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Sticky Business: Acupuncture for Hot Flashes

Since reports appeared about the negative effects hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has on women's health, more women have turned to alternative treatment options for hot flashes and other bothersome menopausal symptoms. Among those options is acupuncture, the placement of very thin needles in strategic places on your body. Originating in China centuries ago, this procedure has become popular in the United States for a variety of ills.

HFN 015 Accupunture 2 24308073The precise placement and depth of the needles used to penetrate your skin in an acupuncture treatment actually stimulates your skin's nerves and your muscles, releasing endorphins and serotonin, natural painkillers. Practitioners choose from an estimated 2000 acupuncture points, or acupoints, to treat various complaints.

Many Small Studies Show Effectiveness
Many, mostly small, studies have reported relief from hot flashes with acupuncture. To note just a few, ABC TV reported on a small study in Turkey that showed acupuncture decreased the severity of hot flashes in postmenopausal women. Women who underwent acupuncture at New York's Beth Israel Medical Center's Department of Integrative Medicine claimed major relief from their hot flashes after treatment. A small Chinese study, involving women who had had both ovaries removed, randomized patients to either acupuncture or auricular acupressure (putting pressure on certain points of the ear). Women in both strategy groups found the treatment helpful for hot flashes. Women in a Norwegian study also saw significant deceases in the frequency of their hot flashes after 10 acupuncture treatments plus advice on self-care compared to the control group.

There has also been a preliminary study in Portland, OR of acupuncture in men suffering from hot flashes due to prostate cancer. Some of the study participants reported a decrease in hot flashes after treatment.

Find a Certified Practitioner
HFN 015 Accupunture 1 18389291If you decide to give acupuncture a try, seek a practitioner certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAUM). As with most therapies, there are risks involved, but treatment by a qualified acupuncturist should decrease risks. The practitioner should be working with only single-use, sterile packaged needles. You can expect multiple visits before the treatment has any effect. Contraindications for acupuncture relevant to women in menopause are a bleeding disorder or an implanted pacemaker.

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