Menopause is a normal physiological change marking the end of female ovulation and menstrual cycles. This transition is natural and the blood conservation actually helps women preserve their energy and vitality. However, many women face unwanted and annoying symptoms during this process including hot flashes.
Hot flashes are random feelings of uncomfortable warmth which is specifically intense around the face, neck and chest. Hot flashes may lead to flushness or sweating, and are often followed by chills. A single flash usually lasts anywhere from one to five minutes. These can occur multiple times throughout the day or at night (also known as night sweats). Menopausal women suffering from severe hot flashes have even reported experiencing them as much as several times in one hour or 30 times in a single day.
Since menopause is caused by the body no longer producing normal levels of estrogen and progesterone, many women turn to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to fight symptoms. HRT involves prescribed supplements of estrogen or a combination of both estrogen, and progestin, a hormone similar to progesterone.
HRT is not right for everyone including those who have or had certain types of cancer or do not wish to develop the possible side effects of such treatment. However, acupuncture can work both in conjunction with HRT or as a safe and effective alternative to hormone therapy.
In fact, in 2014, the Journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), indicated that acupuncture can “positively impact both the frequency and severity of hot flashes,” citing a meta-analysis of 12 different studies.
In June 2009, a randomized trial found, “Acupuncture plus self-care can contribute to a clinically relevant reduction in hot flashes and increased health-related quality of life in postmenopausal women.” Patients in the study reported, “hot flash frequency decreased by 5.8 per 24 hours” and “hot flash intensity decreased by 3.2 units.”
Likewise, breast cancer patients and survivors report a higher issue with hot flashes, and according to multiple studies, benefit from acupuncture. In 2013, a pilot study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found acupuncture was effective for women with breast cancer receiving antiestrogen therapy, with all patients reporting a decrease in the severity of hot flashes by 70-95%.
Another study in 2016 published by the Journal of Clinical Oncology also supports earlier research showing that acupuncture, “can help ease hot flashes and improve quality of life in women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.”
So, how does acupuncture therapy work?
Precise acupuncture points are used for your specific presentation of hot flashes (not every woman is the same!). When the needles are applied to certain points on the body it stimulates pathways that travel through the peripheral nerves to the brain. This creates a chemical response that encourages your body back to homeostasis, the body’s naturally balanced state. This balance reduces unwanted symptoms associated with menopause including; hot flashes, dryness, anxiety, migraines, insomnia, and more.
While the placement of the needles varies, one particular point used to treat hot flashes and night sweats is Kidney 7 (Ki 7), found about 2 fingers breadth above Kidney 3 (Ki 3). Kidney 3 is located between the inside ankle bone and the Achilles tendon.
The average number of acupuncture sessions needed to decrease hot flashes varies from woman to woman. We generally start with weekly treatments and then taper down as symptoms reduce. Many have reported a maintained decrease in hot flashes up to 6 months after their last acupuncture treatment.
Find out if acupuncture is right for you by scheduling a consultation with San Pedro Acupuncture Health Center.