There are women who, either for medical or personal reasons, don’t
use medication to assist them with the symptoms of the menopause
transition. Acupuncture is gaining more acceptance by Western medicine
and has been successfully used to treat conditions such as arthritis and
chronic pain. Dr. Browngoehl discusses the use of acupuncture in the
menopausal woman. — Beverly
Vaughn, MD, Medical Coordinator, Menopause and You Program
Menopause is a time of natural change in a woman’s body. Hormones and
chemistry are shifting because of lower estrogen and progestin produced
by the body. For some women, these shifts in hormones can cause hot
flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood changes. It can be a
challenging time. Today, there are many treatment options including
medication and hormone replacement. Diet, exercise and good sleeping
patterns can also be beneficial. Acupuncture is another treatment which
many people may not know can be helpful to help treat many of the
symptoms of menopause.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a five-thousand-year-old healing art which focuses on
rebalancing the body. At menopause, there is said to be a decline in
Jing which can be thought of as an important essence which gives us
energy. Chinese medicine recognizes that when Jing declines, our body
becomes imbalanced and this is what leads to the various symptoms and
signs of menopause. When Jing decreases around menopause, it sets up an
imbalance between Yin and Yang. Yin can be thought of as a cooling
system to the body and Yang as an energetic active system. We all need a
balance between Yin and Yang. Many of the symptoms of menopause are
caused by too much Yang. Excess Yang causes hot flashes, restlessness,
mood swings, heart palpitations and insomnia. These imbalances can also
cause water retention, cold hands and feet, weight gain, and swelling.
Research on the Benefits of Acupuncture
Researchers at Stanford University of Medicine studied the effect of
acupuncture on postmenopausal women who experienced at least seven
moderate to severe hot flashes daily. The study showed that the severity
of the hot flashes was significantly decreased in the women who received
acupuncture as compared to a group of women getting placebo. At the
University of Pittsburgh, acupuncture was studied in women with
menopausal hot flushes, sleep disturbances and mood changes. One group
of women was treated with specific acupuncture body points related to
their menopausal symptoms. The other group received general acupuncture
aimed to improve their overall well-being. In the group where
acupuncture was targeting specific menopausal symptoms, the women showed
a decrease in hot flushes and an improvement in sleep disturbances. Both
groups showed improved in mood changes. These studies as well as others
suggest that acupuncture can be helpful in treatment of a variety of
What Happens During an Acupuncture Treatment?
If you have menopausal symptoms and are interested in acupuncture as a
possible treatment, you may want to go to a physician who is trained in
acupuncture. You can expect that the physician will initially perform a
thorough evaluation and take a complete history. This is because it is
important to determine what symptoms menopause has caused and in what
ways the imbalance in hormones has affected you. A treatment plan using
acupuncture can then be developed to address your individual concerns. A
person who has hot flashes as her only symptom is treated differently
than a person who no longer has hot flashes but experiences weight gain
and depression. Each person experiences menopause differently and
treatment will vary from one person to the next.
In an acupuncture treatment, small disposable needles are used at
precise points to improve the body’s balance and decrease symptoms of
menopause. These points are generally located in the arms, legs and
head. Acupuncture needles are very thin. The needles’ points are smooth
and so most people do not feel pain or discomfort when the needle is
placed. In fact, many people do not feel the needles being placed at
all. Once the needles are placed, there is no soreness. Generally,
acupuncture needles will stay in place for fifteen to twenty minutes
while you rest comfortably.
Effects from acupuncture can be felt immediately after treatment or
might not be experienced for several days. Most people feel very relaxed
after an acupuncture treatment and sleep especially well that evening.
Generally, results are noted within about seventy-two hours. You will
generally feel a better sense of well-being and a decrease in your
troublesome symptoms. As you progress with acupuncture treatment,
intensity and frequency of symptoms subside.
Acupuncture can be very effective in supporting the essential energies
of the body and allowing it to regain its balance. The treatment
encourages the body to promote natural healing and improves functioning.
Acupuncture provides another treatment option and can be a safe, natural
and drug-free approach to addressing menopause.
This article is part of the Menopause and You library,
a Web-based program sponsored by Women’s Health Source.
It is intended as an information resource providing guidelines for
women. As always, check with your own healthcare practitioner with your
specific concerns and questions.
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