Menopause_acupuncture_J_web

Needling hot flushes

Words can be inadequate. Ask any mother, and they will tell you that the word “labour” hardly conveys the light and shade of the experience of giving birth. Nor does the word “pimple” communicate the angst and cover up that ensues. Perhaps even greater in inadequacy than these is the term “hot flushes” to describe one of the symptoms of menopause but while the word may be not be up to it the good news is that new research shows that acupuncture may be an answer to this uncomfortable symptom.

It is estimated that 85 per cent of women experience hot flushes of some kind as they approach menopause and for the first year or two after their periods stop. Between 20 and 50 per cent of women continue to have them for many more years. Hot flushes feature a sudden, intense, hot feeling on your face and upper body, perhaps accompanied by a rapid heartbeat and sweating, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, headache, weakness, or a feeling of suffocation. Some women experience an “aura”, an uneasy feeling just before the hot flush. The flush leaves you red and perspiring. You can be soaked with sweat or merely have a moist upper lip. A chill can be the icing on the cake.

So hot flushes can be debilitating but now researchers have found that acupuncture may help.

The new research involved an analysis 104 studies assessing the effectiveness of acupuncture. In the end they included 12 of these in their analysis that involved women aged between 40 and 60. The results showed that women who had acupuncture experienced a reduction in frequency and severity of hot flushes for up to three months. Although they can’t be sure, the researchers believe that acupuncture increases concentrations of beta-endorphin, a neuropeptide found in the peripheral nervous system and the brain, which activates the release of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) that regulates body temperature. Of course, from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective there would be effects on the meridians and energy systems of the body that are yielding the benefits.

Whatever the mechanism though, the point is that a little needling might relieve a lot of discomfort.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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