Research and anecdotal evidence has shown that acupuncture may help to alleviate common symptoms associated with menopause. Here's everything you need to know.

 What is acupuncture?

It’s a treatment derived from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which involves a practitioner inserting very fine needles into key points on the body, to help treat or prevent certain conditions. TCM practitioners believe illness comes from stagnant ‘qi’ energy – your life force – and the insertion of the needles helps to unblock this and keep it flowing. Acupuncture is now used by many Western practitioners too. Some practise in the traditional way, while others have a different understanding of how acupuncture works, believing it stimulates nerves to release pain-relieving endorphins. Acupuncture is widely used to treat pain conditions, such as tension-type headaches and migraines – for which it is available on the NHS - and joint pain. People also visit practitioners for a multitude of other reasons, including fertility and stress.

How could it help in menopause?

A study published in the respected British Medical Journal suggests acupuncture may help to ease menopause symptoms, including hot flushes, night sweats and low mood, as well as skin and hair problems1. The researchers compared a group of women who received five weeks of acupuncture treatments with a group who received none. They found there were statistically significant differences between the groups, with 80% of the women who’d received acupuncture reporting a reduction in a range of symptoms. In particular, they reported struggling less with hot flushes after just three weeks of treatment. The study was only small, involving 70 women, and the researchers say they can’t rule out a placebo effect – but they believe acupuncture is a realistic option for women who can’t or don’t wish to take HRT. Other research has suggested acupuncture might help with insomnia,[1] joint pain and depression.[2]

It’s certainly something our online menopause community member Jenwebber believes has helped her, along with other treatments. And that’s one of the beauties of acupuncture -  it’s safe to use alongside other treatments, including HRT. Another plus point is that there aren’t any side effects other than, occasionally, a small mark at the site of the needle insertion.

 What’s acupuncture like?

Your treatment will begin with a discussion so the practitioner can find out what’s troubling you. They will then gently insert needles into points specific to your symptoms and your body – so even if you and a friend have similar symptoms, that doesn’t mean your treatment will be exactly the same. The needles may also be inserted at different points in different sessions.

If you’ve never had acupuncture before, you’re probably wondering whether it’s painful. Most people would agree that it isn’t – the needles only penetrate at a very shallow level so you can usually barely feel them, although some points may occasionally be a little uncomfortable. Some people describe this discomfort as a tingling sensation or dull ache, and practitioners say it happens when the needle is adjusted to direct the flow of ‘qi.’ Practitioners work in different ways but most will leave you lying on a treatment bed for a short time with the needles inserted. This is often deeply relaxing, and you’ll probably carry on feeling very calm afterwards. Acupuncture is usually given as a course of treatments, typically around one week apart, rather than a one-off.

 How can I find a practitioner?

You can decide whether you want to see a TCM practitioner, who may prescribe a course of acupuncture alongside other treatments, such as Chinese herbal medicine. Or you can find a Western specialist, who will work in a similar way but will offer acupuncture as a stand-alone treatment. Your GP may be able to advise you on where to find one locally, or you could look for a governing body in your country.  In the UK, visit the British Acupuncture Council website for practitioners in your area. Make sure they are registered – this is important for a range of reasons, including hygiene.

 

 

 

Research References

[1] https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/1283-insomnia.html

[2] https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/1277-depression.html