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14 Feb

Menopause can be relieved by Acupuncture, the ancient therapy helping to reduce the number of hot flushes and night sweat attacks.

A scientific review found that acupuncture reduces the number of hot flushes suffered by menopausal women and makes these attacks less severe.

Acupuncture, in which fine needles are inserted in certain sites of the body to release pain-killing chemicals, has been found to provide relief for up to a year.

Experts believe symptoms such as hot flushes are caused by a drop in oestrogen, the female reproductive hormone which helps to regulate the body’s temperature. When women go through the menopause their body produces less oestrogen, as they no longer need it to produce eggs.

Acupuncture may release endorphins, hormones that fight pain and are responsible for sensations such as the runner’s high. It is thought these allow the brain to compensate for the reduction of oestrogen and balance the body’s temperature, effectively resetting its thermostat.

The umbrella review of two studies and three previous scientific papers was led by Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina in the US. Lead author Dr Deanna Befus said: ‘The symptoms of the menopause are so unpleasant in part because they can last between seven and ten years for women. To have options to tackle hot flushes and night sweats is really important. We don’t yet fully understand how acupuncture works but the results showing it can relieve symptoms for up to a year are extremely encouraging.’

While many hot flushes last just five minutes, the most severely affected women can experience as many as 20 a day. Night sweats can cause serious sleep deprivation, which makes it difficult for women to cope with their everyday lives. Together these are known as vasomotor symptoms.

The review includes the results from a 2016 study which found almost half of 170 women receiving acupuncture treatments for six months saw the number of hot flushes they suffered cut in half.

Looking at studies from 2012 to 2016, it concluded that acupuncture reduces the frequency and severity of hot flushes and improves quality of life. In some cases, where women were followed up, these results lasted for 12 months.

Michael Savvas, a menopause expert and gynaecologist at King’s College Hospilal in London, said: Acupuncture may work by relieving stress and anxiety, which are known to be triggers of hot flushes and night sweats. ‘It might work because of the placebo effect – because women believe that it will.

*HRT is a better option for long-term relief…But for women who do not want to have hormone therapy, acupuncture may provide some benefits.’

The study was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Editor-in-chief John Weeks said: ‘While follow-up time of included studies varied, some found reductions in hot flush frequency that continued for a year. This presents real promise for patients wrestling with bother-some vasomotor symptoms.’

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