Acupuncture for Hot Flushes

Hot flushes are a common peri-menopausal and menopausal symptom in women. However other causes of hot flushes include side effects of chemotherapy and medication used to treat certain cancers (breast and prostate), andropause or “male menopause” and anxiety or panic disorders.

Hot flushes are classified as a vasomotor symptom and are typically experienced as an uncomfortable feeling of intense heat accompanied by reddening of the face, sweating and rapid heartbeat.  The exact causes and vasomotor mechanisms of hot flushes are poorly understood. In menopausal women hot flushes are triggered by a reduction of oestrogen, a normal natural hormonal change, and in around 10% of women they last longer than 12years [i].  In western medicine menopausal hot flushes are commonly treated with oestrogen or progesterone in the form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), however the use of which may be associated with potential health risks [ii]

Regardless of the origins of hot flushes the experience can vary from mild sensations to a physically draining and debilitating experience for some with a negative impact on quality of life [iii].  Acupuncture and TCM have long been used to treat hot flushes and research indicates an improvement in frequency and severity of vasomotor hot flashes with Acupuncture treatment among women in natural menopause [iv].  Because traditional Chinese medicine treats the root of the imbalance beneath the symptoms, its approach provides a safe and effective treatment for hot flushes.

Case Study

J (age 55) from South London came to clinic wanting treatment for menopausal symptoms including pronounced frequent hot flushes which she found debilitating and had difficulty managing. J worked as a project manager and the hot flushes were affecting her confidence at work, she described them as waves of intense rising heat accompanied by a need for cool air.  She had described to me how in the evening she would often walk on the damp cool grass of her garden barefoot for relief. In addition her menopausal symptoms were causing sleep disruption, headaches, fatigue and pronounced mood swings.

J was treated with Acupuncture weekly for one month.  After the first session she reported better sleep that week and although the hot flushes were still apparent she reported that they were more manageable and of shorter duration. By the third week of treatment, Janet’s energy and mood swings had improved and in a review at the end of the month, Janet reported an improvement in all her symptoms.  She continued to have regular monthly acupuncture to support her through the menopause, the intervals and severity of her flushes had greatly improved and she found them more manageable when they occurred.

[i] Politi MC et al. Revisiting the duration of vasomotor symptoms of menopause: a meta-analysis. J Gen Intern Med 2008; 23: 1507-13

[ii] http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Hormone-replacement-therapy

[iii] Stein KD et al. Impact of hot flashes on quality of life among postmenopausal women being treated for breast cancer. J Pain Symptom Manage 2000;Jun19(6):436-45

[iv] Hsiao-Yean Chiu et al. Effects of Acupuncture on menopause-related symptoms and quality of life in women on natural menopause: a meta analysis of randomised controlled trials. Menopause 2014.