Traditional Chinese Medicine has long been equated with the use of concepts and principles that are a little bit difficult to understand and even more challenging to prove. However, its widespread acceptance and use for countless of centuries have given it credence in its ability to provide cures for certain illnesses and diseases. Acupuncture is just one of the many traditional Chinese medical practices that are now gaining acceptance and popularity in Western medicine.
In a study by the Taipei Medical University College of Nursing in Taiwan, Dr. Hsiao-Yean Chiu and her team of researchers found out in a meta-analysis that acupuncture can significantly reduce the frequency and
the severity of hot flashes that are often associated with menopausal women. The analyses of several highly randomized controlled researches suggest that the quality of life of menopausal women can be significantly improved especially with respect to the vasomotor domain.
Published in the online medical journal ‘Menopause’ in July 2014, the findings suggest that acupuncture can be seen as an adjunct to the use of hormone replacement therapy as well as other pharmacotherapeutic modalities in the management of menopausal symptoms, most especially hot flashes.
While previous meta-analyses included studies that focused more on the determination of the association between acupuncture effectiveness and efficacy and the quality of life of post-menopausal women as a whole, the Taipei study narrowed the scope of their investigation to only look for quality of life indicators that are specific for menopausal women. While the analyses resulted in no significant association between acupuncture and the physical, psychiatric, and sexual domains of post-menopausal quality of life, the study nonetheless revealed that women in their menopausal stage have significantly improved vasomotor domains.
‘Hot flash’ is the common term for the vasomotor symptoms of menopause. Hot flashes occur as distinct patterns of sudden intense heat followed by sweating and often punctuated with a very rapid heartbeat. The entire hot flash episode can last up to thirty minutes on each occasion. The vasomotor effects of hot flashes are linked to the decreasing levels of the hormone estradiol from the body.
While the exact mechanism is still poorly understood, researchers suggest that the decreased levels of estrogen seen in menopausal women may be attributed to the decreased levels of beta endorphins in the brain’s hypothalamic region. The study proponents further suggested that it is highly possible acupuncture may be able to provide some form of modification on the circulating levels of estrogen by stimulating the release of endorphins from other sources. It is believed that this will significantly improve the many symptoms associated with menopause.
However, the studies that were included in the meta-analyses did not evaluate the effects of acupuncture on the estrogen levels. As such, the suggestion that acupuncture can improve the levels of estrogen among menopausal women is something that needs to be carefully considered by other investigators.
Although the actual mechanism is still shady at best, acupuncture can nonetheless provide the kind of relief needed by today’s menopausal women from the inconveniences of hot flashes. Although it is clear that hot flashes can never be permanently avoided, acupuncture can mitigate its effects to enable women to function in their everyday roles.