Two New Studies Show Acupuncture Relieves Hot Flashes

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Women suffering from hot flashes associated with menopause may have another alternative to hormone replacement therapy, according to two new studies showing that treatment with acupuncture significantly reduces the severity and frequency of hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.

I knew I didn't want to take hormone therapy, but hot flashes and night sweats were waking me up almost every night, and I was finding it really hard to function during the day.

Women suffering from hot flashes associated with menopause may have another alternative to hormone replacement therapy, according to two new studies showing that treatment with acupuncture significantly reduces the severity and frequency of hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.

Leslie, a busy business woman, found her hot flashes and sleep deprivation debilitating until she finally tried acupuncture with Emilie Salomons (Dr. TCM, FABORM) at Acubalance Wellness Centre in Vancouver. She explains, "I knew I didn't want to take hormone therapy, but hot flashes and night sweats were waking me up almost every night, and I was finding it really hard to function during the day."

"After my treatment with acupuncture I started feeling better, and after a few weeks of acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbal therapy, I noticed major relief. The number of hot flashes decreased dramatically, and I was actually sleeping through the night!"

One study, conducted by the Ankara Training and Research Hospital in Ankara, Turkey, confirms Leslie's positive experience with acupuncture. It included 53 postmenopausal women. Twenty-seven of the women received traditional Chinese acupuncture for 20 minutes, twice a week for 10 weeks. The rest thought they were given acupuncture treatment, but the needles didn't actually penetrate their skin. The women who received real acupuncture showed significant drops in the severity of their hot flashes.

The result of another study, presented by the National Research Center in Alternative and Complementary Medicine, University of Tromsø, Norway, at the March 2011 Acupuncture Research Resource Centre Symposium in London, "... showed significant reduction in the severity and frequency of hot flushes in postmenopausal women undergoing a 12 week course of acupuncture."

Researchers are still trying to understand how this 2000-year-old treatment affects menopausal symptoms. According to Acubalance clinical director Lorne Brown (Dr. TCM, FABORM), "Studies have shown that acupuncture appears to bring hormones into balance and reduce anxiety through a process called homeostatic regulation: buffering hormonal disturbance and stimulating feel-good endorphins."

Dr. Jerilynn Prior, UBC professor of endocrinology, author and world expert on women's hormones, states: "This research supports a large body of anecdotal evidence that acupuncture can safely relieve hot flushes and night sweats--it may 'work' by decreasing the stress responses that we know make hot flushes worse."

For Leslie, acupuncture has allowed her to resume her life. "Not only am I getting relief from hot flashes and the overwhelming fatigue and exhaustion, but I'm so glad to have the option of a safe, effective treatment for my menopause symptoms that actually improves my overall health!"

Salomons explains that "At Acubalance we usually combine acupuncture with Chinese herbal therapy and lifestyle changes like diet and exercise for the best outcome."

Terje Alraek of the University of Tromsø says in a press statement: "After menopause, 10% - 20% of all women have nearly intolerable hot flushes. The promising results of the Acuflash study suggest that acupuncture can help."

Relieving menopausal symptoms is the latest use of the 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition--it's already being used to reduce symptoms related to infertility, arthritis, back, neck, knee and shoulder pain, and anxiety.

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Mairi Campbell