If someone were to tell you that sticking pins and needles all over your body could help with hot flushes, mood swings, and weight gain, you might think they had lost their mind.
Yet, acupuncture is an incredible normal alternative treatment for the menopause. Traditionally, it is believed that the body contains flowing levels of “Qi” (pronounced ‘chee’) – a life force or energy. If Qi isn’t flowing properly through your body, this can cause aches and pains. Specifically, estrogen deficiency can disturb your Qi. Acupuncture then, restores the flow of Qi, and as follows, your body aches, hot flushes, and mental health are similarly improved.
If you’re more of a modern-science kind of gal, acupuncture is believed to work because it involves stimulating the sensory nerves under your skin, producing natural pain-relieving endorphins that rush through your body, alleviating your menopausal symptoms. It’s said to work best through regular treatment, and therefore would likely not be very effective in just one go.
Does it really work though, you may ask? Many studies have shown that acupuncture does have positive benefits on the menopause, both physically and mentally.
- Hot Flushes
Firstly, acupuncture can help with hot flushes and night sweats. Although it’s not entirely known why, some researchers believe that because it dilates your blood vessels and may affect your brain’s hypothalamus (the temperature-regulating part of the brain), your hot flushes and night sweats could decrease in severity. In one study, about half of the women who were treated with acupuncture found that their hot flushes decreased either slightly, or drastically, in just 8 weeks of treatment. The study also noticed that most women who felt the benefits of acupuncture felt it in about 3 or 4 weeks, meaning if it’s going to work for you, you’ll know sooner rather than later!
- Joint Pain
Acupuncture has been found to improve joint pain. Again, this is most likely due to the fact that acupuncture releases pain-relieving endorphins. In fact, a study which treated patients twice a week for three weeks, then once a week for another three weeks, then once a month for six months, and then on a seasonal basis (in short: treated regularly), found that most patients did receive some form of relief from joint pain (nearly 50% found total relief). Given that endorphins do help relieve body pains, it’s likely that acupuncture really can help your joints if treated regularly!
- Anxiety and Depression
Thirdly, acupuncture can significantly reduce your levels of anxiety and depression. One study following 25 patients who were on medication for either anxiety or depression found that after regular treatment with acupuncture, 40% of patients no longer needed to take medication, and the other 60% were able to decrease their intake of medication (therefore, 100% of patients felt either some or complete relief from anxiety and depression). However, it’s unclear why exactly that may be. Again, the endorphins released are known to create a sense of pleasure and calmness in the mind, though many researchers believe that the benefits of acupuncture may be more of a placebo effect.
- Hormone Levels
Finally, acupuncture could possibly help increase your oestrogen levels, which would help with all of your symptoms. In one study featuring 15 menopausal women chosen at random to undergo acupuncture treatment, researchers found that oestrogen and testosterone levels rose as a result of the treatment. However, the effects wore off, and therefore the patients needed monthly treatment to maintain those benefits.
Overall, acupuncture has definitely been seen to have considerable benefits for relieving menopausal symptoms, though it should be noted that more studies need to be done to really ensure that acupuncture is a suitable long-term treatment for the menopause, and more importantly, how exactly it helps. Understandably, it may be too expensive to be a realistic treatment for many, considering it requires regular appointments to really reap the benefits. Nonetheless, if you are interested in trying an alternative treatment, it is definitely worth the try given that so many women have found it helps!
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