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It is not uncommon to experience the following menopausal symptoms, and I see them regularly in clinic:
What to expect from treatment
I start off all my acupuncture treatments by taking a thorough case history. This is your chance to tell me all about the symptoms you are experiencing, how long they have been going on for, how they impact you, and what you feel contributes to them. There is no rush, I always schedule 90 minutes for a first appointment so we have all the time we need. I'll ask you about other areas of your health, such as your sleep and digestion, and with your permission, I will also feel your pulse and look at your tongue. All this gives me more diagnostic information which might be relevant to your overall Chinese medicine diagnosis.
You will have an opportunity to ask me any questions you might have before we start treatment. I want you to be completely comfortable before I do anything, and I will talk you through the process of having acupuncture, and what you can expect.
Acupuncture helps to switch off the mind, and causes the body to release endorphins. Those endorphins leave people feeling calmer and more relaxed, so most patients fall asleep on the couch during treatment, and leave with a wonderful sense of wellbeing.
Treatments are received once a week for six to eight weeks, but if symptoms are severe, such as with intense night sweats, some patients choose to come twice weekly.
Menopause is brought on by the natural change in production of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which are produced by the ovaries. Perimenopause, on average starts at age 45, and this is a time when you might start to experience changes to your menstrual cycle, and physical and psychological symptoms.
The average age for the periods to cease is age 51, and at this point symptoms can continue or change.
Menopause can also be triggered by a hysterectomy, surgical removal of the ovaries, or medical treatment, for example chemotherapy, and this can trigger menopausal symptoms at any age.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this stage in your life is a time to be revered. You are the wise woman, and you deserve to feel supported, understood and comfortable in your body again.
Acupuncture can help.
Acupuncture may help reduce symptoms of the menopause and perimenopause by:
Regulating serum estradiol, follicle stimulating hormone and luteotrophic hormone (Xia 2008);
Increasing relaxation and reducing tension (Samuels 2008). Acupuncture can alter the brain’s mood chemistry, reducing serotonin levels (Zhou 2008) and increasing endorphins (Han, 2004) and neuropeptide Y levels (Lee 2009), which can help to combat negative affective states.
Stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz, 1987, Zijlstra 2003, Cheng 2009).
Systematic reviews (Lee 2009; Cho 2009) and randomised controlled trials published since these reviews were done (Kim 2010; Venzke 2010; Boroud 2010; Boroud 2009; Parks 2009; Avis 2008) have found: a) no difference between real and sham acupuncture for the treatment of menopausal symptoms, b) acupuncture is at least as effective, and sometimes superior to, hormonal drug treatment, c) additional acupuncture improves on usual, or self, care.
In my experience most patients report a reduction in the frequency and intensity of their hot flushes and night sweats, and find they feel better in themselves, with less mood swings and less irritability.
Acupuncture can safely be used alongside common treatments such as HRT, and for those unable to take HRT, can be a valuable tool in helping them manage their menopausal symptoms.