received acupuncture treatment two times a week for 10 weeks. The other 26 were given “dummy” acupuncture with blunted needles.
The outcome was that the women receiving genuine treatment experienced a higher reduction in the intensity of hot flushes and mood swings, compared with the women given dummy needles. The researchers said “the effect on endorphins might curb flushes by stabilising the body’s temperature controls, but they were unable to say how long the effect lasted after treatment finished”.
Study 7: hot flushes
In a study from Norway, women who received acupuncture treatment for 12 weeks experienced a decline in the frequency and intensity of hot flushes per day.
Study 8: quality of life
Chiu et al (2015) conducted a meta-analysis of randomised controlled studies, which aimed to evaluate the effects that acupuncture has on menopause-related symptoms and quality of life in menopausal women. They found that acupuncture treatment significantly reduces the frequency and severity of hot flushes, improves other menopause-related symptoms, and improves quality of life in the vasomotor domain in menopausal women.
Study 9: hot flushes and night sweats
Avis et al (2016) recruited 209 menopausal women who had at least four hot flushes or night sweats per day, and then put them into two groups for acupuncture treatment. One group was treated for the first six months and then followed for another six months. The other group received treatment in the second six months instead of in the first six months. Each woman could receive 20 treatments within their 6-month slot, and they recorded the frequency and severity of their symptoms in a daily diary.
The outcome was that the frequency of hot flushes and night sweats decreased by more than 30% per day in both groups, which lasted for at least six months after the treatments stopped. The study also showed that receiving treatment from a licensed acupuncturist will bear no side effects, and the maximum benefit occurred after about eight treatments.
Enjoying the benefits of acupuncture in menopause
As you can see, acupuncture can be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of menopause-related symptoms, improving your quality of life. So if you’re thinking of treating your symptoms with acupuncture but don’t know whether it’s the right treatment for you or which licensed acupuncturist to go to, you can contact the Australian Menopause Centre for advice.