Acupuncture Helps Relieve Menopausal Symptoms

by Dody Chang, L.Ac. 2011

When you take a holistic approach to this life transition, acupuncture can help tame hot flashes and other discomforts of menopause.

To understand how, let’s first take a look at the background and philosophy of Chinese Medicine. According to Chinese Medicine, there are significant times in a woman’s life when she experiences dramatic hormonal fluctuations that challenge her physiologically, mentally and spiritually. These major shifts occur at menarche (the start of menstruation), pregnancy and childbirth, and at menopause. A woman’s health can be influenced either positively or negatively during these sensitive shifts.

Some women experience menopause as a simple transition; others go through a major upset in both the body and the mental and emotional framework. Menopause marks the cessation of menstruation lasting longer than 12 months due to declining ovarian function. It is a normal part of a woman’s aging process, or it can be triggered by a surgical procedure such as a hysterectomy or oophorectomy, or chemically induced after chemotherapy. The average age range for entering menopause is 45-55 years. The transitional period into menopause can last a few months to several years. A woman’s menstrual cycle may become irregular.

Menopausal symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, vaginal dryness, headaches, weight gain, depression, anxiety, acne, urinary issues, lowered sex drive, and hypertension. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, and are brought on as a woman’s body tries to adapt to decreasing amounts of estrogen production from the ovaries.

Chinese Medicine offers an individually tailored approach to a woman’s hormonal changes, decreasing uncomfortable symptoms and helping regain the mind-body balance. A skilled Chinese Medicine practitioner examines each patient’s physical and emotional symptoms and develops a treatment that includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, massage therapy, dietary suggestions, and or/specific exercises or lifestyle recommendations. Through proper diagnosis, the acupuncturist can detect energetic changes that occur in the body and help alleviate or diminish menopausal symptoms.

According to Chinese Medicine theory, menopause occurs as a woman’s body begins to preserve blood, essence (jing), and energy. The Kidney is the organ in Chinese Medicine related to growth, reproduction and longevity. It is the Kidney essence that influences puberty, fertility, conception, pregnancy and menopause. Therefore, as the kidney function diminishes and essence declines, a woman’s body ceases menstruation as a way to preserve blood, essence and energy.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, a woman who has overworked for several years without proper rest, had too many children too close together, experienced a high degree of emotional stress, and has a poor, irregular diet is more likely to experience greater menopausal symptoms. Menopausal syndrome is diagnosed as an imbalance of Yin and Yang caused by:

  • Deficiencies of Kidney Qi, Yin, Yang, or Essence
  • Deficiency of Chong and Ren Channels
  • Disorder functions of Liver, Spleen, Heart and other organs that affect the Mind and Spirit
  • Stagnation of Qi, Blood, and Phlegm

A systemic review of randomized clinical trials shows that more research is needed to fully understand the effectiveness of acupuncture on menopausal symptoms.1 Two pilot studies show promising results of acupuncture for reduced hot flashes and improved sleep quality.2

In conclusion, Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture and herbal medicine, lifestyle modifications, and dietary changes, offer a holistic approach that can smooth the hormonal transition, decrease uncomfortable symptoms, and help balance the physical and mental and emotional framework during menopause.

1Zaborowska E, Brynhildsen J, Damberg S, et al. Effects of Acupuncture, Applied Relaxation, Estrogens and Placebo on Hot Flushes in Postmenopausal Women: an analysis of two prospective, parallel, randomized studies. Climacteric. 2007 Feb; 10(1):38-45.

2Borud EK, Alraek T, White A, et al. The Acupuncture on Hot Flushes Among Menopausal Women (ACUFLASH) study, a randomized controlled trial. Menopause. 2009 May-Jun; 16(3): 484-93
Huang MI, Nir Y, Chen B, et al. A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study of Acupuncture for Postmenopausal Hot Flashes: effect on nocturnal hot flashes and sleep quality. Fertil Steril. 2006 Sep; 86(3):700-10.