What is Menopause?

Menopause is a time of natural change in a woman’s body, it could occur at the age between 40 and 60, the average age is around 50. This time of change may last a few months to several years. This transitional period means that the functionality of the ovaries is getting depleted, the function of the reproductive organs are ending. Hormones and chemistry are shifting because of lower estrogen and progestin produced by the body.

About 1/3 of women can adjust automatically by compensation of their neural and endocrine systems during the menopausal period, with very little or no subjective symptoms occurring.

2/3 of women would manifest a series of symptoms due to the female sexual hormone deficiency; such as menstrual irregularities, emotional swings (depression, anxiety), hot flushes, sweating, ear ringing, palpation, insomnia, swelling, dizziness, headache, muscle or joint pain, etc. All these symptoms are collectively called the Perimenopausal syndrome. About 25% of the cases are severe

The first symptoms are usually hot flashes, sweating, and emotional changes. The hot flashes usually start from the front chest, upward to the head, neck, and face. After sweating the hot flash disappeared. The length and frequency of the symptoms are varied, from a couple of seconds to several minutes, on and off several times a day. Irritability is the most common emotional change, easy to get angry or sad, loss of self-control of emotions. Besides the headache, dizziness, palpitation, insomnia, aches all over the body, irregular period, high blood pressure, etc also accompany the main symptoms.

At the later stage of menopause, there would occur itchiness, burning and dryness of the vagina, frequent urination, and incontinence, as well as dry and/or itchy skin.

The Perimenopausal syndrome should be differentiated from the illnesses of primary hypertension, angina and bladder infection.

Treatment of Menopause

Today, there are many treatment options including medication and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Diet, exercise and good sleeping patterns can also be beneficial.

Hormone Replacement Therapy is normally started when the first symptoms of menopause appear. While they may alleviate hot flashes and prevent osteoporosis, they will also increase the risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer, and have a number of significant side-effects. However, HRT isn’t the only solution. Menopause is an area in which Oriental Medicine shines.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory about Menopause

According to Chinese Medical theory, menopause occurs when a woman’s body begins to preserve blood and energy in order to sustain her vitality and allow for the maximum available nourishment for her body, especially her kidneys. The kidney is the organ Chinese Medicine sees as the root of life and longevity. Therefore, the body, in its wisdom, reserves the flow of a channel in the center of the body which sends blood and energy down to the uterus. Instead, blood and essence from the kidneys are conserved and cycled through the body to nourish the woman’s spirit and extend her longevity. Thus, in the Chinese Medicine, menopause is seen as true change in life from mother to enlightened and wise being.

Acupuncture for Menopause

Acupuncture provides another treatment option and can be a safe, natural and drug-free approach to addressing menopause. Acupuncture can be very effective in supporting the essential energies of the body and allowing it to regain its balance. The treatment encourages the body to promote natural healing and improves functioning.

If you have menopausal symptoms and are interested in acupuncture as a possible treatment, you may want to go to a licensed acupuncturist. You can expect that the acupuncturist will initially perform a thorough evaluation and take a complete history. This is because it is important to determine what symptoms menopause has caused and in what ways the imbalance in hormones has affected you.

A treatment plan using acupuncture can then be developed to address your individual concerns Each person experiences menopause differently and treatment will vary from one person to the next.

Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points (Acupoints) which have the ability to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to achieve the desired treatment effect. Acupoints to treat the emotional and physical effects of menopause are located all over the body.

In an acupuncture treatment, small disposable needles are used at precise points to improve the body’s balance and decrease symptoms of menopause. These points are generally located in the arms, legs and head. Acupuncture needles will stay in place for fifteen to twenty minutes while you rest comfortably.

The length, number and frequency of treatments will vary. Some symptoms are relieved after the first treatment, while more severe or chronic ailments often require multiple treatments.

Studies on Acupuncture and Menopause

Since the early seventies, studies around the globe have suggested that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are effective treatments for hot flashes, anxiety, insomnia, vaginal dryness and many other symptoms associated with menopause. Recent studies show extremely positive results:

From 1997 to 1999, one of the first studies in the United States to explore the effectiveness of acupuncture in alleviating hot flashes, insomnia and nervousness, conducted by Dr. Susan Cohen, D.S.N., APRN, associate professor of the University of Pittsburgh, it was found that during the course of acupuncture treatments, hot flashes decreased by 35% and insomnia decreased by 50%. A follow-up study revealed hot flashes significantly decreased in those receiving acupuncture, compared to those receiving routine care.

A 2002 pilot study in England found that acupuncture reduced the frequency and severity of hot flashes in women being treated with tamoxifen for breast cancer.

While these results are promising and the United Nations World Health Organization has approved acupuncture as a treatment for symptoms associated with menopause, further clinical trials with larger samples are currently underway .

More and more recent researches indicate that acupuncture is a natural, safe and effective approach to treat menopause.

Researchers at Stanford University of Medicine studied the effect of acupuncture on postmenopausal women who experienced at least seven moderate to severe hot flashes daily. The study showed that the severity of the hot flashes was significantly decreased in the women who received acupuncture as compared to a group of women getting placebo.

At the University of Pittsburgh, acupuncture was studied in women with menopausal hot flushes, sleep disturbances and mood changes. These studies as well as others suggest that acupuncture can be helpful in treatment of a variety of menopausal disturbances.

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