For middle-aged woman suffering through menopause, this new study says that acupuncture may ease its symptoms.

Researchers found that a brief course of acupuncture may help to ease troublesome menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, sweating, mood swings, and disturbed sleep as well as skin and hair problems.

The Danish team from Copenhagen said their findings, which are published in the online journal BMJ Open, show that acupuncture offers “a realistic” treatment option for women who can’t, or don’t want to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Menopausal symptoms are common and, depending on their severity, can have a major impact on quality of life, health and well-being. Hot flushes are one of the most common symptoms, and can go on for several years. Other common symptoms include heavy sweating, emotional vulnerability, sleep disturbances, fatigue, “fuzzy” brain, joint pain, and reduced sex drive.

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Hormonal treatments and other drugs can treat the various symptoms, but they are not without side effects – and according to the Danish researchers, the evidence for other non-pharmacological approaches such as exercise, relaxation, and herbal or dietary remedies, is not very convincing.

Previous studies suggest that acupuncture might be helpful, but the researchers said that design flaws or quality issues have undermined the findings.

For this particular study, the Danish team randomly allocated 70 menopausal women who met their inclusion criteria to either five weeks of standardized Western medical acupuncture, using pre-defined acupuncture points, or no acupuncture until after six weeks.

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Each weekly session lasted 15 minutes, and was delivered by Danish family doctors from nine different general practices, who had additionally trained in acupuncture, and had been practicing the treatment for an average of 14 years.

Each participant completed a validated Meno Scores (MSQ) questionnaire designed to measure outcomes from the patient’s perspective before their first session and then again after three, six, eight, eleven, and twenty-six weeks.

At six weeks, most of the women in the acupuncture group (80%) said that they felt that the sessions had helped them. Compared with those who had not been given acupuncture, they were “significantly less troubled” by hot flushes – a difference that was already apparent after three weeks of “treatment”.

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Statistically significant differences also emerged between the two groups in the frequency of day and night sweats, general sweating, sleep disturbances, emotional and physical symptoms, and skin and hair problems.

The drop-out rate was low, with just one woman failing to complete all five acupuncture sessions, and no serious side effects were reported.

The researchers said that their findings show that a brief course of acupuncture by suitably trained professionals is “feasible” in routine primary care for both doctors and patients.

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Study co-author Dr. Kamma Sundgaard Lund said: “Not all menopausal women need or request treatment, and we believe this acupuncture intervention is most relevant to women who experience moderate-to-severe menopausal symptoms.”

“Acupuncture for menopausal symptoms is a realistic option for women who cannot, or do not wish to use HRT,” she added.

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