Acupuncture and hot flashes – a winning combination

Posted by on Jul 6, 2009 in hot flash | 5 comments

There have been a lot of naysayers of late with regards to acupuncture. However, one of the largest studies to date examining its impact on menopausal hot flashes has been completed. The results? Acupuncture plus self-care can significantly reduce hot flashes and improve quality of life during menopause!

In the  ACUFLASH study, researchers randomized 399 postmenopausal women (1 year since last menstrual period) regularly experiencing at least 7 hot flashes daily to acupuncture or no treatment. Moxibustion was used at the practitioner’s discretion and sessions could also be extended by two weeks (from 12 weeks), if needed.  Although the practitioners met beforehand to discuss possible diagnoses and recommended treatment points, all treatment was individualized. Both groups of patients also received self care recommendations, which consisted of a one-page information leaflet on care of menopausal symptoms (e.g. soy, herbs, physical activity and relaxation techniques) which they were free to add at their own discretion.

Overall, the mean frequency of hot flashes declined by 48% in women receiving acupuncture compared with 28% of women using self-care methods only. This means that 50% of women receiving acupuncture experienced a 50% or greater reduction in how often their hot flashes occurred, compared to 16% of women using self-care. Significant reductions were also seen in hot flash intensity. Additionally, the acupuncture group reported significant improvements in vasomotor, sleep, and somatic symptoms over the course of the study.

The researchers have pointed out that previous studies (which have shown mixed results) have relied on smaller numbers of patients, have used  sham needles that did not penetrate the skin,  and have relied on a standardized practice. In contrast (and in keeping in line with the edicts of eastern  medicine) ACUFLASH practitioners individualized treatment according to patients’ needs. This may help to account for the positive results.

I have long argued for a need to modify western methods so that aspects of eastern practice that both make it unique and also form its foundation, may remain intact. This study remained true to the practice of acupuncture while also insuring that certain scientific tenets were followed. I  am hopeful  that the size of the study coupled with its approach, will open the door for future studies and provide an evidence-based path for women who choose a non-pharmacologic approach to menopause.


  1. 7-6-2009

    Even better than acupuncture is Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) contribution relative to providing herbal relief from hot flashes.

    During perimenopause, I was fortunate to find an acupuncturist whose sub-specialty was gynecology and custom-mixed herbs that made it possible for me to stop sleeping on towels or stripping bed linens during the night. I was even more fortunate that my gynecologist at the time viewed TCM as a perfectly legitimate and effective treatment approach.

    • 7-6-2009

      I totally agree. I too, have gotten much relief through chinese medicinal therapies. And they are equally endorsed by my gynecologist.

  2. 1-2-2010

    Where, OH WHERE! can I find a competent acupuncturist. My hot flashes are unbearable!
    Thank you.

    • 1-2-2010

      Diane. Many leading associations have practitioner finders. Where are you located?

      • 1-5-2010

        I live in Puerto Rico, but could travel to NYC.


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