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Acupuncture Alternative For Women With Menopause

2005: Volume 2, Number 1
 

John Paul Liang, M.S.O.M., L.Ac.

 

Menopause is a natural stage in a woman’s life when the production of hormones in the body decreases and menstruation and egg production eventually ceases. This process usually affects women somewhere between the ages of 45 and 55 years. During this life stage, many women experience symptoms that include hot flashes, night sweating, mood changes, insomnia, depression, anxiety, irregular periods and sexual disorders.


For years, women have turned to hormone replacement therapy (HRT), as an effective treatment to help eliminate the symptoms of menopause.  However, recent research has indicated that HRT has potential risks that include an in-crease in heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. With this concerning information, many women are looking for other alternatives therapies. Some of these have included acupuncture, herbal medicine, and natural dietary supplements.


Introduction to Acupuncture
Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been the major form of medicine in China for over 3,000 years. Chinese hospitals today utilize a combined approach of both Oriental and medicine. This trend is spreading to the United States.


According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, research shows that acupuncture releases pain-killing biochemical’s in the body —endorphins—that stimulate the central nervous system, and help regulate a person's blood pressure, blood flow, and brain chemical release. (1)
 

Acupuncture is based on two major theories: yin/yang theory and five element theory.

 

The yin/yang theory is based on balance. Individuals become sick when there is an imbalance between yin and yang within the body. Yin is the less active, darker, cold, and quiet component while yang is the more active, lighter, hot, and aggressive component. As shown in Figure 1, as long as these two opposites support and control each other, the individual stays healthy. Many problems arise when one component overpowers the other, resulting in various symptomatic manifestations.

 



The second theory of five elements is based on nature. Similar to the yin/ yang theory, the five element theory is based on the balance of the organs within the body. The body is treated as a whole, and therefore many organs are affected by the conditions of other parts of the body.


Acupuncture Theory In Relation To Menopause

In females who experience menopause symptoms, one of the most common conditions includes a low level of yin within the kidney system. Because yin is related to cold and inactivity, a relatively low level of yin compared to yang will cause the individual to feel hot or have hot flashes and night sweats (Figure 2).

 

 

Treatment of Menopause
The goal of acupuncture and herbal medicine is to reestablish the balance between yin and yang by raising the yin component of the body. Once the yin or cold component is strengthened, then the woman experiences fewer hot flashes and less insomnia. Many other natural dietary supplements also work to establish the same balance. Nutritional and herbal supplements may be used along with the acupuncture to re-store balance.


In a recent review of 7 patients at the American College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine, (2) women who received acupuncture treatments received noticeable results. The women, whose ranged in from 43 to 57, were given acupuncture treatment one to two times per week along with herbal supplements. The symptoms experienced included irritability, low energy, hot flashes, insomnia, dry mouth, depression, night sweats, and anxiety. Some women just started with treatment and received 4 total treatments, while others have been more regular with more than 20 treatments. Of the 7 patients, one noticed a slight improvement, 5 noticed an improvement, and one patient does not have any more symptoms and comes in for maintenance and prevention.


Conclusion
There are many factors that contribute to the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. The goal of Oriental medicine is to re-establish the balance between yin and yang that is lost when women reach menopausal stage. Many new research and clinical studies are underway to further search for alternative treatments for women with menopause.  Women should consult with their physicians before trying any new modalities.

 

For more information, please contact the American College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine.


References
1. What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine? NCCAM Publication No D156, May 2002.
2. Unpublished Research Project, American College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine, 2004

 

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