Acupuncture and Menopause
Research shows acupuncture to be effective for the relief of hot flashes as well as menopause-related sleep disturbances.*
The transition into menopause can be an extremely difficult time for many women. Symptoms associated with this process range from mildly uncomfortable to extremely disruptive of everyday work and activities. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can provide relief for many of these symptoms. However, Given the significant risks of HRT, many women may seek alternative treatments for physical and emotional symptoms that arise during this phase of life.
Conclusions from the large Women’s Health Initiative study (WHI) are as follows:
Menopausal hormone therapy has a complex pattern of risks and benefits. Findings from the intervention and extended postintervention follow-up of the 2 WHI hormone therapy trials do not support use of this therapy for chronic disease prevention, although it is appropriate for symptom management in some women”.
(JAMA 2013; 310: 1353-68).
According to Chinese medical theory, menopausal imbalances are manifested from a depletion of kidney yin (the more cooling, fluid aspect of the body) vs. kidney yang (the more warming and active aspect of the body). This depletion generates “empty heat” leading to the typical symptoms which include:
- Restlessness and Agitation
- Hot Flashes
- Night Sweats
- Vaginal Dryness
- Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
Depletion of kidney yin can occur at any time of life in either men or women. However, women during their mid-life years are particularly prone to this imbalance. Acupuncture treatment designed to restore kidney yin can bring immense relief to patients suffering from the discomforts of menopause.
Research indicates acupuncture’s effectiveness for hot flashes (Menopause 2013 May 13, epub ahead of print). One study reports acupuncture to be comparable to oral estradiol hormone treatment for the relief of hot flashes (Climacteric, 2004;7(2):153-64). Other research shows acupuncture to be effective for the relief of hot flashes as well as menopause-related sleep disturbances.*
* Holist. Nurs. Pract. 2003; 17(6):295-9, and
Climacteric 2013; 16(1):36-40
— Bethany Bechtel
WHAT TO EXPECT AT YOUR TREATMENTYour first appointment will last an hour and a half to two hours. We will ask you detailed questions about the nature and severity of your symptoms including hot flashes and night sweats and how long they have been a problem for you. If you are still mensturating, we will want to know about the duration and regularity of your cycles as well as the heaviness of your bleeding.
We will discuss the effectiveness of other treatments and medications you may have tried. We will go over your entire health history including any pregnancies you may have had. We will ask you about all aspects of your current health. We will inquire about problems related to your digestion (such as heart burn, bloating, and constipation). We will discuss your diet, appetite and sleep patterns. We will also ask you about any headaches or musculoskeletal issues you may have that cause you pain or discomfort.
Once the intake history is complete, we will look at your tongue under a very bright light. You will then lie down on the table and we will feel your pulse at the radial artery. This part of the exam will take a few minutes as we are not just measuring the rate of the pulse, but are assessing the quality of the pulse at various levels and positions.
The history, tongue, and pulses enable us to make a differential diagnosis within the system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). According to your specific diagnosis, we will choose acupuncture points and make an individual treatment plan that is appropriate for you.
MENOPAUSE: Frequently Asked Questions1. Is acupuncture painful?
Unlike hypodermic needles, acupuncture needles are extremely thin. Insertion discomfort is minor and often times experienced as an insect-bite sensation. In many instances, patients do not feel the needle insertions at all. A sesation of heaviness or a tingling dissipating from the needled sites is common but not uncomfortable. Once all the needles are in most patients become very relaxed and many fall asleep during treatment.
2. How are the acupuncture needles sterilized?
By law, acupuncture needles are sterile, disposable and for single use only.
3. Does acupuncture have any side effects?
Acupuncture is free from major side effects. Since a small number of patients become dizzy when treated on an empty stomach we recommend having something to eat before you come.
4. How often should I receive treatment?
This will depend on your specific situation. We usually begin with weekly sessions and extend treatment intervals as symptoms improve. Women with severe symptoms may consider on-going weekly or bi-weekly treatments during the height of the menopausal transition.
5. Can I begin acupuncture at any stage of menopause?
Absolutely. We can work with you at whatever stage you come in.
6. I still have regular periods, but am troubled by hot flashes and night sweats. Should I try acupuncture?
Yes. It is likely that your symptoms can be managed with acupuncture, rendering a smooth menopausal transition.
7. Can acupuncture help me avoid hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?
It is very likely that your symptoms can be managed with acupuncture and that you will be able to forgo HRT and its associated risks. Acupuncture is definitely a first-line treatment option for menopausal ailments.
8. I am a breast cancer survivor and am experiencing hot flashes due to anti-estrogen therapy. Can acupuncture help me?
Yes. Anti-estrogen therapy can induce the same stage of yin deficiency that occurs in natural menopause. This yin deficient condition and its associated symptoms can be addressed with acupuncture. Research has shown acupuncture to be effective for breast cancer survivors experiencing hot flashes from tamoxifen therapy.
(Breast Cancer Res. Treat. 2009; 116(2): 311-316)
9. I have had a hysterectomy and am experiencing menopaual symptoms. Can acupuncture benefit me?
Yes. Hysterectomy can result in the same yin deficient condition that occurs during natural menopause. We can address your symptoms through acupuncture and the principles of Chinese medicine.
10. I have other health issues not directly related to endometriosis Can you help with those?
TCM is a holistic system of medicine. Our comprehensive intake will cover all aspects of your health and your TCM diagnosis and treatment plan will be made accordingly. All health issues and ailments are addressed simultaneously in one comprehensive treatment approach.
11. If I have a cold or the flu or an upset stomach should I still come in for my acupuncture treatment?
Definitely! We can use acupuncture points to address these infectious ailments so that they do not interfere with you during pregnancy or postpartum.
12. Will my insurance pay for acupuncture?
Many insurance plans reimburse the majority of acupuncture treatment costs. The Affordable Health Care Act contains a “non discriminanation” section mandating that insurance companies reimburse treatment performed by any licensed health care professional working within their scope of practice. For example, if your policy covers you for the treatment of dysmenorrhea, you are free to choose a licensed acupuncturist for this condition. Talk to your insurance company about the details of your specific plan.We will help you file for reimbursement if you are covered.