Acupuncture is one of the most essential components of TCM (traditional Chinese medicine). The treatment involves the insertion of needles in the body. In the West, the popularity of acupuncture has been on the rise of late. This is due to its pain-relieving abilities. Scientific research has also been done to prove its mettle. Every year, around 10 million acupuncture treatments are conducted in the U.S.
So, now, how does acupuncture help in menopause? It isn’t unknown that menopause, which begins at 45-55 years on average, comes with several troublesome symptoms, hot flashes, and mood fluctuations, to name a few. Managing these symptoms is a mammoth task.
Experts have even spoken of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). Many have also resorted to acupuncture treatment to relieve themselves of the tormenting symptoms. So, how effective will acupuncture be? Read on to know more.
How Can Acupuncture Help to Relieve the Symptoms of Menopause? 7 Probable Benefits
Acupuncture is considered immensely effective in lessening menopausal symptoms. Studies have deduced the same. One study was conducted on 70 participants with moderate to severe menopausal symptoms. The study showed that those who underwent acupuncture for five weeks experienced a reduction in several symptoms. These include night sweats, sleep problems, hot flashes, and mood swings.
The research even found that the entire procedure was simple. It was also cost-effective, safe, and lessened side effects. So, let us learn about acupuncture’s effects on menopausal symptoms.
1. Reduces Vasomotor Symptoms
The night sweats and hot flashes that women mostly face in menopause are collectively called vasomotor symptoms. The majority go through these most tormenting symptoms when transitioning into menopause.
The impact of acupuncture in managing these symptoms is impressive. Chinese traditional medicine works on contrasting principles, ‘yin and yang.’ Yin is feminine, dark, and negative, while yang is the opposite – masculine, bright, and positive. The amalgamation of the bright and dark leads to good health.
So, as per this theory, a woman will face hot flashes when there is less yin and more yang. According to TCM, the kidneys play a significant role in growth and aging. When yin is deficient in the kidney, it leads to hot flashes. A study was conducted on 209 women in the perimenopause and postmenopause phases. It deduced that those receiving acupuncture regularly experienced a decline in their vasomotor symptoms.
Another small study of 53 participants in the menopause phase showed that women receiving acupuncture treatment for ten weeks showed remarkable improvement in vasomotor symptoms, mood fluctuations, and other menopausal symptoms.
A noted acupuncturist believed that acupuncture helped manage the hormonal imbalances that triggered the vasomotor symptoms. She even encouraged her patients to eat well and remain hydrated.
2. Alleviates Pain
Acupuncture is known to be of immense help to women with low back pain. In acupuncture, the needles are used at the pressure points. This stimulates the CNS (Central Nervous System) to release the pain-relieving endorphin hormones, thus providing relief.
3. Helps with Vaginal Dryness
The low estrogen levels can again be responsible for the menopausal vaginal dryness. Herbal medicine has been said to be effective with vaginal dryness. However, herbal medicine, in combination with acupuncture, is one of the best treatment options.
A study showed the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating sexual dysfunction in females. It helped arouse sexual desire and increase vaginal lubrication.
4. Good for Mood Upliftment
Menopause takes a toll on your physical health and affects your mental and emotional well-being. When estrogen levels lower, your body undergoes changes that affect your mental health. You will likely experience fatigue, anxiety, forgetfulness, low confidence, sadness, and lack of concentration in the perimenopause and menopause phases.
Acupuncture plays a significant role in dealing with anxiety and mood fluctuations. Many women have experienced peace of mind and inner relaxation after this procedure. They said that each acupuncture session refreshed them as if they had woken from a sound sleep.
In TCM, the liver is one of the significant reasons for all the mood swings and fluctuations women go through in perimenopause and menopause. There is truth in this belief from a medical standpoint, also.
When there is a disruption in the liver function, the toxins accumulating in the blood reach the brain, causing mood impairment. That is why individuals with liver problems are more likely to be susceptible to depressive disorders than others. The role of acupuncture is to balance the liver system and stabilize mood.
5. Lessens Fatigue
Estrogen and progesterone hormones significantly impact one’s mood and state of being. A fluctuation and reduction in their levels causes the mood to go haywire. With so much happening physically and emotionally, you also tend to feel more tired and exhausted.
Acupuncture has been said to yield significant results in managing and lessening fatigue. In fact, while eliminating or lessening fatigue, acupuncture will mostly work towards calming the yang or masculine energy and stimulating the yin or feminine energy. The acupuncturist will mainly focus on boosting digestive and kidney health while treating fatigue.
Acupuncture has always been pivotal in lessening fatigue, not just in menopause but in other conditions too. This has been highlighted through several studies. Research conducted on 1327 patients showed how effective acupuncture was in managing cancer-related fatigue.
6. Improves Sleep
The hormone reductions and fluctuations come into play in depriving you of a good night’s sleep. Those disturbed by episodes of hot flashes at night will find it immensely difficult to sleep through the night. The role of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) in helping people with insomnia isn’t unknown.
A study conducted in 2019 showed that acupuncture was also effective alongside CBT in helping people with sleep problems. The study was conducted on cancer survivors with an average age of 61.5 years, of which around 57% were women. Both CBT and acupuncture produced successful results. However, the effects of CBT were still more.
There are several pressure points for sleep, and the one that plays a significant role in acupuncture is the three-yin intersection point. It is located above your inner ankle. The needle treatment is mostly done at that particular spot. Acupuncturists also recommend having a salt water foot bath for better sleep alongside the needle treatment.
7. For Skin Problems
The reduced estrogen levels are responsible for skin problems in the perimenopause and menopause phases. Estrogen helps in collagen production, accounting for the firmness and elasticity of the skin. In the initial five years of the menopause phase, there’s a 30% collagen loss, which undergoes a severe decline eventually. Acupuncture treats skin conditions like dryness, redness, itchiness, and rashes.
The notion of ‘qi’ is significant in traditional Chinese medicine as it stands for the energy of life. When there is a proper flow of qi, your body functions properly. Acupuncture helps in maintaining an appropriate balance of qi’s flow. When dealing with skin problems like eczema, the acupuncturist works on pivotal pressure points like the large intestine, stomach, spleen, and liver.
So, if you are troubled with dry and itchy skin in the menopause transition and menopause phase, you can consider acupuncture as an option.
When you have decided to go for acupuncture to manage your menopause symptoms, you should ensure that the therapist is qualified in his field and is also licensed. When you are in the right hands, there are fewer chances of any accidents or mishaps. Yet, some could have minor side effects like pain, bruising, or bleeding in the area where needling has been done. Some could even feel a little sick or drowsy. Severe side effects are, however, rare.
Acupuncture has significant effects on estrogen levels, proven through studies. According to researchers, when the needling is done on the SP6 point, the junction of the kidney, liver, and spleen, there is an increase in estrogen levels. The FHBA (Female Hormone Balancing Acupuncture) technique helps to balance the estrogen and progesterone levels.
If you have a bleeding disorder or are taking anticoagulants. Then, consult the healthcare provider before choosing acupuncture. Those with metal allergies or infections should also avoid acupuncture. Pregnant women can go for acupuncture. But they must inform the practitioner of their pregnancy. There are specific pressure points where needling in pregnancy is unsafe.
The menopausal symptoms are the most tormenting ones. Managing it becomes a mammoth task. You can manage most of the symptoms when you stay and eat healthy. Yet, sometimes, it could be challenging to cope with the symptoms even after taking care of your way of life.
At this point, you may have to resort to alternative therapies. You may find HRT (Hormone replacement therapy) way too stressful. Under such circumstances, you could opt for traditional techniques like acupuncture. Before you decide on an acupuncturist, having a word with the doctor is always safe.