Thursday, April 18, 2013

Can Acupuncture Cure Hot Flashes in Menopausal Women?

While every woman knows that menopause is happening in her body thanks to the hormonal changes, there are alternative ways to approach this transition.

Form East Medicine practitioners point of view, menopause is a natural process that alters the balance of Yin and Yang. After menopause many women discover (and may be disturbed by) the more yang (energetic, aggressive) side of themselves. Showing a reversed trend, as men grow older, they tend to discover their yin (passive, yielding) side.

Yes, many people don't realize how powerful Oriental Medicine treatments can be for women's health conditions. In fact, gynecological problems have been treated with acupuncture for over 2000 years, and for 5000 years with herbal medicine. Oriental Medicine holds that mind and body are one, and considers the whole woman and her experience of life in diagnosis. These life experiences (especially when out of balance and not dealt with properly) can manifest as disease in the body, and especially as gynecological problems in women.

According to Chinese Medical theory, menopause occurs when a woman's body begins to preserve blood and energy in order to sustain her vitality and allow for the maximum available nourishment for her body, especially her kidneys. The kidney is the organ Chinese Medicine sees as the root of life and longevity. Therefore, the body, in its wisdom, reserves the flow of a channel in the center of the body which sends blood and energy down to the uterus. Instead, blood and essence from the kidneys are conserved and cycled through the body to nourish the woman's spirit and extend her longevity. Thus, in the Chinese Medicine, menopause is seen as true change in life from mother to enlightened and wise being.

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Acupuncture and Menopause Treatment

Multiple studies confirmed that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have the ability to detect energetic changes that occur in the body and quickly and effectively relieve symptoms such as hot flashes, foggy mind, and irritability.

Evidence that Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine have been used for women's health can be found in early medical literature dating back to 3 AD. Traditional Chinese Medicine does not recognize menopause as one particular syndrome. Instead, it aims to treat the specific symptoms that are unique to each individual using a variety of techniques such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, bodywork, lifestyle/dietary recommendations and energetic exercises to restore imbalances found in the body. Therefore, if 10 women are treated with Oriental medicine for hot flashes, each of these 10 women will receive a unique, customized treatment with different acupuncture points, different herbs and different lifestyle and diet recommendations.

How Acupuncture Works

The mental and emotional symptoms that you are experiencing will help create a clear picture on which your practitioners can create a treatment plan specifically for you. The basic foundation for Oriental medicine is that there is a life energy flowing through the body which is termed Qi (pronounced chee).

This energy flows through the body on channels known as meridians that connect all of our major organs. According to Chinese medical theory, illness arises when the cyclical flow of Qi in the meridians becomes unbalanced. Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points located near or on the surface of the skin which have the ability to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to achieve the desired effect.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, research shows that acupuncture releases pain-killing biochemical’s in the body —endorphins—that stimulate the central nervous system, and help regulate a person's blood pressure, blood flow, and brain chemical release.

Acupuncture is based on two major theories: yin/yang theory and five element theory.

The yin/yang theory is based on balance. Individuals become sick when there is an imbalance between yin and yang within the body. Yin is the less active, darker, cold, and quiet component while yang is the more active, lighter, hot, and aggressive component. As long as these two opposites support and control each other, the individual stays healthy. Many problems arise when one component overpowers the other, resulting in various symptomatic manifestations.

The second theory of five elements is based on nature. Similar to the yin/ yang theory, the five element theory is based on the balance of the organs within the body. The body is treated as a whole, and therefore many organs are affected by the conditions of other parts of the body.

Overall, the acupuncture treatment treats both the underlying cause and symptoms by:
·         Increases endorphin levels
·         Increases natural estrogen production
·         Increases tranquility
·         Increases flow of the body’s bio electric circuitry.

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The Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture points to treat the emotional and physical effects of menopause are located all over the body. During the acupuncture treatment, tiny needles will be placed along your legs, arms, shoulders, and perhaps even your little toe!

There seems to be little sensitivity to the insertion of acupuncture needles. They are so thin that several acupuncture needles can go into the middle of a hypodermic needle. Occasionally, there is a brief moment of discomfort as the needle penetrates the skin, but once the needles are in place, most people relax and even fall asleep for the duration of the treatment.

The length, number and frequency of treatments will vary. Typical treatments last from five to 30 minutes, with the patient being treated one or two times a week. Some symptoms are relieved after the first treatment, while more severe or chronic ailments often require multiple treatments.

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Studies on Acupuncture and Menopause

Since the early seventies, studies around the globe have suggested that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are effective treatments for hot flashes, anxiety, insomnia, vaginal dryness and many other symptoms associated with menopause. Recent studies show extremely positive results:

·         From 1997 to 1999, one of the first studies in the United States to explore the effectiveness of acupuncture in alleviating hot flashes, insomnia and nervousness, conducted by Dr. Susan Cohen, D.S.N., APRN, associate professor of the University of Pittsburgh, it was found that during the course of acupuncture treatments, hot flashes decreased by 35% and insomnia decreased by 50%. A follow-up study revealed hot flashes significantly decreased in those receiving acupuncture, compared to those receiving routine care.
·         A 2002 pilot study in England found that acupuncture reduced the frequency and severity of hot flashes in women being treated with tamoxifen for breast cancer. While these results are promising and the United Nations World Health Organization has approved acupuncture as a treatment for symptoms associated with menopause, further clinical trials with larger samples are currently underway.
·         In a randomized, 2003, 2-group clinical study at University of Pittsburgh, acupuncture was used for the relief of menopausal hot flushes, sleep disturbances, and mood changes. The experimental acupuncture treatment consisted of specific acupuncture body points related to menopausal symptoms. The comparison acupuncture treatment consisted of a treatment designated as a general tonic specifically designed to benefit the flow of Ch'i (energy). Results from the experimental acupuncture treatment group showed a decrease in mean monthly hot flush severity for site-specific acupuncture. Sleep disturbances in the experimental acupuncture treatment group declined over the study. Mood changes in both the experimental acupuncture treatment group and the comparison acupuncture treatment group showed a significant difference between the baseline and the third month of the study. Thus, acupuncture using menopausal-specific sites showed promise for nonhormonal relief of hot flushes and sleep disturbances.
·         In 2010, Turkish researchers randomly assigned 53 women with menopausal symptoms whose periods had stopped for at least a year to receive either real acupuncture or "sham" acupuncture using blunted needles that are designed to appear as though they penetrate the skin without actually doing so. After 10 sessions with a licensed practitioner who had at least six years of experience, women treated with acupuncture reported significantly fewer hot flashes and mood swings. Additional sessions appeared to offer additional benefits, particularly against hot flashes.
·         The findings of a study published in the March edition of the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, 2011, conducted by Portland's School of Nursing's Cheryl Wright and Mikel Aickin, concluded that women suffering from hot flashes and other common menopause conditions showed significant decrease in symptoms with acupuncture treatments. In just ten weeks, the group of women receiving the acupuncture showed considerably lower occurrences of hot flashes and mood swings than the women who received fake acupuncture, where the needles did not fully penetrate the skin. The researchers also concluded that the relief in symptoms among the women receiving acupuncture did not occur as a result of any change in their hormone levels, suggesting the acupuncture had an effect directly on the symptoms themselves.

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Acupuncture Points for Menopause
While many different acupuncture points are used, depending on your specific symptoms and the state of your overall health, here are some acupuncture points that are commonly used to treat menopause:

Du 20 - Located on the top of the head, midway between the ears. This point helps clear the spirit and rebalances the yin and yang elements of the body.

Urinary Bladder 23 (UB 23) - A lower back point that is level to the second lumbar vertebra. This point invigorates the kidney system and nourishes kidney essence. It is often used to strengthen the lumbar region and the knees.

Kidney 3 (Ki 3) – In the depression between the inside ankle bone and the Achilles tendon, level with the tip of the ankle bone. Kidney 3 invigorates and strengthens the kidney system and regulates the uterus.

Kidney 7 (Ki 7) – Located approximately 2 fingers breadth above Kidney 3. It is used to treat hot flashes and night sweats.

Spleen 6 (Sp 6) - Located about 4 fingers breadth above the tip of the inside ankle bone in a depression. This is one of the most influential points for women’s health. It strengthens the spleen, resolves damp, promotes the smooth flow of Qi, strengthens the kidneys, nourishes blood and yin, benefits urination, regulates uterus and menstruation, moves and cools blood, relieves pain and calms the mind.

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Sources and Additional Information:

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