Acupuncture Treatment of Menopause

Two new studies reveal that acupuncture can significantly reduce the intensity and frequency of hot flushes and other symptoms associated with the menopause.

Menopause indicates the complete cessation of menstruation for a woman. The phase during which she makes the transition from a reproductive to a non-reproductive stage is called Climacteric. This transition is a decline of ovarian function which usually spans 2 - 5 years around the menopause. 'Menopause' however, is the term more generally used for the symptoms experienced at this time. It usually occurs between the ages of 48 and 55. By the time of the menopause, ovarian follicles are greatly depleted. However, there is a progressive decline of follicles even from the time before birth, indicating that the menopause is not an event that takes place suddenly but one that reflects a gradual physiological process throughout a woman's lifetime. As follicle activity decreases and then ceases, there is a lack of oestrogen and cessation of menses. There is also a decrease in progesterone which normally occurs after ovulation. Hence, when ovulation ceases so does progesterone.

By far the commonest symptom experienced is hot flushes, from which 85% of women suffer. 45% may suffer from them for 5-10 years after the menopause. Other problems are headaches, tiredness, lethargy, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, depression, insomnia, inability to concentrate, hot flushes, vaginal dryness and sweating. From a Chinese point of view, menopausal symptoms are generally due to a decline of Kidney Essence.

Emotional stress is an extremely important cause of menopausal problems, building up over the years before onset of menopause. Worry, anxiety and fear weaken the Kidneys and lead to yin deficiency, especially when they occur against a background of overwork. Over time, as kidney yin fails to nourish heart yin they also lead to heart yin deficiency and heart empty heat.

Working long hours combined with inadequate rest and worry is the most frequent cause of kidney yin deficiency. Also having too many children close together weakens the kidneys.

Generally, treatment will be given to nourish the Kidneys and clear empty heat.

Terje Alraek, researcher from one of the studies, said "After menopause, 10 to 20% of all women have nearly intolerable hot flushes. The promising results of the Acuflash study suggest that acupuncture may be able to provide an alternative to long-term use of hormone replacement therapy."

Dr. Jerilynn Prior, professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of British Columbia and Scientific Director of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, 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."

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