Acupuncture can help treat hot flashes in women, says a new study.
Hot flashes are the extreme kind of heat experienced by women, particularly in the area around the neck and head regions, before or at the beginning of menopause, i.e. when the menstrual period stops. The condition is primarily an after effect of the hormonal changes (decline in the level of estrogen) that women undergo before the ageing procedure.
In the study, researchers found that acupuncture, an ancient Chinese treatment, reduced severity and frequency of hot flashes involved in the natural menopause process. Acupuncture, is a treatment that involves inserting thin, solid needles into acupuncture points in the skin.
For the new study, researchers looked at 869 participants, part of 12 studies that analyzed the effectiveness of acupuncture on hot flashes. Women in the studies were aged between 40 and 60 and had natural menopause. The studies involved different types of acupuncture like electroacupuncture, acupressure, traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture (TCMA), laser and ear acupuncture.
Results showed that even a sham acupuncture, where the needles are removed immediately, after insertion, was highly promising to reduce hot flash frequency for at least three months.
However, none of the studies could underline the exact mechanism that helped this occurrence. Researchers assumed that the therapy may be providing the effects by reducing the concentration of β-endorphin in the hypothalamus and by restricting the production of estrogen. They said that the decline in estrogen levels further triggered release of CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide) that affected thermoregulation.
"More than anything, this review indicates that there is still much to be learned relative to the causes and treatments of menopausal hot flashes," the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) executive director Margery Gass, said in a news release. "The review suggests that acupuncture may be an effective alternative for reducing hot flashes, especially for those women seeking non-pharmacologic therapies."
Findings have been reported in NAMS' journal Menopause.
Acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of diseases including stroke, knee pain, headache, hypertension, dysentery, low back pain, dental pain and rheumatoid arthritis. There also exists solid scientific proof to show that acupuncture can help manage fatigue related to breast cancer treatments, relieve depressive symptoms, help shed excess fat and improve IVF pregnancy success. However, the popular therapy is also associated with certain side-effects, including soreness, organ injury (lungs) and infections (hepatitis) in patients with bleeding disorders, pregnant women and people who have a pacemaker placed in the chest or abdomen.