Posts Tagged "acupuncture"

Wednesday Bubble: take care of your wants and needles

Posted by on Jan 20, 2010 in hot flash, nightsweats | 1 comment

Thinking about trying acupuncture for those menopausal symptoms? Make sure they are the real deal!

Researchers say that non-invasive acupuncture, often preferred by the needle-phobic, will not have much effect on hot flashes and symptoms. In fact, in a small scientific study published in the online edition of  Menopause, women with daytime and nighttime hot flashes and symptoms received laser acupuncture treatments or fake laser treatments once every two weeks over a three-month period. (Laser acupuncture (laser acupoint stimulation) is a technique that uses laser light that is applied to — but not inserted into — the skin to stimulate common acupuncture points.) Specific acupuncture points were selected from a series of 10 points and then individualized for each participant and her respective needs.

At the study’s end, no differences were seen between the groups in terms of menopausal symptoms.

Does this mean that acupuncture doesn’t work for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms? No, not at all. In fact, acupuncture has shown to be effective for alleviating hot flashes and the like. But you need real needles. If you are needle-phobic, speak a licensed acupuncturist or check out some of these wonderful links provided by the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. I’ve a huge fan of acupuncture and don’t care for needles. Yet, my experience with acupuncture is that in most cases, it is virtually painless and may simply be associated with mild tingling or brief ache that quickly dissipates.

How about you? How has acupuncture worked for your symptoms?

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Needling your way into the ’10s

Posted by on Jan 4, 2010 in hot flash | 2 comments

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a huge advocate of acupuncture. Yet, of late, there have been a lot of studies that suggest that acupuncture is ineffective for treating hot flashes. That is, until the ACUFLASH trial came along.

ACUFLASH compared acupuncture in addition to self care to self-care alone over a 12 week period. The findings? Acupuncture plus self-care reduced the mean frequency of hot flashes by 48% in women  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. Acupuncture also greatly improved overall reported quality of life. The difference in this trial compared to others exploring the effectiveness of acupuncture was that practitioners were able to both follow a standard protocol and add individual aspects to it – a key to finding quality in Traditional Chinese medicine practices.

In this latest study, investigators from ACUFLASH revisited study participants at 6 and 12 months, asking them about use of healthcare providers, medication and dietary supplements, and whether or not their daily habits had changed (e.g., rest, sleep, physical activity, coffee and alcohol, tobacco use). They also were asked if they had experienced any changes in menopausal symptoms, namely the intensity and frequency of hot flashes, quality of life and well-being). Additionally, women who had initially been treated with acupuncture and self-care were asked if they would recommend acupuncture to others and/or use it again.

Interestingly, at 6 and 12 months, significant differences between the study groups were no longer present; in fact, many women who had initially experienced substantial declines in hot flash frequency plateaued out. However, women who indicated that they continued to use acupuncture after the original study ended, experienced an even larger reduction in the frequency and intensity of their hot flashes through the 12 year period.

The investigators state that expectations of positive results and increased well-being definitely play an important role in reductions of vasomotor symptoms. However, they also suggest that adding self-care to acupuncture can contribute to a faster reduction in vasomotor symptoms and improvements in quality of life (which, they say, may be related to some cognitive-related triggering of mechanisms that contribute to menopausal symptoms).

One of the most important findings of this study is that in order to be effective, acupuncture treatments should be regular; they will  not impart any long-term effects.

Personally, I’m all for needling my way into the New Year. You?

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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.

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Wednesday Bubble: Sham?

Posted by on Apr 15, 2009 in hot flash | 3 comments


Today’s Bubble troubles me because it’s a bit personal. You see; I want to believe.

Reporting in the Climacteric journal of the International Menopause Society, researchers say that a thorough review of scientific studies examining acupuncture and hot flashes failed to reveal any specific effects.  So, is acupuncture no more effective than sham acupuncture, i.e. placebo?

In this report, which appeared in the February 2009 edition of the journal, researchers searched studies published in 17 databases in different languages. Of the six well-designed trials that were ultimately included in their review, four compared regular acupuncture with sham acupuncture, in which a practitioner will insert needles on acupuncture points that are not relevant for treating hot flashes. The results: none of these trials showed any benefit of acupuncture in terms of frequency or severity of hot flashes.

Only one trial showed any favorable effects: this particular study tested acupuncture against needles that were place on non-relevant points but not inserted into the skin.

So, what can we conclude from these findings?

The researchers say that controlled studies, in which the environment is scientifically designed to mimic real life, fail to show any specific effects of acupuncture for controlling hot flashes. However, they do not appear to believe that this is the end all to be all. Instead, they call for more rigorous trials to further investigate the use of acupuncture for hot flashes.

Perhaps the ACUFLASH trial will shed more light.

What are your experiences with acupuncture? Have you used it specifically to treat hot flashes?

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She’s got moxi

Posted by on Mar 23, 2009 in hot flash | 0 comments

Have you heard of or experienced moxibustion? Moxibustion is a technique used during acupuncture in which mugwort (or artemsia vulgaris) is burned to warm certain regions or acupuncture points. It can be direct (in which the moxa is placed directly on the acupuncture point) and indirect (in which the moxa is palced approximately 1 to 2 cm above the acupuncture point). The purpose of moxibustion is to encourage better blood and energy flow through the area to promote healing.

A study in the March 13 advanced online edition of Menopause suggests that moxibustion plus acupuncture can reduce both the frequency and severity of hot flashes.

In this study, researchers randomly assigned 51 women, ages 45 to 60 years who experienced at least 5 moderate to severe hot flashes daily to:

  • 14 sessions of indirect moxibustion plus acupuncture at points consistent with evidence from clinical practice experience
  • 14 sessions of indirect moxibustion plus acupuncture at points consistent with evidence from published literature
  • no treatment

To ensure that researchers were able to distinguish between general improvements and improvements resulting from treatment, all study participants had to go through a 1-week period during which time they used not treatments at all.

Study findings showed that compared with no treatment at all, women in both moxibustion groups experienced significantly reductions in hot flash frequency (roughly 60% in both groups), and continuous reductions in hot flash severity through the fourth week of the study (by as much as 50%). 10 participants experienced side effects due to the moxi smoke (e.g. fatigue, stomach upset, flare-up and headaches ) and 5 reported burns to their skin).

Notably, women receiving moxibustion along points directed by published literature also experienced more improvements in quality of life scores, particularly as they related to symptoms and psychosocial issues.

This study appears to indicatethat moxibustion may help to enhance acupuncture’s effect on hot flashes during the menopause. Clearly, more studies with larger samples are needed.

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