In one of the first studies in the US to explore the effectiveness of acupuncture in alleviating hot flashes, insomnia and nervousness, conducted by Dr. Susan Cohen, D.S.N., APRN, 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 study in England found that acupuncture reduced the frequency and severity of hot flashes in women being treated with tamoxifen for breast cancer.
ScienceDaily (Mar. 8, 2011) Traditional Chinese acupuncture curbs the severity of hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms, suggests a small study published March 8 in Acupuncture in Medicine.
The authors base their findings on 53 middle aged women, all of whom were classified as being postmenopausal — they had stopped having periods for a year. Their somatic (hot flushes) urogenital (vaginal dryness and urinary tract infection) and psychological (mood swings) symptoms were measured using a five point scale (MRS).
Twenty seven of the women received traditional Chinese acupuncture twice a week for 10 weeks, with needles left in position for 20 minutes without stimulation. The rest were given sham acupuncture.
Hormone levels of estrogen, follicular stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinising hormone (LH) were measured before the study began and after the first and last acupuncture sessions in both groups to see if these changed.
The results showed that those women given traditional acupuncture had significantly lower MRS scores for somatic and psychological symptoms at the end of the 10 weeks than their peers given the sham treatment. The symptom registering the sharpest fall in severity was that of hot flushes.
Furthermore, the effects seemed to be cumulative, with stronger results seen between the first and last sessions.
Estrogen levels also rose, while LH levels fell in the group treated with traditional Chinese acupuncture. Low levels of estrogen and high LH and FSH levels are characteristic of the menopause, as the ovaries start to fail.