Hot flushes plague many women during menopause because at that of their life, women experience fluctuations in hormone levels. Well, it looks like acupuncture is now recognized as providing relief from this miserable symptom. Studies have shown that acupuncture may help relieve hot flushes from menopause. And another study also showed that acupuncture can improve not just the frequency of the hot flushes but also the women’s quality of life.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a transitional period marking the cessation of ovulation in a woman’s body. This time of change may last a few months to several years. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, and are brought on as our bodies try to adapt to decreasing amounts of oestrogen. Symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss, vaginal dryness, headaches, joint pain, and weight gain.
Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offer another paradigm in which to consider the experience of menopause. In TCM, life goes in cycles of 7 years for women (and 8 years for men). At the end of the seventh cycle (7×7 so 49 years old), menopause occurs and the woman becomes infertile.
In TCM, Essence is responsible for birth, growth, development, sexuality, maturation, and aging and is associated with the Kidney. The gradual depletion of Kidney Essence is the mechanism responsible for the timing and signs or symptoms of menopause. It is also responsible for weakening of the bones, loss of teeth, hearing loss, confusion and memory problems—all manifestations associated with the Kidney. Weakness and lack of energy are also a common condition of depleted Kidney Essence, along with lumbar pain, as the Kidney is located in the lower back.
It is important to note that in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the organs, such as the Kidney, do not share the same meaning than in Western Medicine. They are rather symbolic entities whose function is defined at the level of the body but also on an emotional level and in relation with the other organs in the body. So the Kidney is associated with the formation of urine but also with Fear and houses the Essence.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Menopause
In Western Medicine, the treatment of choice for hot flushes is HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). Whilst HRT can certainly help women, it can have a number of significant side effects including increasing the risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer. It is therefore an unsuitable choice for some women, for example women with a family history of breast cancer.
Like many other conditions that patients bring to acupuncturists today, menopausal syndrome is a biomedical disease category. There is actually no evidence that it was recognised as a medical problem in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Instead Traditional Chinese Medicine is working as a holistic therapy, treating the person as a whole and taking into account all the different symptoms of that particular patient to establish the diagnosis. Because not everyone will have exactly the same symptoms, each patient will receive a treatment specific to his own imbalances, including a different acupuncture points prescription and/or lifestyle and diet advice.
As more and more research shows that acupuncture can be an effective modality to treat hot flushes, acupuncture is proving to be one option to ease the transition phase during menopause. So don’t suffer in silence!