Hot flashes, can acupuncture help?

Because women are so busy all the time, they may not notice that they are growing older. Wrinkles may be already on our face; skin may become loose. Hormone level in the body has changed. Because of this change, it declared the old age’s coming. Some women may have unpleasant symptoms, such as hot flush, night sweaty; these symptoms may exist a few years before menopause starts and may last a few years afterwards. For them, pleasant summer became unbearable hot; night became sleepless nights. What can you do about it? Hormone replacement therapy may relieve the symptoms, but the risk to take is very big which include having breast cancer, stroke and dementia etc. For this reason, alternative treatment is a good choice. Acupuncture was recognised as an effective way to reduce hot flush. Borud et al performed a randomised controlled trial to study effectiveness of acupuncture for hot flush. 10 sessions of acupuncture were given to acupuncture group and advice on self-care was for control group. The results showed that acupuncture group has significant improvements in hot flush, sleep and other symptoms. Borud also analysed 16 clinical trial studies. Some studies showed that acupuncture reduces about 50% in hot flush frequency comparing with no specific treatment; the effect of acupuncture on frequency is smaller than that oestrogen therapy. They concluded that acupuncture reduces hot flush. Sunay D et al carried out a sham controlled clinical trial to investigate effect of acupuncture on hot flush and hormone levels. They not only showed that acupuncture relieved hot flush, but also showed that acupuncture lowered LH levels, increased oestrogen levels.

There are other promising research data supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture in hot flushes in menopausal women. Recently Baccetti et al from Italy conducted a randomized trial to investigate the effect of acupuncture treatment for hot flushes. One hundred women in spontaneous menopause with at least three episodes of hot flushes daily were randomly allocated to two treatment groups (50 per group): Women in group A were given diet, self-massage training, and treatment with acupuncture, and women in group B (the control group) were given the same diet and self-massage training. 6 weeks acupuncture treatments were offered for these women. They found that treatment with acupuncture significantly reduced the occurrence of hot flushes and sudden sweating. They also found that other symptoms including sleep disorders, tightness in the chest, irritability, bone pain, feeling depressed were also significantly improved after acupuncture treatments. They suggested that Acupuncture in an integrated system that includes therapeutic techniques such as diet therapy and Tuina self-massage can be used to treat hot flushes and selected symptoms in postmenopausal women.

A study of acupuncture on hot flushes was performed by Borud EK et al from the National research Center in Complementary and Alternative Medicine University of Tromso Norway in 2006/2007. There were 267 participants with hot flashes. Mean age was 53.8 year old. 134 women were in acupuncture group receiving 10 sessions of acupuncture treatment over 12 weeks. The most frequently used 10 acupuncture points were SP6, HT6, KI7, KI6, CV4, LU7, LI4, LR3, ST36 and KI3. 133 women were in control group receiving self care only. In acupuncture group 67 women responded to the acupuncture treatment. 64 women did not respond to the treatment. There were no serious side effects found in acupuncture treatments.

From this report, we can see that acupuncture could be effective on hot flushes for some people, tough not everyone responded to the treatment. If you have hot flushes, it is worth trying acupuncture to see if it works for you.

Acupuncture is for hot flashes in patients with cancer

Acupuncture is suggested to treat hot flushes in women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer. How long does the effect last after the end of the acupuncture treatment period? Recently researchers analysed existing data including 172 patients. The data has shown that the average reduction of hot flashes from the start of acupuncture to the end of acupuncture was 43.2%. The 153 of 172 patients were followed up. After 3-9 months (average 5.8 months) from the end of the treatment period 45.6% of the patients remain at the same level of reduction. From this existing data, it can be seen that acupuncture effect on the hot flashes could last at least 3 months.

Acupuncture reduces hot flashes
A research analysed three published trials of nonpharmacological interventions for menopausal hot flashes to compare the effectiveness of interventions. Data from three randomized controlled trials of interventions for hot flashes (two acupuncture trials, one yoga trial) were pooled. All three studies recruited perimenopausal or postmenopausal women experiencing ≥4 hot flashes/d on average. The primary outcome for all three studies was frequency of hot flashes as measured by the Daily Diary of Hot Flashes. Study 1 participants were randomly assigned to 8 weeks of acupuncture treatments (active intervention), sham acupuncture (attention control), or usual care. Study 2 participants were randomly assigned to 10 weeks of yoga classes, health and wellness education classes (attention control), or waitlist control. Study 3 randomly assigned participants to 6 months of acupuncture or waitlist control. To standardize the time frame for these analyses, only the first 8 weeks of intervention from all three studies were used. There results have shown that the three active interventions and the two attention control groups had statistically similar trends in the percentage reduction of hot flashes over 8 weeks, ranging from 35% to 40%. Acupuncture, yoga, and health and wellness education classes all demonstrated statistically similar effectiveness in reduction of hot flash frequency compared with controls.

Borud EK et al Acupunct Med (2009) 27:101-10
Borud EK et al Menopause (2009), 16: 484-93
Borud E et al Auton Neurosi (2010), 157: 57-62
Sunday D Acupunct Med (2011), 29: 27-31
Baccetti S et al J Altern Complement Med (2014) May 14
Frisk JW et al Support Care Cancer 2014 Jan 30
Avis NE et al Menopause. 2018 Oct 22. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001255. [Epub ahead of print]

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